Do you ever fall into the trap of agreeing to do things you really shouldn’t do? Maybe you’re like me and you accept work projects you really don’t want to do. Or maybe you’re the parent the PTA knows will run every fundraiser for them, even though you don’t have the time to do so. Perhaps you’re a soft touch in a different area of your life.
No matter how it affects you – be it professionally, personally or socially – the result is usually the same: You end up stuck doing something that sucks valuable time out of your life because you couldn’t say “no.”
If you find yourself in this group, you should know that the Negativity Beast absolutely loves us. We make its job easy. Why?
Think about it. It’s a whole lot easier to keep someone in the grips of negativity, depression and procrastination when they’re exhausted from always being on the move.
This week, it’s time to learn why to say “no” a little more often.
How Saying No is a Positive Thing
I know what you’re thinking. You think you’ll be considered selfish if you start telling your friends and family that you can’t help them. In reality, it’s more selfish to continue doing things for people you don’t really have the ability to help. Let me explain.
Dangers of Taking On Too Much
Imagine that you have an office job and your boss asks if you can work on a big project over the weekend. (Take money out of the equation.) In order to complete the project you agreed to do, you must skip a friend’s birthday party, spend hours locked in your office away from your family and forgo your usual weekend activities.
What do you get to show for it?
- Lack of sleep
- Lost time with loved ones
- Messy house
- More errands during the week.
In addition to the personal losses, your work may also suffer in a number of ways. If you felt rushed to complete the project, you might not have done your best work. Subconsciously, you may resent the project for all your sacrifices and your resentment is seeping into your final product. Even after the weekend, your performance at the office might begin to slip as you cope with the resulting fatigue from working two weeks straight, without benefit of a day off to recharge.
The same issues can occur when taking on too much in your personal life as well. If you let someone guilt you into helping them with something, will you truly be in the best mood while you help them? Probably not. More likely, you make faces or grumble and groan your way through the activity, letting your friend know exactly how much you don’t want to be there.
Not quite the stuff of a fun time – for either of you.
How Saying No Improves Your Relationships
We don’t often think about how turning someone down can improve our relationships with others. Typically, we focus more on how we feel about not doing the things we don’t want to do. Perhaps that’s why we view it as such a selfish act.
Let’s flip our perspective though. How do you think it makes your friends and family feel to know you’re only spending time with them because you’re a soft touch and agree to anything? Don’t you think they realize you’re ignoring half of what they say while going through your mental “to-do” list?
On the other hand, what if you only accepted the invitations you truly wanted to accept? Imagine how it would make the people around you feel to know you’re there because you genuinely want to spend time with them? Think about what it would be like to focus 100% of your attention – or close to it – on someone you care about during a get together?
This is one of those situations where your attitude and sincerity are everything. Let people force you into doing things and the relationship can suffer. Accept only those invitations or requests you can without sacrificing your positive mood and the relationship flourishes.
Sometimes, it really is that simple.
Learning to Take “No” Action
When you’re in the habit of telling people you can take on anything, it can be difficult to even realize you’re stuck in the trap. This week, we undertake a simple task with the goal of helping us determine where we stand on this. Look back over your previous week:
- Consider what requests you accepted
- Decide if you wanted to accept those you did
- Determine what you gave up (or are giving up) in order to accept
- List each activity you accepted
- Place a star next to any activity you either didn’t want to accept or didn’t have time to accept.
That’s it. I don’t want you to figure out the underlying reasons behind why you agree to do things you didn’t want to do. I don’t want you to start breaking commitments.
This week, I only want you to record everything you agreed to do and figure out which ones you could’ve said “no” to.
How Does This Action Help?
Right now, doing things that put us in a bad mood is second nature. We’ll never be able to turn down things if we can’t first realize what it is we need to turn down. If you remember a few weeks ago when we assessed the issues in our lives, you may already understand that the inability to say “no” falls into the category of issues we create and can control.
As you may also remember, this is my favorite of the problem buckets and I said we’d come back to it…
If you feel like just making a list isn’t enough to change your habit, you’re right. That’s why we’re going to come back to this as we progress. Of course, since this is a relatively small task that involves little effort outside your own head, may I suggest you continue on with last week’s battle against clutter? This week gives you the perfect opportunity to complete the de-cluttering of one area of your house or tackle a second area for an even bigger positive mental boost.
Share Your Epiphanies
Were you able to uncover a pattern of taking on things you shouldn’t? Do you have the most trouble saying “no” personally, professionally or socially? How does the idea of turning down more things make you feel?
“If you can change your mind, you can change your life.”
Photo Credits: Cheerfulmonk via Flickr
© 2011, Jen Whitten. All rights reserved. Using content from The Positive Piper without permission will cause the Negativity Beast to attack. BEWARE!