Susan Newman, author of The Book of No, is a refusal expert. Here are her top tips to honing your ability to turn people down.
“You won’t be able to say no to everything asked of you, nor will you want to, but you don’t have to be an ever-accommodating yes person to be loved, respected and admired,” she says.
1. Make a list of the times you utter yes in one week
If you are a yes person, the number will shock you. The acceptable number will be different for everyone – one request could send you into a tailspin, while it might take four or more to set off someone else. The real gauge is how pressured, tight for time or resentful you feel. Any negative reaction – Why did I agree? What was I thinking? What am I doing? I don’t want to be available, I would rather be elsewhere – is the true measure.
2. Pay attention to how you parcel out your time
If most of your time is monopolised assisting one friend, when will you see other friends? If family or job demands are high, what’s left over for your own enjoyment? When your time is well managed, you’ll keep some in reserve for what’s most important to you.’
3. Get your priorities straight
Who has first crack at you without your feeling burdened or anxious? A partner? A child? A friend? A boss?
4. Define your limits
They can be emotional or physical or both, but there’s a point at which your line is crossed. How much of other people’s problems can you tolerate without feeling drained? How long are you willing to put up with one-way friendships with you always on the giving end? Decide how personal you’re willing to be and what kinds of requests make you uncomfortable. On the physical side, when does your stamina give out? Which requests are too taxing? To stay healthy your body and mind require rest, and if you don’t set limits you won’t get it.
5. Delegate to ease responsibilities
When you don’t trust others to be in charge or to get things accomplished, you wind up agreeing to and doing far more than your share. Eliminating the need to run things yourself to be sure they turn out the way you like relieves much of the pressure you put on yourself.