In 1986, Nancy Reagan introduced her Just Say No campaign. And while that campaign was aimed toward the war on drugs, it became a mantra.
Just Say No.
Unfortunately, not enough of us learned when to say it. Not about drugs, but about anything in our lives that causes us stress, discomfort, anger, or any other negative emotional response.
Many, if not most, people have an innate need to be liked; to make other people happy. And what makes people happier than being told yes? Yes, I can do that. Yes, I would be pleased to. Yes, yes, yes.
Then you walk away and think, why did I say yes to that? I don’t want to do it. I don’t agree with that. I don’t like that. I should have said no.
Yes, you should have just said no.
I know a person (if you’re reading this, you know who you are) who allows saying yes to dominate her life. Every conversation goes like this.
“Hi, are you coming to the thing?”
“No, I have to do this other thing.”
“Because that person asked me to.”
Why didn’t you just say no?
Then I get the deer in the headlights look.
Now maybe this person is one of those that enjoys doing things for others. The complaint is just a ruse, a cover-up. They want and need to be wanted.
And that’s perfectly fine. If you are that person and saying yes makes you happy, then just say yes.
But know that people will take advantage of you. They will seek you out like a great white shark cruising the depths looking for a tasty morsel.
Ah, man, I really don’t want t do this. I wonder if I can get someone else to do it for me.
Yeah, that person will say yes, let’s ask them.
And maybe that person should say no more often, but this article isn’t really about them. They are happy saying yes. Or seem to be. Or tell themselves that they are.
This is for those of you who say yes and then instantly regret it. The ones spending their Saturday on some chore just because someone asked them to.
But you’ve been saying yes for so long; it has become a habit.
Well, guess what? Habits can be broken.
Habits are built from long-term practice. So how do you break that habit?
Practice the other thing. Just say no.
To just one thing. One time. Just say no.
See how it feels. More importantly, see how the other person reacts.
Indeed, they will be surprised. You’ve never said no before. But what comes after the surprise? Understanding and compassion, or anger and resentment? If it’s the latter, you need to cut that person out of your life. I don’t care who they are. If you learn the habit of saying no, they will eventually come around.
If not, they didn’t care for you to begin with. They needed you. They wanted you to say yes. Now, they don’t need you anymore.
And that’s okay.
It may be tough if it is a close relative, friend, or loved one. But it has to be done. If they don’t like or love you because you said no, they never did begin. Sorry, but that’s the harsh truth.
Maybe you need baby steps. So start with yourself. I wrote an article on when to say no to yourself.
Talking yourself into something you really shouldn’t or don’t want to do can also become a habit. So, find some small thing in your life that you keep doing and just say no.
Start small. Build a habit.
Of course, you don’t always want to say no. If you say no all the time, that’s no better than saying yes all the time. Eventually, you would turn into some grouchy curmudgeon.
So, when do you say no? How do you know which things to say no to?
You already know the answer to this. Those things that you regret saying yes to. The things that cause you anger or sadness or resentment. If it doesn’t make you happy saying yes and doing something you answered yes to, you know what to do.
Just Say No.
It’s really not as hard as you think it is. And here’s the thing. Those people that ask you to do something they don’t want to do? They know you don’t want to do it either. And on some level, they expect you to say no. Until they get you trained. The first time you say yes, they’re like, “I can’t believe they said yes to that. What were they thinking?”
I remember one of my first jobs. It was in construction. And in a hard-assed industry, I had a hard-assed boss. That’s like double hard-assed. Hardass to the second power as it were. Anyway, he was always asking me to do things I didn’t want to do. Can you work tonight? Can you work all weekend?
I was twenty years old. Nights and weekends? I had stuff to do.
Important stuff. Like blow my whole paycheck.
But like I said, he was a real hardass, and I always said yes.
Until I didn’t.
One time I had something special to blow my paycheck on, and I really didn’t want to work all night.
So, I just said no.
He actually smiled. I realize then that he expected me to say no. He always expected me to say no. And was always surprised when I didn’t.
So, when someone asks you to do something, don’t just automatically say yes. Or no, for that matter. Think about it. Is this something you want to do, or at least don’t mind doing? Will doing this make you happy or angry and resentful. Will doing this put stress on you in any way. Do a cost-benefit analysis just like you would with a financial decision.
And if the answer should be no, then say no.