I have always been such a people pleaser, I really cared so much about what people thought of me and genuinely wanted them to like me so, I really always had such a hard time saying no to people.
To me, “No” is a rejection, such a small word with so many negative connotations! Growing up we learnt to associate the word no with things that we wanted to do/see/eat and having that request denied by whatever adult was in charge of us at the time.
Safety never came into my mind when I was told “No” as a child. I didn’t take into consideration the reasoning behind it or that I’d probably asked for the same thing several times and had been told no in much nicer terms. All I remember is that firm “No” which I knew meant no.
So, there is no wonder why we hold that tiny word with so much power over us still.
People pleasing and rejection do not go hand in hand, so I have always struggled with it. I’ve often said yes to things that I really haven’t wanted to do and gone to places I haven’t really wanted to go to. All because saying “No” just seemed all too devastating.
Before I reframed my mindset into learning how to say no bluntly but nicely, I had 2 tricks that helped me overcome blurting out that dreaded response of “yeah sure”. You see, I talk to think, so when someone asks me a question that I haven’t had a chance to reply to I just open my mouth and let words fall out!
My kids have learnt to utilise this and will often hold onto their requests for snacks, sleepovers etc until a time where I am busy and distracted and then they’ll go in with the kill in a short, sharp and direct way which leaves me no time to think and they are running off to the chocolate cupboard before I even realise what they have asked me!
Having no “filter” between my brain and my mouth has meant that I needed a tool to teach myself to pause for a few seconds and ponder my reply. When I’m on Zoom I look down at my notepad and draw a little star. In face to face meetings, I touch my thumb to each fingertip and take a breath. For me, this was the first step in my “recovery” from being a yes addict!
During that pause, I have just enough time to turn my “yes” into an “I need to check my…diary/bank/babysitter” which then gives me time to reply a bit later on when the pressure is off, almost like a bridging technique.
Of course, just saying “No” would be preferable but that is quite a leap from saying yes and you people-pleasing, anxious lot will know exactly what I mean by that.
Once you have used this technique a few times you can try a few No’s and see how they sit with you, you’ll soon realise that saying no is a liberating feeling and people actually don’t (usually) react half as bad as the scenarios that you have going around in your head!