The Skill of saying an assertive ‘NO’ Ms. Geeta Ramakrishnan, Ontological Coach and Author.
The Skill of saying an assertive ‘NO’ Ms. Geeta Ramakrishnan, Ontological Coach and Author.

Do you have problems in saying an assertive ‘No’

Do you have difficulty in saying ‘NO’? Do you find that you are often taking on more than you can actually handle?  And now you are stuck with your commitments plus the additional work of someone else that you unwittingly took on and told them that, ‘OK I’ll do it for you’ . And you are struggling with these, what I call as excuses:  How can I say no? What if he feels bad. I cannot hurt my boss. He is my superior. My children really need me. I have done it so long for my spouse, now it feels like a habit. Are all these thoughts floating in your head right now , as you are struggling to handle the additional work? Then this blog is for you.

What happens when we say ‘Yes’, but in our heads it would rather be a ‘No’:

Many a times we know that we cannot take on other’s work or we do not want to take on other’s work. It could be due to lack of time or adding to the already existing stress you have in hand or the inability to handle someone’s mess.

Besides it also makes us look weak and insignificant and we are unwittingly giving the power to the others. We know this at the back of our minds. Yet we take on as we do not know how to say an assertive ‘NO’.  It is like self- sabotage.  It makes us resentful and more stressed.

So why do you repeat this pattern?

Is it fear?  Do we want to avoid confrontation?  Or do we want to buy temporary peace? Does it help you in the long run? Or did it pull down your confidence level instead?  These are valid points to consider.  Take this example… your colleague wants you to finish his work as he has ‘something else’ important that came up. And of course you oblige. Now you notice that his ‘something important’ is coming up more often, but you still cannot say no. Soon it has become a habit which you cannot now get out of . You may think what if he feels bad , or you think it is OK as it’s just 10 more minutes of my time and let me do it one last time and then another and another and it goes on.

Reasons for saying ‘Yes’:

Saying yes when you mean no to buy peace for now .It is like sweeping the dirt under the carpet. It will surely come one day to bit you, and in a big way. Saying yes to request when you actually do not want to is also a cultural thing.  Saying no can be considered as rude in many cultures. Or sometimes we perceive saying NO as a weakness . Sometimes the person who is asking, is a good friend, and you don’t want to let them down . And some people are just pleasers by nature and like to say yes all the time, even if they cannot handle it. And these small small things add up and it can become a pattern in your life…an inability to say no to people in general. And it comes with the cost. You might start complaining and whining, and believe me, at that time, nobody wants to listen to you and then you start becoming resentful. Guess who’s to blame now .

What went wrong here:

Were you not trying to be kind and accommodating? Think again. When you start accommodating at your cost, it is at the cost of your time, at the cost of your efficiency.  You are not helping the other person nor are you helping yourself.  In fact you’re getting into this Circle of complaining, of self- pity, of being resentful and Eventually it takes a toll on your confidence level, on your ability to be productive.

So, what can you do about it:

How can you tell your friend, your colleague ‘no’ when he requests something and you really don’t want to do it or don’t have the time for it and yet you don’t want to sound rude and definitely don’t him or her to feel bad about it? So here is one thing you can think about the next time somebody comes and ask you for a favor and you really want to tell them no.  Instead of just saying no in their face, try changing the language perhaps. You can be polite and say, ‘Can I get back to you’ or ‘I really wish I could help you, but you know what, I really have this bit of work that needs my attention, so sorry’. And you can gracefully navigate your way out. That is one way, where you are not at-least being rude.

What is it is your superior palming off his work?

There may be times where it is your superior who is requesting you. Another way to handle it is to do it this time but choose a better time when the person is more relaxed and just explain your pressure to them. Maybe they will understand. Eventually people will get it that you are no more a soft target. I think speaking up for yourself earns more respect than just doing favors and extra work for others which can appear as a sign of weakness.

Standing up for yourself gives you more power:

When it comes to family, sometimes you just have to say yes whether you like it or not and its ok.  But at some point, you have to learn to draw your boundaries. What does draw your boundary mean. It means you define in your head that this is the extent to which you can stretch yourself and help people and this is the point where you do not want to, and you say a ‘NO’ in an assertive and nice way.  You will do this because it’s going to help you feel more confident, stronger and you do not want to overwork and stress yourself that finally you have no energy left for yourself nor for others in this bargain.

Ms. Geeta Ramakrishnan, Ontological Coach and Author.
Ms. Geeta Ramakrishnan, Ontological Coach and Author.