Happiness Concierge: Why learning to say 'no' is so important

There's one tiny word that seems to cause major angst for a lot of us. But, seriously, why is saying 'no' so hard? Happy Concierge's Rachel Service tell us how to overcome that yes affliction.

Rachel  Service

Rachel Service

Rachel Service is the Founder of Happiness Concierge: a training company that helps people ace their work and lives

Think back to a time when you wished you'd said 'no'. How did it feel?

We've all had that immediate sense of regret after saying 'yes' to something we wish we'd hadn't. And if we fall into this trap of people pleasing, it's also likely that we have a sense of guilt around saying 'no'.

It's one of the trickiest interpersonal tools to master, but learning to say 'no' will change your life. Here's how to put yourself first by saying 'no' - without putting anyone off side.

When you say 'no', you're saying 'yes' to you

When we say 'no', we say 'yes' to the things that fill up our mojo tank. So why does it fill us with such dread?

When our values and needs are neglected, it can make us feel physically ill. When we take on tasks that don't align with our values, or that benefit someone else but not ourselves, it doesn't fill us with joy. It feels as though our goodwill is taken for granted, and that can make those tasks feel like soul-sucking exercises.

Every time you say 'no' to one thing, you're saying 'yes' to something else. 'No' means freeing up your time to engage in activities that you actually want to do.

So, whether it's buyer's remorse or saying 'no' to a well-meaning relative or friend, here's a framework to help you say 'no' and zap the guilt.

Step 1: Validate their request

Prior to instant gratification becoming the norm, humans have always craved to be validated. Most times, those around us may think they are being helpful by adding things to our plate, whether it be clothes that might suit us, a recommendation for a new plant baby, or a task that they know we can do (because we never say 'no').

Even if it's a no-go from us, validating the other person as a first step ensures they feel heard, paving the way for a 'no'.

Here are some examples you can use to acknowledge and validate requests or suggestions when you're in a jam:

  • Thanks for the recommendation..."
  • I can see why you might think that..."
  • Ordinarily, I would..."

Step 2: Slide a 'no' in

Even if your inner toddler is screaming 'BUT I DON'T WANT TO!', we encourage you to resist the urge to let the cat out of the bag. The trick to saying 'no' is not making it personal. Try these more diplomatic phrases:

  • Unfortunately, I'm on a tight budget this week..."
  • As it turns out, it's not a fit for me…."
  • I already have something similar actually..."

Make your #onechange

For every time you say 'no', make sure you use the time you've saved to do something for yourself.

Step 3: Shift gears in the convo

There will be always be some people who won't take 'no' for an answer. They might urge you, play to your expertise or even come up with creative solutions to make you say 'yes'. Shifting gears in the conversation is a gentle pivot to something you'd like to talk about, or even suggesting someone else for the task.

Saying 'no' takes practise, so if you find yourself caught off guard with requests and recommendations, here are some examples you can keep up your sleeve to buy yourself more time:

  • Let me think on that and get back to you..."
  • Not sure, I may have something similar…."
  • Can't commit right away, let me check my schedule and loop back to you…."

Next time you're faced with a flood of requests, trust your gut and remind yourself how valuable your time is. That way, you're less likely to hesitate when it comes to saying 'no' to something you really don't want to do.

Rachel  Service

Rachel Service is the Founder of Happiness Concierge: a training company that helps people ace their work and lives. After suffering anxiety, depression and burnout in her 20s, Rachel realised her career was killing her and created Happiness Concierge to help other people have more impact at work.

The information in this article is general information only and is not intended as financial, medical, health, nutritional, tax or other advice. It does not take into account any individual’s personal situation or needs. You should consider obtaining professional advice from a financial adviser and/or tax specialist, or medical or health practitioner, in relation to your own circumstances and before acting on this information.