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3 Reasons for Giving an Honest No

There are times when the right answer for us will be no.

I have a hard time saying no when someone asks me to do something, even if I really don’t want to agree. Saying no can feel hard for any number of reasons…

We’re afraid the other person will get mad at us…

We don’t want to appear lazy or selfish…

We don’t want to seem mean or rude…

We take responsibility for making sure others are happy…

We want to feel needed…

We want to avoid conflict…

We’ve developed a habit of always agreeing…

We want people to like us…

We don’t want to disappoint anyone…

We’re afraid of missing out…

Any of these sound familiar?

Last week we looked at questions to ask ourselves when preparing to make a request of someone else, but what about when we’re on the receiving end of a request?

Hopefully our lives do contain many opportunities for wholehearted yeses, but there are times when the right answer for us will be no. Saying no isn’t always easy, but keeping these three ideas in mind might help.

Act with honesty and integrity

It often feels much easier in the moment to say yes, but sometimes a no is more truthful. When we pretend we’re happy to agree even though internally we’re screaming no! we’re not been honest with the person making the request or with ourselves.

It may seem like always being willing and agreeable would have a positive impact on our relationships. Agreeing to something we don’t want, however, can lead us to resent the person who asked. Following through grudgingly or failing to follow through on what we agreed to do is much more likely to harm our relationship than politely declining in the first place.

Furthermore, saying what we don’t mean can undermine our trust in ourselves. We lose connection with ourselves when our external actions don’t line up with our internal reality.

Know the cost of your yes

Maybe if we had unlimited time, energy, and resources agreeing to everything asked of us wouldn’t be a problem. The thing is, we do have finite amounts of time, energy, and resources. Every time we say yes to something, it means we’re saying no to something else.

What we’re giving up might not be obvious when we’re looking at an empty square on our calendar. Just because the thing we’re being asked doesn’t conflict with anything concrete on our schedule, however, doesn’t mean there isn’t a cost.

Saying yes may mean saying no to time with family time or time to ourselves. It might cost us a chance to sleep in or go for a walk or pursue a different opportunity. Agreeing to something we don’t want to do might mean sacrificing our integrity or peace of mind.

Acknowledging there is a cost, of course, doesn’t mean we should never say yes. Often we’re happy to give something of ourselves in order to do something for someone else. The important thing is to be aware of the decisions we’re making.

Value yourself

Repeatedly agreeing to things we don’t want sends a message that our needs, feelings, time, and desires are less important than those of other people. Undermining our belief in our own worth can send adverse effects rippling through all areas of our lives.

Agreeing out of a sense of unworthiness is very different from saying yes out of generosity and kindness. Being willing to say no to the things that just aren’t right for us frees us to genuinely choose when we want to honor someone else’s needs ahead of our own. We can give our best to others joyfully instead of out of fear of losing their favor.

I’d love to know…is saying no a challenge for you? What happens when you agree to things you don’t want? Think of a request someone has made of you. How might these ideas help you give an answer that honors both you and the other person? What else do you find helpful?

There are important reasons to say no when that is the most honest answer for us. But how do we actually say no without being a jerk? Stay tuned for tips for saying no graciously.