X: Hey dude, can you fill in for me today? I've got this thing I gotta take care of.
Y: Uhmm. I don't know…
X: It's just for two hours, man!
Y: Yeah, okay. Sure.
Have you ever had a conversation like this one? Do you find it difficult to say “no”? Well, my experience tells me that almost everyone has gone through something similar to this at least once in their life. Family, friends and co-workers -- we've had it from them all.
It's not generally our fault, though. Who doesn't want to be a good soul? Sure, some tend to do favours so that they might ask for one later, no questions asked (like in “How I Met Your Mother”). Most will do it because they are helpful people and believe in “random acts of kindness”.
There are a lot of reasons for why a person may find it tough to decline an opportunity to help. In many cultures, it is deemed disrespectful to not help, especially if the party in question consists of seniors. To them it will be simply considered as being rude. For some, helping others is a way to get into a clique. We all know a few friends who used to do homework for others, right? The fear of not being accepted by peers drives many in their childhood to get involved in such actions.
In addition, many believe saying “no” as a sign of rejection will lead to disputes. Many healthy relationships come to a bitter end due to misunderstandings arising from a simple disagreement of thoughts or ideas. Attitudes like this eventually result in low self-esteem as one starts to evaluate him or herself in the wrong manner. Truth is, it's not about saying “no”, it's how you say it.
So how do we do it?
Simple: be committed and respectful to your own self, time and space. As long as you prioritise yourself, the self-induced fear will no longer be a barrier to your goals.
* If you are busy when someone asks for a favour, tell them about your situation. You may lend an ear to listen to the problem, and offer some solution or guidance at the moment but hold back from making it your own agenda. You can also recommend someone else who might have a better idea, just to save yourself.
* If you think you'll be able to help but at a later time, specify that. This is more of a light approach than the direct “no” and your hesitation (be sure to act well) may give off a negative vibe, and result in that person giving up on you. Win, win.
* Use the tool called “maybe”. This will act in two ways: first, show that you're not really interested. Secondly, that you've got better things to do. Hopefully this will earn you a bit of respect as well.
* Go for the direct “no”. Worry too much and you'll wake that cowardly monster inside you. Later on, feel good about giving importance to yourself, work for things that matter to you and enjoy the time you saved.
“Time to get up and live for yourself” is something Charles Bukowski might have said. For all I know, when you feel it's not your cup of tea, listen to some Snow Patrol but unlike their song, just say “no”.