One thing all people who are relationally healthy have in common is the ability to say “no”. Most people struggle with using “no” in a healthy way. Three of the primary reasons people avoid saying “no” are:
1)We don’t want to disappoint anyone
I was once given the following piece of advice: If someone asks you to do something at work, always say yes, you can always figure out how to get it done later. At first glance it would seem that being the person who always finds a way to get everything done is a great way to advance in your company. The reality, however, is that it’s impossible to always get everything done. The more we add to our plate, the more likely we are to not complete our assignments or to do them poorly. Nobody wants to let down their boss or organization, but saying that you can do everything when you can’t won’t endear you to your company. Everyone has expectations of you. Their expectations are not your problem. Have clear, ambitious, and realistic expectations of yourself. If people are not satisfied with that, nothing you can do will ever satisfy them.
2)We don’t want to make anyone angry
If you have someone in your life that manipulates others with their anger, then you have experienced this one. It’s easy to believe that if you do your job well, no one will ever get angry at you. While that would be a nice world to live in, it doesn’t exist. People get angry for hundreds of reasons. While it’s not fun to deal with some else’s anger, it’s dangerous to change your behavior to try to avoid it. You don’t have the power to make people angry. They choose whether to get angry or not. Sometimes their anger is justified, sometimes it’s not. Either way, changing yourself in an attempt to pacify others is a bad decision.
3)We don’t really know ourselves
Another reason we avoid saying “no” is that we don’t really know what we want. If you don’t have clear opinions about which direction you are going in life, then you are likely to defer to others who seem more confident. It’s ok to not have all of the answers, but it’s not ok to place the direction of your life in the hands of other people. Take some time to review where you are right now in life and where you want to go. It may take a few hours to think through, or you may need to get away for a couple of days. The more clear you are about your life direction, the better able you will be to say “no” when it is needed.