We are constantly being told to say ‘yes’ more. We’re always been advised to ‘seize’ the opportunity, to make the most of our lives and to collect as many experiences as we possibly can.
But here’s an alternative take on the matter: how about saying ‘no’ a little more instead?
Most of us have little problem saying ‘yes’. Most of us say yes to the majority of invitations we receive, whether that means helping a friend to move house, meeting up for a coffee, going for drinks after work or going to that stag/hen party that’s going to cost $500 or more and involve going abroad…
We have no difficulty saying ‘yes’ – the problem is saying no!
Why You Need to Start Saying No
Most of us don’t like saying ‘no’ because we feel that we’re letting people down and we feel like we’re missing out. Say no too often and people might stop inviting you to things! And what are you going to do instead of going out? Sit at home and watch The Simpsons?
Thus we feel wracked with guilt whenever we’re forced to turn down an invitation. So much so in fact that we can even sometimes find ourselves hiding from the phone rather than have to tell our friend we won’t be making it out! It’s rather absurd when you really think about it!
And sometimes you just really don’t want to go out. Sometimes you’ll have literally just sat down and made yourself comfortable. You’ve made yourself a hot drink and you’ve planned to catch up on that TV series you missed.
And then someone calls and your plans are ruined. You have to get dressed, go out in the cold and spend another $50 on drinks…
That’s another evening not spent with your family too and it means the house will continue to get more and more untidy.
And here’s the thing: you’re not actually ‘seizing the day’ or living life more by going out. Sure, in some cases you are and of course I’m not saying that you should spend your whole life indoors either. But saying ‘yes’ to one thing actually means saying ‘no’ to something else. When you accept an invitation, you actually narrow your opportunities.
Say ‘yes’ to going out with friends and you’ve also said ‘no’ to staying in with family. And you’ve said ‘no’ to working out. And ‘no’ to tidying the house.
And all those things are legitimate too!
In fact, things like working out and tidying the hoes are really legitimate. And here are some other ways you could use your time if you didn’t always say yes to things:
- Set up a side business
- Write a book
- Get into amazing shape
- Take up a new hobby
- Visit a new part of your city
- Read a good book
- Spend a nice evening in with your family
- Try cooking a new meal
- Get an early night
- Catch up with correspondence – phone family or a friend
These are all perfectly good ways to spend your time and they also make you healthier, more energetic and closer to achieving your goals.
For many of us, these things remain constantly on the backburner because we’re constantly feeling the need to keep our friends, colleagues and family happy. We keep filling our time up with things we don’t really want to do so that we feel better about ourselves and so that we will be more popular.
But it’s a mistake because it ultimately leaves you with less time and less energy to do the things you love doing. It’s part of the reason we always feel rushed and short on time and that we rarely manage to get on top of things and choose the lifestyle we want.
And don’t get me started on saying ‘yes’ to doing overtime at work. Or saying ‘yes’ to driving your friend somewhere when it’s really not your turn.
How to Start Saying No
Saying no is hard when you’re used to being a ‘yes man’ (or yes woman) so you need to learn the knack.
The first thing to do then is to start valuing your alone time and your ‘you’ time. Don’t view your time not going out as ‘time wasted’ but rather as time saved. To do this, it can really help to have a plan and an idea for how you want to use the time that you’re going to save.
So for starters, set yourself some goals and some tasks to work towards. Decide what is important in your life and decide what would make you happier. Maybe that means that you’re going to get into great shape. Maybe it means you’re going to explore your city. Maybe it means you just need down time to read some more books.
Either way, know what matters to you and what’s important to you.
Likewise, think about how much recuperation time you need in a week. How much time do you need to recover from all the work you do on a daily basis? How long would it take you to get your life back in order and to tidy your house/deal with admin?
Now you have a few hours aside for chasing your goals and working on your life and you have a few hours a week for just resting.
What you’re going to do now is schedule them into your diary and you’re going to treat them like they were any other appointment. In other words: you are now busy on those days. If someone asks you to do something, you will treat those days as already full booked: you aren’t available to say yes! This appointment is indelible and unless the opportunity is something you’re really excited about then you can’t break it. And if you do decide you want to take up the opportunity that is presenting itself, then you need to ‘reschedule’ the pre-existing appointment you have with yourself. Just like you would any other appointment.
Letting Them Down Gently
What do you say when someone rings you up and invites you out? You simply tell the truth:
“Sorry but I’m really tired at the moment and I just need to get some relaxation”
“Sorry but I haven’t had a chance to work on my book for a while and I really need to do that tonight”
Feels awkward? Fine! If they’re a good friend they’ll understand and you can always recommend another activity for later. But don’t make excuses and don’t lie. If you do that, then people will see through it and you’ll come across as flaky. It’s stressful to keep making up excuses!
And the very worst thing you can do is to defer your decision until later. All this does is mess people around and cause you a lot of stress – it actually makes your relaxation time less valuable.
Instead, just be honest and forthright. Make sure that your friend/colleague knows that you’d like to be invited in future but simply explain that on this occasion, you have a pre-existing date with yourself.