How many times have you said “yes,” “sure,” or “no problem” to a request only to immediately regret your response?
You may find yourself committed to giving your time, effort, money or energy to something you have little or no desire to participate in. Often, we are caught off guard with various requests from people –well-intended people– and we feel the urge to immediately say yes in compliance. This only leads to anguish, remorse and stress. Each time you agree when you don’t want to, you give up a piece of yourself. This can lead to feelings of powerlessness because you are in another person’s grip, fulfilling her wishes or meeting his needs and not your own.
Saying no is a learned skill. If you are a master of yes and a novice of no, the process of learning how to change can seem distressing and cause anxiety. While saying no probably won’t change your personality, it will help you assert yourself. It could even put an end to that empty feeling in the pit of your stomach when you commit beyond your stamina or to the point of draining your emotional nerves. A calmer life, under your own supervision, will result.
Here are five steps to say no and establish personal boundaries.
Step 1 – Make a list
Just as you would track spending for budget purposes, track how many times you say yes during any given week. Make a list of the occasions you agreed to various requests. If you are a yes person, the amount may shock you! What is your reaction? Are you surprised by your list, or does it confirm that you have lost control of your choices? Being aware of the habit of people pleasing is the first step in making desired changes for personal empowerment.
Step 2 – Know how you are spending your time
Once you know how often you agree with others, it will become clear how you are spending your time. Is one particular person or activity monopolizing the majority of your time? Has this left little room left over for your own enjoyment? Well-managed time means there is room in your schedule for your enjoyment and your desires, too.
Step 3 – Get your priorities straight
If you don’t know what is important to you –what you value most– how can you possibly choose when to say yes and when to say no? Your values, beliefs and priorities should be demonstrated in your actions and your choices. This is not to say we will love everything we need to do. Even though not all tasks are joyful, contributing to the success of your family or your workplace often reflects values you do hold dear, such as harmony or productivity. Once you get your priorities straight, saying no becomes easier, and saying yes has much more power.
Step 4 – Give some control to others
Many times we agree to take on more than we can because we enjoy being in control. Or, we may feel someone else cannot complete a given project as well. When you are able to trust other people you will feel the ease in giving over some control. Delegating can free more than your time. Eliminating the need to be in charge relieves much pressure on you. It can free your energy and improve your attitude.
Step 5 – Identify your boundaries
A boundary is a limit on how far you can go with comfort, both emotionally and physically. A boundary is a present and clear limit. It is individual and is set by you. It supports your roles and allows you to be real. Once you identify your boundaries, it will become clear what kind of requests make you uncomfortable. How much of other people’s problems or requests can you tolerate without being drained? A boundary is not about being controlling or manipulating. It is not an all-or-nothing position, but rather it allows for some flexibility.
Believe it or not, no is a complete sentence, and it’s OK to say it whenever you need to, without fear or guilt. Establishing and maintaining personal boundaries is not something that is against another person. It is for you.
By following these five steps mentioned, you will begin to develop new habits that will ignite your self-confidence and free your inner strength. You will be able to feel good about your decision to say no and a greater sense of personal freedom and reduced stress will result!