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Why it really is okay to say ‘no’

As we edge closer towards the Christmas holidays, university starts getting serious; there are deadlines, there is coursework, and there are impending exams. But, there are also invites and requests by friends and family to go for coffee, for a walk, to the shops, to have another coffee, walk an extra mile, check out yet another shop… with time slipping through your fingers and work weighing on your mind, are you able to say ‘no’? 

There are plentiful possible explanations as to why we may ignore our inclination to refuse. It’s most likely to be because of how we think the other person will feel; be that annoyed, upset, or offended. Being a people-pleaser may also be part of the problem; American author and speaker Glennon Doyle noted that conditioning your behaviour on what meets with approval is something we learn from as young as the age of ten. Peer pressure, whether overt or subtle, may also play a role, as does a ‘Fear of Missing out (FOMO)’ which is three-quarters of young adults’ experience.

However, being able to translate the thought of saying ‘no’ into spoken words is important. It suggests you have identified what’s important to you in life and what you want to spend your time on. If, as Doyle notes, “We forgot how to know ourselves when we learned how to please”, making your own decisions may help you find out more about yourself and your interests. The byproduct of living your life the way you set out to (within reason of course) is happiness. Oh, and better time management.

With this in mind, founder of Zen Habits, Leo Babauta, put together some strategies on their website Lifehack to help you say ‘no’. 

Firstly, work out what your priorities are. This could be for the day, the week, the month, or your life. What do you want to spend time on? Is it something that makes you happy? Is it something you want to work on like a skill or hobby? Supplement this with a schedule that ensures you’re blocking out time for these priorities. This will help you understand the value of your time. When you’re next faced with making a decision about that time, you will have a solid reason, justified in your mind, for saying no. The automatic ‘yes’ answer may not then slip out quite so fast. 

If ‘no’ is the right answer, make sure to decline the invite firmly the first time. The more hesitant you are about refusing, the more you’re going to have to repeat it. If you don’t know, say you’ll get back to them later – this will let you consider without the pressure of pleading puppy dog eyes coming your way.

On a slightly different note, FOMO and the consequent inability to say ‘no’ is particularly problematic in the context of social media. Try using apps such as Appblock or Cold Turkey for your computer. You can set times and days where access to certain apps, websites, and even the internet is barred. Or, simply restrict the number of times you launch an app and how long you allow yourself to spend on it.

So, as the nights draw in and workloads start to increase, don’t forget that it is okay to say ‘no’ sometimes.

Image credit: Xavi Cabrera via Unsplash