How to Say No
7th March 2019
If you want to avoid burnout, learn how to say 'no' more often.
Saying ‘no’ matters if you want to avoid burnout because you end up spread too thin when you put everyone else – and their needs – before your own. Yet it’s hard to say ‘no’ when you’re afraid of disappointing people, or you are a people-pleaser, or you have FOMO.
And if you one of my fellow Londoners (hi!), you’ll say ‘yes’ to events way in advance and when the time rolls around, you don’t feel up to it. Cue: agony about being perceived as flaky or unreliable if you say ‘no’ at the last minute. Or worse: enduring inner resentment if you honour the commitment or engagement.
For all of us who struggle with overwhelm and a tendency towards saying ‘yes’ more often than is good for our personal happiness and wellbeing, I recommend Alexandra Franzen’s thoughtful advice on how to say ‘no’ nicely:
Most of us really struggle to say NO – and with good reason. We’re afraid of hurting other people’s feelings. We’re afraid of missing out on potential opportunities. We’re afraid we’ll be closing the doors that might otherwise remain propped open.
We’re afraid of seeming like an ungrateful diva or jerk. (For women, in particular, this is a big one.) We’re afraid that perfectly strong friendships + business relationships will shatter under the weight of those two innocent letters: N.O.
Yep. We’re all very, very afraid. And these fears cause us to say YES when we’d rather not. Which leads to bitterness, burn out and exhaustion. Or, paralyzed by fear, we simply ignore the incoming requests, hoping the asker will simply “forget.” Except we know that they won’t. Which only makes us feeling worse.
All this anxiety, this bumbling around, this resentment… is wholly unnecessary. It is possible to say NO. Gracefully. Firmly. With deep respect and compassion.
And when you do? Most of the time, people will be impressed by your self-awareness and class. They’ll want to be more like you. They might even tell you – as people have often told me – “That was the best NO I’ve ever heard. Thank you.” They might even start to release some of their fears about saying NO, too. All because of your words. All because of YOU.
So, here’s to releasing the fears that hold us back… to shedding the obligations that weigh us down… and to cracking open more space for the work, the projects, the relationships that uplift our lives + improve the world. Isn’t THAT what human existence is all about? Isn’t THAT why we’re all here?
A NO born out of love is far better than a YES born out of fear.
– Alexandra Franzen
Saying ‘no’ nicely to another person is saying a whole-hearted ‘yes’ to you and what matters most to your body and soul. Relish those two little letters, embrace them and speak them often.
Listen to my conversation with Alex on the Urban Curiosity Podcast.