3 ways to say no and stop people taking you for granted

“It would be easier, and quicker if I just did it.”“It will cause an argument if I said no, and I hate conflict"

Sound familiar?

I thought so.

So let’s take a couple of scenarios:

1. You’re at work and your colleague is taking a loooong time to do a basic task. Sometimes you jump in to offer them help because it’s a less painless experience all round. But this time, you’ve held back and they’ve asked for your help. You know fully well that it’s easier to do it yourself than explain it so they can do it. You’ve got quite a few deadlines yourself but it’s only going to take about half hour and it’s just easier all round if you get it done with. 2. You’re out with a partner/friend and you’re going for a bite to eat. You’ve been wanting to try this quirky new restaurant for a while now and hear the menu’s great and you both agreed this sounded like a great plan last week. Now it’s come to crunch time, they’ve changed her mind and you end up agreeing to go to the restaurant you usually go to. You would put your point across but you don’t want to ruin the night and cause a scene.

So what’s going on here?

Quite a few things, but namely two:

1. You feel that it’s easier just to go along and do what is asked of you

2. You avoid conflict

Hence, you say yes to both. And your urge to say no remains.

But it’s not really what you want. In the first situation, while you may have the time to do it, you’ve also got your own work which is a much bigger priority. Taking just half an hour out to help a colleague (and it wouldn’t be the first or the second time) will inevitably put you behind, increasing your stress levels in the long run. And if we’re brutally honest, you’re not really helping your colleague in the long run, because they won’t learn what they need to. They’ll keep scraping deadlines because you help them, hence becoming dependent on you.

In the second situation, you’re not being true to yourself. Because you don’t want to cause a scene (and I’m not judging, I’ve done this plenty of times), you’re happy to sacrifice your own wants and needs. You don't want to remind them of your conversation last night because you don't want to ruin the evening.  What we don’t often consider, is that in doing so, it’s creating a power relationship where you never get your way, and there’s little compromise. You end up going along with something you didn’t really want to keep the peace. And nobody wants to end up in a resentful friendship/relationship.

Let’s be honest, both scenarios are a bit shit.

When you’re stuck in a situation where saying no is the easier option or saves you an argument, here are some things you can do:

1. The Broken Record

This is one of my favourites, but I can’t claim credit for it. The Broken Record is an old technique taught through counselling, to help set boundaries. It’s as simple as this - come up with a statement that reaffirms the point you want to get across and keep repeating it. For example:

“I’m really busy right now, but if I get time to have a look at it, I’ll let you know” - sets the boundaries and leaves the ball in your court. Win!

“I’d really like to do x, I’ve been wanting to for ages and thought it would be nice to go together.” - You’re putting your needs out there, unapologetically and have considered the both/group of you. Win!

You can alter how you say your broken record statement, but keep the essence the same to make boundaries as clear as possible and to avoid confusion.


2. Be objective

If someone is asking you to do something, try and be objective. This is hard at first, because it involves taking the emotion out of it, but it gets easier with time.

For example, let’s say your neighbour asks you to go and pick something up for them just as they can see you’ve come home from your weekly shopping trip, it wouldn’t make sense to go back out. It would take more time (which is limited), more money (to get there and back) and implies it's okay that neighbour can keep asking you to do things last minute.

It may be a case of applying the broken record and coming to a compromise. Maybe they can let you know earlier in the week should they need something.

3. What would you say if didn’t give a shit what other people thought?

This can be as harsh or as friendly as you want it to, depending on the circumstance. For example, telling someone to fuck off and do it themselves is probably rarely necessary, and is definitely not going to help in a working environment. But if you’ve got good banter with a friend, used in a humorous way, it might put your point across firmly.

The best way to use this technique, is to come up with what you would say if you didn’t give a shit what other people think and hurting other's feelings and translate it into something a bit nicer.

Give them a go, and let me know how you get on! Saying yes to things you don't want to do does make life harder for you a lot of the time. You may save an argument on a particular occasion, but that's a lot of resentment to store and hold onto.

Remember.  saying no means less doing things that you don’t want to, and more time to do things that you actually want to do. This makes for a happier you and better relationships with people around you. And that's got to be a good thing!

I'd love to see if this has helped you! Let me know in the comments!