Learning when to say “no” can improve your relationships.
Does this sound counterintuitive? Consider the following:
Do you constantly find yourself overwhelmed with your obligations to friends, family, and coworkers? Are you the person that everyone comes to for help? Do you feel like people hold you to a higher standard than what you are capable of maintaining? If so, you might find yourself wondering how you got here. You value your relationships and you are generous with your time, so why are you feeling unfulfilled in your relationships?
Many generous and well-meaning people find themselves feeling burnt out and overwhelmed. Consider the following tips for creating balanced and fulfilling relationships:
1. Remember: the problems of others are not your responsibility
It is likely that you say “yes” so often because of a genuine desire to be helpful to others. Maybe you value that those who know you consider you to be reliable and available. Most likely, you really do value being of service and you don’t want to give that up. Learning to say “no” is not about being selfish, or serving only yourself and no one else. It is about practicing healthier boundaries and remembering that ultimately, being aware of someone’s problem does not make it your responsibility.
It may seem backward, but saying “no” to requests from loved ones or coworkers actually protects your relationship with them. By agreeing to help with tasks you don’t have time to complete or are too tired to do, you may hold resentment and anger toward that person, maybe without even realizing it. This is unfair given you are the one who agreed to help them. It is your responsibility to know your limits and practice boundaries.
Are there times you offer help without being asked? On the surface, this appears noble and generous. However, when you jump at helping a loved one when you see they have a problem, you may be denying them the opportunity to work through the problem on their own. That is, you may inadvertently be sending the message that you believe you are more capable than they are. Consider ways in which you can be helpful while ultimately empowering the person to take responsibility.
2. Learn to negotiate
Saying “no” doesn’t always have to mean rejecting a request altogether. Sometimes it might mean agreeing, but on your own terms. This might mean offering to help on a day that works better for you. It might mean charging a fee. It might mean helping in a smaller way than they are asking. You might feel uncomfortable negotiating if you value being “laid back” or “flexible”. When you bend at the requests of others, what are the costs to you? Learning to be more assertive will go a long way in your efforts to practice healthier boundaries. By reaching a compromise, you are again protecting your relationship with the person who is asking you for help. Relationships thrive when there is balance and equality.
3. Accept help from others
Do you find yourself thinking, “I wish I had a friend like me?” Do you feel like you give more than you get back in your relationships? Instead of this meaning that you have lousy friends, it could mean that you are either giving more than what would be reasonable to expect in return, and/or not asking for or welcoming help from others.
If you consider yourself a “giver”, you may have a hard time accepting favors. When you deny others the opportunity to give back to you, the relationship remains unbalanced. Consider for a moment having a friend who goes above and beyond for you, but will not allow you to help them in return. How would you feel toward that person? How would it make you feel about yourself?
When did you learn to put others before yourself? Why is it such a struggle to assert your needs? Everyone’s story is different. Working with a counselor can help you explore the roots of your struggles, which in turn can help you to create a new path. Learning to say “no” is an important part of strengthening your relationships, managing your time effectively, and taking care of your mental wellbeing.