It's Thursday night, and you have a huge test in the morning that you have neglected to study for all week long. But, your friend just asked, no -- demanded, that you go with them to the club. “You need to get out and have some fun,” they say, and you cringe internally. Dancing sounds entertaining, but then again, so does passing this class you spent an exorbitant amount of money on. You know you need to say no, but they make it almost impossible to do so. Instead of studying, you get dragged along, and you're probably driving too because you couldn’t say no to that request either.
It's halfway through pay periods, and you have slim to nothing in your bank account. You drive up to the gas station, counting quarters to buy enough gas to get back and forth to work. You have some money in your bank account, but you’re saving it for when you really need it. Your friend texts you, telling you yet another sob story about how they’ve consisted solely on ramen noodles for the past three days, and they just need a few small items from Walmart to hold them over until next pay day. They’ll promise to pay you back. You’re eating ramen too, but you oblige, yet again. (Clearly you say yes, too much). Now you have no money, and they used what cash you gave them to take their friends out to Chipotle. You’re such a good friend.
You’re packed up and ready to go home for the weekend. You long for a comfortable night’s rest, free food, and showering without flip flops. You’re almost out the door when your friend calls you and begs you to go to to a community service event with them. “We’re low on hours this semester, it will be fun! If you don’t go, I can’t possibly go, PLEASE?” They beg and beg until you slump in defeat. You throw your bag onto your bed, longing for a home cooked meal. Maybe next weekend, you think glumly.
Do any of these sound like you? If not, do they sound like someone you know? If you answered yes to any of these questions, I have some news for you. You or your friend may have the "Need to Please" disease. It isn’t a bad thing, let me assure you, but sometimes you need to use that magic two letter word to save your sanity. Saying no is healthy, and sometimes completely necessary to get through life. But if you don’t know how to say no quite yet, I’ll give you some tips to help you along the way.
1. Acknowledge that you are one person, and you can’t accomplish everything.
If you’re saying yes to everyone, you’re more than likely saying no to yourself. You want to read that book you’ve been dying to read? Do it! Saying no to at least one person means you can say yes to yourself. Try telling yourself that saying yes to things you don’t want to do is impossible, that way it's easier to say no.
2. Reflect on your inability to say no. Why can’t you say it?
Is it because you feel like you’ll insult your friend by saying no? Are you afraid that this person will stop talking to you if you’re not bending over backwards for them? Chances are, if they are your friend, saying no won’t affect your friendship at all. In fact, down the line, they may even have more respect for you. I’m not telling you to say no at all points in time. By all means, if it's an emergency, help them! But, if it's something as simple as hanging out or going to the mall, feel free to say no, and you may have some time to take that bubble bath you’ve been craving.
3. The more you say no, the more you can say yes – to the things that matter.
If you’re too busy bending over backwards for everyone, you may miss what’s actually important. You’re probably overbooking yourself. As we learned from Spongebob when he tried to help Sandy, Mr. Krabs, and Patrick, people get mad if they feel they're placed on the back-burner because of your poor time management. If he couldn’t get everything done, you probably can’t either. Selectively saying no gives you the option to pick and choose what you’d like to do, and are able to do, for people.
4. You may feel guilty for saying no, but you don’t have to; it's your life, not their’s!
People can come up with the most fantastical excuses about why you have to help them. It may make you feel guilty, so you give in. But I'm saying, don't! Just be firm and calm, and explain why you can’t help them. Don’t over-apologize, because they might take that as a sign of weakness and beg until you break. Keep a firm stance, and perhaps give them ideas on how to fix the predicament on their own. The more you say no, the easier it will be.
5. Tell yourself you’re not being selfish.
You’re helping everyone all the time, whether you want to or not. People know you aren’t selfish, so you don’t have to feel like you are. You matter the most, and it's okay to think that way. Only you know what you want and what you don’t. You have to make these decisions for yourself, no matter how other people will try to make you feel. If someone is trying to make you feel guilty for not helping them, even after explaining the reasons why you can’t, do you really need this person in your life? Probably not.
Now that you know how to say no, you can say yes—to yourself, and the things you want to do!