Nein sagen! Kapitel 13 Change Journal

Empower Yourself: Mastering the Art of Saying 'No' Without Guilt

Nein sagen! Kapitel 13 Change Journal

This is chapter 13 from the CHANGE JOURNAL », your journal for more clarity, productivity, and mindfulness in everyday life and at work.

Work is piling up on your desk, your partner is asking you for the third time why you haven’t made it to the appointment yet, your crew of friends is sending another funny text message from the bar, and your mother is wondering whether she can come around for a coffee this weekend, the boss hands you his briefing for the night shift — time out!

I see the potential for expressing a polite but definite “no” here and there. But what happens instead? Mock friendly phrases in a voice that is resigned: “Okay!”, “Yeah, sure.”, “But only for your sake, my friend.”, “No problem.”

Why is it so hard to say “no”? Why is that some particular skill that so many seem unable to master?

Simply put, it doesn’t fit the self-image. You want to be helpful, positive, and caring. Somehow a “no” doesn’t fit that picture. You might be afraid to disappoint someone. “No” is negative.

It signals rejection. “No” makes you unpopular. At least, we think so. And that is why many find saying “no” so problematic.

There are also concerns in a tactical-practical context: Maybe I will need this person’s support one day, so it’s better to say yes today — although I don’t feel like helping anyone relocate. Or you can put yourself under pressure and give in: “Hey, I need my car myself, but okay, you can have it.” Or you can use a “yes” at the office to fake a good work climate… instead of saying what you feel: “I have zero time right now, plus you’re such an idiot.”

With this mixture of semi-honest, semi-artificial friendliness, there’s always the danger that the inability to say “no” won’t work to your advantage: Inconsiderate people will always find those who can’t say “no”! It’s not fair, but the inability to say “no” is often shamelessly exploited by folks who would never even think of returning a favor. Your soft side will probably become common knowledge and inspire others to request favors. Disappointment becomes inevitable.

So here’s what you can do: You, too, can say “no”! And it doesn’t have to affect your relationships with other people negatively. On the contrary: A polite and honest “no” is a clear message. Everyone can deal with that. It is better to keep your distance than take part half-heartedly and be annoyed. You would accept it when others say “no” and even expect it, right?

“Saying ‘no’ liberates us and makes us strong.”

Here are 6 tips on saying “no” (without having a guilty conscience):

  1. Your own time is valuable. Reread this sentence!

  2. You do not have to please everyone. Firstly, it’s impossible, and secondly, it’s exhausting. Rely on your gut feeling to tell you who matters to you — and who doesn’t. The latter ones are ideal candidates for practicing saying “no.”

  3. You do not have to justify your answer. As a nice gesture, explain your decision to those important to you.

  4. Practice saying “no” at every opportunity you get. You will find it increasingly effortless. Most likely, you will find that even though you said “no” (or perhaps even due to it?), those who are important to you will still appreciate you.

  5. Take your time to decide. As a reflex, we tend to provide an immediate answer, although we can’t estimate the consequences. Think it through before you reply.

  6. A good boss understands a well-founded “no.” Period.

This doesn’t mean that you should become a hardened naysayer. “No” is merely an option if you want to refuse something. With the templates in the CHANGE JOURNAL, you can track every “no” (and even celebrate it, if you like). You’ll quickly realize how liberating that can be — and how much more time you have for yourself and your priorities!

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