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How to Say No: 5 Strategies to Help People Pleasers

how to say no

Any fellow people-pleasers in the room?

I was a teacher in a small school district when I first graduated from college. I remember saying yes to everything that was asked of me: chaperone the fan-bus for football games? Yes! Provide piano accompaniment for solo and ensemble contests? Yes! Ride a donkey for a donkey-basketball game fundraising event? Yes! It was a time in my life when I had moved 3 hours away from my family for a job, and I cherished getting to know others (and had a lot of fun along the way). Saying yes was a way to connect with others and help fill my days.

Fast-forward several years and I was still saying yes to everything. I managed to say yes to two things on the exact same day and at the exact same time. I said yes to playing the piano for two different weddings that happened to be on the same day and at the same time. (I should note that this is also when I said yes to a calendar/planner). It worked out because one of the vocalists knew an excellent piano player who was available on that day. That also happened to be around the time when I realized I needed to learn to say no.

If you work for yourself, it can be harder to say no to people because you are in charge of structuring your day. But it is probably even more important. Your own time and your own interests are valuable. Realize that saying no doesn't make you a bad person! You are not responsible for other people's reactions.

The word "no" is such a small word and just two letters. N. O. But it sometimes feels as if it holds significant weight. Saying the word is like any skill that can be learned. In fact, say it out loud right now: No! Learning to say no, particularly to things that you don't really want to do, can open up time for what you actually want to do.

1: Know what you are saying "no" to

When you say yes to something, you are saying no to something else. If you say yes to attending a work function, you might be saying no to watching your kid's soccer game or you might be saying no to watching the latest round of "Wheel of Fortune". It's not that saying yes is inherently bad, it's just important to know what you are saying no to when you say yes.

It also helps to look at patterns in what you say yes to. For instance, if you constantly say yes to snoozing your alarm, you might be saying no to a daily workout or you might be saying no to daytime sleepiness. If you continually lend someone money, you may be saying no to growing your own financial wealth or you might be saying no to their resourcefulness.

2: Start with small nos