It's one of those things we over think. We worry about how the other person will feel -- will we hurt their feelings? Will they feel rejected? We even take into account society at large - will we seem like a bad person?
We wind up saying yes when what we really want to say is no. Sometimes hell no.
I'm terrible at this. It's hard for me to tell a man I've just had a first date with, when he hopefully says, "Would you like to go out again?", no. I don't want to crush him. I'll do anything not to have to tell him no to his poor, hopeful face. But I don't want to lie or lead him on. Usually I weasel out by saying, "Why don't you call me and we'll see?" or something similarly lame. It's the hope in their voices. Oh how I hate to crush hope.
When people ask me to do something I am usually honored that they want me to come to their baby shower, their child's birthday party, or whatever. I know they think the event will be fun. I also think my single status sometimes freaks people out and they think being alone is a sad, pathetic thing.
How can I tell them that sitting with a group of strangers and celebrating something I could care less about is far, far worse than being in my own house doing my own thing?
I love my house, my TV, my work, my books, my snacks! Whee!!!!! I don't have to pretend to be nice to people I don't like and I can leave anytime I want. I don't have to put on make-up or pantyhose. I love the freedom of it.
So how can we all get better at saying no?
1.) Man up.
I completely admire men's ability to say no. They just say it - they don't offer excuses or rationalizations. They simply say no. They are non-emotional in the saying of the no. It's not mean. They simply consider the offer and if it's something they don't want to do they say no. Forget Freud's penis envy, I have "no" envy. Next time you need to say no, say it like a man.
2.) Say yes to you.
Why am I putting other people's comfort above my own? Why am I worried about how they might feel when I know how I will feel if I say yes? I will feel obligated to do something I don't want to. I will be unhappy. Saying no to them is saying yes to me. It is my time and I deserve to spend it in the way I want.
3.) Get over yourself.
I have to tell myself that these events are not going to be impacted that much by my attendance. Who do I think I am? Paris Hilton? Barack Obama? Madonna? Why am I acting like the baby shower or birthday or whatever will be impacted that much by my absence? They will not miss me.
4.) Say it soon.
I delay. I panic in the heat of the moment. I tap dance. I smile. I say let me check my calendar. Then I go home once I've recovered from the shock of the ask and figure out how to get out of it. The sooner no is said the better. Men would rather hear immediately if you don't want to see them again then work up all the nerve for another call. Your hostess would rather know now than after she's planned the food.
5.) Refuse guilt.
Some people will ask you to things that you can't afford or that are inappropriate or that you just don't want to do. Sometimes when you say no you may feel guilty or they may try to make you feel guilty. NO! Step away from the guilt. You want help with this? Imagine yourself spending the money for the gift or the new outfit or the travel or whatever. Imagine the time you will spend dreading the event, traveling to the event, at the event. Imagine actually sitting there for those hours, making small talk, smiling, laughing at stupid jokes, dying to escape. What is worse - all of that or a little guilt? It's your life, spend it how you want. Guilt is for suckers.
6.) More help with guilt.
If you say yes, when you really want to say no, no one is going to appreciate it. They are going to think you really wanted to be there. They think the baby shower, wedding, birthday party is fun. They think you had nothing better to do (obviously or why would you be there?). So if they don't really appreciate this great sacrifice, why make it? To twist the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, no one can make you feel guilty without your permission. Don't give it to them.
Just remember - saying no to what you don't want is saying yes to what you do want.
Denise Ryan, MBA, is a Certified Speaking Professional, a designation of excellence held by less than 10% of all professional speakers. She is a blogger at Motivation by Chocolate. Her website is FireStars Speaking where you can see more articles and sign up for a free newsletter.