Saying no is easier said than done. Setting limits with everything from a child having a tantrum to a boss making an unreasonable request seems like mission impossible. However the biggest part of this struggle is internal. We literally choke on the word. As a people-pleaser, turning down the requests of others leaves you immobilized with fear or frozen with guilt.
It all depends where we say no. It’s one thing to turn down the request of a panhandler requesting loose change. But declining an unreasonable demand from a boss can be almost impossible to do. And saying no to the request of a partner can twist one’s insides like a pretzel.
Consider the following questions about your difficulty saying no.
1. How negotiable are my needs in this situation?
If you are reading this you are probably more of a giver than you are a taker. But consider that demand of a boss who wants you to drop a high priority task to take care of a request from upper management. Do you say yes and forgo a weekend camping trip with your family? Or do you negotiate putting aside an existing task to focus on this new “priority”? What if your work culture views responding promptly to such demands and you being a team player? How do you have such a priority discussion with the boss? Do it sooner than later before your resentment builds up. Do it diplomatically and carefully. And by all means don’t start to view yourself as a victim. You can find other options.
2. How am I caught in the people-pleasing trap?
Being a people-pleaser can be a curse. Most of us want to be givers and not takers. But when that tendency ignores our legitimate needs like recharging our batteries, keeping key commitments, and setting boundaries with high maintenance people, we need to work on learning to say no.
Unfortunately people-pleasing may have become our identity in our family/culture of origin. Maybe you grew up with the idea that you more than needed to meet the needs and expectations of others Any such lapse on your part put a target on your back for arrows of disapproval. As the years went by you became hostage to the disapproval of others. They said jump and you responded “How high?” Today you are caught in the people-pleasing trap. Your needs are consistently placed on the back burner. Hence the next question.
3. How can I practice aggressive self-care?
Before we answer this question here is a quick reality check.
Our jobs often call for us to go above and beyond the call of duty. Our family is in the hospitality business. I know what it is to go out of my way for an unexpected customer need, work long hours, and forgo my self-interests. That’s normal customer service care. That is not the topic under discussion here.
This is about you habitually being a giving tree. It is about a chronic disregard for your own needs and welfare. It is about ultimately becoming less effective in your life and work. All employees, especially those in the helping professions, do this all the time. You are then on the fast track to burnout. It’s time for you to put a stop to your being a workaholic in order to please others.
Please answer the following questions
1. Are there better ways for you to engage in self-care? Observe and replicate best practices.
2. Can I distinguish between the urgent and the important?
3. Am I being co-dependent with an unreasonable boss/relative/friend? (What I do reinforces him/her doing it again)
4. When is it time to say enough is enough? Or as I often say (“I’m too old for this c…p”)
5. How can I place the important needs of my family/community back on my priority list?
6. Can I distinguish between energy-drainers (dump them) and energy-boosters (welcome them)?
How did you learn to say no in productive ways?