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How Saying 'No' Enhances Authenticity and Well-Being

Thanks, but no thanks.

Key points

  • Saying “no” is a skill. It can feel uncomfortable initially and more familiar over time.
  • Saying “no” supports well-being if it creates authenticity, aligns with personal values, and maintains health.
  • It is helpful to be aware of priorities, practice direct communication, and remember why you are saying no.
Source: geralt, 25647 images/Pixabay

Most of us have a lot of practice saying “yes” to things. To take on more and more. This can be related to a variety of factors including people pleasing, concern over the perceptions of others and fear of letting others down, and believing we need to prove our worth. Thus, it is often not easy to say “no.”

Nonetheless, saying “no” can be quite beneficial. Doing so can be a way for us to honor and prioritize our needs and remind ourselves, via our behaviors, that we are inherently worthy and we don’t have to prove our worth. Saying “no” is a skill. It can feel quite uncomfortable initially and often feels more familiar and comfortable over time.

Living with chronic fatigue frequently forces us to slow down, be aware of our limits, and practice saying no to certain tasks and invitations. You only have so much energy each day, and the reality of not having as much energy as some other people do, means you have to practice slowing down and, at times, doing less. You have to nurture and protect your well-being because others are not going to do it for you.

Yet, you don't have to experience chronic fatigue to benefit from setting limits. Saying “no” supports well-being. It can feel very self-affirming to say “no” if doing so allows you to be authentic, aligns with your genuine desires and values, and helps maintain your health. And that does not mean saying “no” is easy. Nonetheless, it is a skill that you can strengthen over time.

Below are some tips for practicing saying no.

Be Aware of Your Priorities and Values

Identify what is important to you and what is not. If you don’t know where you want to spend your time, it can be quite challenging to know where you do not want to spend it. Before you can practice saying no, you want to be aware of what you want to say no to.

You Are Saying No to The Request, Not The Person

It can be helpful to separate the request from the person in your mind. You are not rejecting a person by saying no to a request.

You Can Say No and Be Kind

You can thank someone for thinking of you and extending an invitation, or making a request, and still say “no.” Often, people think saying no means they are being disrespectful and/or mean. I don’t think this is true. It is possible to communicate directly and respectfully.

Give People a Heads Up

If you know there are certain requests/situations you plan to say no to it can be helpful to let others know ahead of time. For example, I usually do not like engaging in social activities on Friday evenings as I tend to be tired from the week so I might say to a friend, “Hey, just so you know, I don’t typically like to do things on Friday evenings as I tend to be particularly tired at that time, so please know that I may say no to requests to go out on Fridays.”

It's OK to Miss Out

Often, we can hesitate to say no because we are fearful of missing out. That’s understandable, and remember that when you practice saying no to something, you are also saying yes to your priorities and values. Typically, we focus on what we may be missing and it can be helpful to remind yourself what you may be gaining by saying no.

Embrace Vulnerability

Saying no isn’t easy for a lot of people. It can make us feel vulnerable as we may worry about letting someone down or someone thinking about us critically. Remember that embracing vulnerability allows you to honor yourself and helps build courage. Courage isn’t about not feeling anxious or uneasy. It is about feeling these emotions and taking action anyway.

Practice and Repeat

Saying no requires practice. Practice saying no out loud and saying no to less anxiety-provoking situations such as saying no to someone offering you something to eat that you don’t like. Also, practice saying no without apologizing. You haven’t done anything wrong by saying no.

Also, don’t be afraid to repeat yourself as needed. Some people may circle back and ask again even if you have said no. Don’t be afraid to be firm and repeat yourself. Again, you can be firm, direct, and respectful.

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