Go on, confess!
How many times have you said ‘yes’ when you meant ‘no!’?
A dozen times?
More times than you want to confess?
And how many times have you promised yourself, you’ll stop saying ‘yes’ when you mean ‘no!’?
If you’re like many people, the answer is the same to both questions, ‘more times than I want to confess’.
And it’s destroying your life.
I used to be one of those people. I thought I was actually hard wired to say ‘yes’. That the connection between my brain and mouth had been programmed without the ability to say ‘no’, even when I desperately wanted to stop saying ‘yes’.
Well, the good news is that neither of us are innately a ‘yes’ person. Neither of us were born with an inability to say ‘no’.
And there is a weird tip to grab back all that forever saying ‘yes’ has stolen from you, no matter how far down the ‘yes’ rabbit hole you’ve fallen.
And it involves eating frogs…
The hardest word is ‘no!’
If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first. – Mark Twain
Which translates as ‘Do the hardest task first’.
After all, why make things difficult? Seems crazy to do that, right? There’s always enough going on to keep you busy. Who needs another load of stress on top of that?
No one does.
But we don’t eat that frog. We stare at it, ugh! We hide it in a cupboard, out of sight and out of mind, (yes, yes with some water and flies for its lunch).
We carry on with everything else we need to do.
And then spend the whole day thinking about eating it.
Heck, when there’s something disagreeable or uncomfortable to do we leave it as long as possible. And then leave it longer still. And often never get round to it at all.
But we don’t stop thinking about it…
And it’s exhausting.
And saying ‘no’ can feel like having to eat a whole pond’s worth of frogs. Particularly if the person it needs to be said to is intimidating to you, or is someone you feel obliged to – like your parents or partner.
But there is a failsafe trick to being a morning frog eater. You can even get a taste for it!
Before you swing your legs out from under the comforter each morning, decide you are going to say ‘no’.
Simple. But not easy. I know. Not at first.
Because you’ll forget. The coffee will serenade you via your nostrils to the kitchen and then without warning the clock will scream that you’re late.
And suddenly you’re caught fast in all the over-busyness of getting out to get on with your to-do list.
Until that is, you collapse on the sofa in pajamas…and remember that you forgot. And then you tell yourself it’s too late and you’ll try again tomorrow.
And even as you’re promising yourself, you can hear that little voice in the back of your head sighing despondently and saying..
The only person you’re going to say ‘no’ to tomorrow…is yourself again’
Ironic, isn’t it? But that’s how we humans work.
So, you’re not going to be perfect straight away. Which is fine. Because if you could start a new habit and ace it on day one you wouldn’t be human.
But how do you make that decision? And how do you know that you’ve actually decided?
A decision statement works best. A simple, transparent statement that says exactly what you mean:
“Today I’ll think about each request and say ‘no’ when I want to without feeling guilty.’
“Today, I will carefully evaluate every request made of me before I reply.’
There are no rules for this at all. Your statement needs to speak to you. It absolutely needs to work for you. And you don’t need to share it with anyone, so forget any ideas about being embarrassed or feeling foolish.
Make your decision statement your morning mantra. Repeat this each morning as the first thing you say – out loud is best, but don’t worry if that isn’t possible for you.
Many people find a morning and evening reminder bolsters their resolution super effectively.
Or if you want to go a step further you could try any of the following:
- Your decision statement written out on card by the bed so you can read it before you fall asleep or as you wake up.
- A fun adaptation of the above is to write your statement out in a blank greeting card which you open each morning and evening – an encouraging gift to yourself each day.
- A notebook by your bed so you can write out your statement as soon as the alarm rings.
- A trigger written on your hand or arm the night before for example, “No” or “No thank you” inked onto your skin (not with an indelible marker!) which instantly brings your statement to mind.
The reason for it being only a trigger is that your statement is likely to be rather long to try and wash off in the shower. Mind you, depending on where you wrote it, there might be no actual need to scrub it away…
our statement written out on your nightwear (if you wear any). This can be on the inside if you don’t want it to be obvious to those you live with or outside so you can see it as you peer into the mirror each morning.
That trigger could also work well written on the inside of your shoe. It will remind you of your decision just before you leave your house and also throughout the day as you walk around.
The critical thing is to read or say your decision statement with feeling. Your statement needs to call up the emotion you had when you first made that decision.
Your statement is there purely to reassure your subconscious that you still want to say ‘no’. It’s a nudge in your subconscious’ ribs to say ‘Hey, keep me on track today’.
This simple mental workout will allow you to be strong enough to say that all important ‘no’.
And if you use it as I did, you’ll be strong enough next time to stop yourself digging that hole in the first place.
Like all exercise, the more you do it, the more you’ll be able to flex your ‘no’ muscle and re-claim your life.
And here’s three powerful steps for harnessing that decision and seeing it through.
Step 1. Be certain of what you’re saying ‘no’ to. Step 2. Remember what you’ll gain by saying ‘no’. Step 3. Decide WHEN you are actually going to say that ‘no’.
Let’s dive into each step in more detail…
Step 1. Be certain of what you’re saying no to.
Be sure of exactly what it is you want to avoid having to do, say, or even be.
And that can mean you need to think hard about each request on your time and resources. So take just a momentary breathing space to ask yourself one question:
‘What are they actually asking of me?’ Or sometimes, ‘What am I actually asking of myself?’
It seems a simple question on the surface, but here are a few pointers to help your thinking process:
Is it a sinkhole? If I say ‘yes’ this time, will it lead inexorably to more and more requests?
- Do they really need help? Or is it just laziness or habit on their part?
- Do I want to do whatever they’ve asked?
- Can I do whatever they’ve asked?
Being certain of what you are being asked to do is critical in deciding which response to give. And your words will come out so much more easily if your thoughts aren’t tied in knots.
Confused thoughts cause you to stumble and waffle on, digging yourself ever deeper into the hole. And all too often you end up taking back your ‘no’, often before you’ve even said it out loud!
It is much easier to say ‘no’ with confidence, clarity and compassion when your thoughts are clear, coherent and calm.
And there’s another enormously good reason to be sure of what you’re saying ‘no’ to.
It will give you the ability to be considerate in how you say it. After all, you may not want the opportunity being offered to you, but it may be a genuinely good-hearted offer.
Equally though, the request may have been made with no regard for your time, effort or feelings (it happens). Having recognized this, you’ll be able to give a firm but polite ‘no’ in reply.
Step 2. Remember what you’ll gain by saying no.
Logical thinking is a fine thing, but it won’t help you here. The answer is to remind yourself with emotion of all that you’ll gain by saying that ‘no’.
Now pick out the ONE biggest benefit you’ll receive. Here’s some of the main ones:
- Gain self-respect.
- Gain other people’s respect.
- Gain peace of mind.
- Gain balance and stop feeling overwhelmed.
And that alone should make your decision to finally say ‘no’ stickier than chewing gum on a hot sidewalk.
Because in reality, forever saying ‘yes has denied you everything in that list above.
3. Decide WHEN you are actually going to say ‘no’.
Pick a time. Usually NOW is always the best time.
However, in the real world if you have a specific ‘no’ to say, you may have to wait. There’s little point in tackling your boss or partner if they’re distracted or in a foul mood unless you have to.
However, the one proviso is that you don’t use it as an excuse to back out. Just keep reminding yourself:
Your mouth is making promises your heart can’t keep.
The decision you make when you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed or resentful is the correct one. Don’t let a change of mood, a sunny day or a moment of weakness persuade you that suffocating in tasks and responsibilities you don’t want, and never asked for, is acceptable.
Go eat that frog and get your life back!
The stress of saying ‘no’ has caused you to say ‘yes’ to the detriment of your happiness, hopes and even your health.
Imagine instead never being intimidated into saying ‘yes’ again.
Imagine being able to say ‘no’ at will.
Imagine having time to breathe, time to do the things you want, not what others want of you.
It’s your life, your choice.
It’s your ‘yes’, your ‘no’.
It’s your decision.
Make it count.
Laura Tong, a former health professional, is on a mission to help you become the most positive, happy version of yourself. Grab her free cheat sheet: 5 Guilt Free Ways To Say No Without Offending Anyone (Even If You Hate Conflict). Laura also hosts the Re-write The Rules In Your Life interview series where she shares awesome happiness and positivity tips from experts around the world. Click here to listen free to the latest episodes.
If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed download her free: 5 Simple But Magical Stress-Busting Tips You Can Use Anywhere, Anytime in 5 Minutes or Less (Even if Your Day’s Gone Up in Smoke).