How To Say "No" & Why It's Necessary Sometimes

~5 Minute Read | Audio version below

I despise saying “no”. Why can a simple 2-letter word be so difficult to say? Is it because I’m a people-pleaser? Yes. Sometimes. Is it because I don’t mind doing what’s being asked of me? Yes. Most of the time.

I can be a bit of a pushover sometimes. And knowing this doesn’t make me mad at myself or make me feel insecure. It’s not so much that I let people “walk all over me”, it’s more that I don’t really mind doing what’s being asked. There are some people in the world who ask and receive and there are some people in this world who want and do. I consider myself a want and do type person. My sister is an ask and receive type person. I believe that’s where my resistance of “no” came from.

"No" Checked Off
When we were growing up she would always ask for favours. The typical family favours like turning off a light or getting her a glass of water. Which I would always cave and end up doing. Now that we’re older, we’ve remained the same. She asks for a ride, I give it to her. I’m not saying she’s ungrateful. She’s done a lot for me too. Booted for me when I would ask as a rebellious teen (although, I would have to drive her to the liquor store), or buying me a coffee/tea when we go out. Sometimes I get in the mind set that I need to reject her more. I feel more judged by people thinking I’m a pushover than I feel of actually being one. I do things because there’s nothing major pulling me the other way or convincing me to push back. That’s what I used to think anyway.

my sister and i
(This image is a prime example of me listening to what my sister tells me to do. After tough convincing I finally put the rainbow headband on.)

There are a countless amount of questions we are asked any given day that we could say “no” to. And if you’ve ever seen The Butterfly Effect, you know that every decision you make can change everything. So what I have to stop and think about is when my sister is asking me to pick her up from Vancouver, what is she really asking? What are the possibilities of outcome that can come from this decision? There are times when it is a benefit and times when it is a hassle. So that is where I’ve finally realized I need to draw the line.

You might be asking, but it’s the same act, how can it cause two different outcomes? And the answer is timing. If I had a rough week of not getting enough hours at my job, having to pay a bunch of bills, and being low on gas; then going to get her is something that will diminish my positivity in two ways. I will have to spend more money that I don’t have and I would have to give up more time that could be used more productively (say by picking up a shift). So time and money are both lost in that scenario. On the other end of the bargain, she could ask for a ride on a beautiful day after I just finished a long shift of work. Now, I get to go and spend some quality time downtown on a gorgeous day after receiving my paycheque.

Now this example is how I realized that saying “yes” doesn’t make you a pushover and saying “no” doesn’t make you hurtful to others. The answer to the question is dependent on what you need and want in that moment. This article may sound a bit selfish and I don’t mean for it to come off that way. My idea isn’t an end all, be all, rule. There will always be exceptions and times where something positive will come out of saying “yes”. Or times when you don’t have the money but the opportunity really turned out better than expected. I’m directing this article more to myself when I know that I need to take my own advice and put my foot down. But remember, there are always exceptions to the rule.

A huge thing that I hate saying “no” to are things that I really would like to be doing but just can’t. For example, going on vacation with friends. There are so many people in my life that I love and so many places in the world I wish to visit. But the timing is not right for me right now because I don’t have the money and I’m trying to focus on my work.

The one thing we have to realize is we are all the lead character in our own life. If you think about it, you notice that: hey, if I had this money I would sure as hell ask all of my friends to come with me on a 3-week vacation to the tropics. I understand the intention and the need to convince as I would be just as excited. But life doesn’t work like that. Some people have jobs that they can’t escape for that long of a period, some people don’t have the money to put together, and others just might not want to go. The thing is, at this point in time I have resisted multiple invitations like this. It kills me every time because there is nothing more that I would want than to go. But I know that if the roles were reversed, I would also be sad that it didn’t work out. Again, time and money is what it comes down to.

Overheard LA - spending money on friend's vacations

Investment is such a strong word. Mostly we think of money investments but time investment is an equal player. I work a part-time job right now and I work for myself on the side. What I do on the side is building my brand and putting effort into areas that I believe will help promote my work and grab me exciting opportunities. I know that this won’t happen right away. But I know if I don’t give it a shot, I’ll never find out if it will. So for now, I delegate my time and have been trying to keep up with the blog, social posts, and identity on my platforms. To outsiders, all of the work I am putting into it can seem worthless. They may not understand what my main goal is. Or they may understand my goal but think it’s hard to reach or my process will be ineffective. But I have an idea that I am looking to pursue so I’m going to do it. (Remember I am a want and do type person).

endless clock gif

As I work part-time I am happy at my job. I am a contractor and sometimes get asked to do this “quick little update” or “do you have time to ____” – and here we are again at decisions. I have no problem with doing the work, I do it 3 days a week already. But when I’m asked to do it outside of my schedule, I struggle saying that one word again: NO. My brain renders through responses of “Oh, sure just send me the details” or “How much time do you need? I guess I can fit it in” and I have to stop myself, strengthen up and say, “I can’t. Sorry.”. This is such a devastation for me because I do like making people happy and I do like my job. But sometimes you have to say no. First off, the small changes won’t be in my pay. And the time I spend doing them will take me away from the time I could be working on my side projects (actual freelance work OR blogging). Both are important to me and need my time and focus to get done. Especially consistently.

So it has taken me a long time to realize this and I don’t even have the proof if all of these “no”‘s have been worth it yet -but it’s something that I feel is right. There will always be a lot of opportunities in the world to say “yes” to. I’m hoping to build up my brand, work harder, and save enough money for a more expensive and cultural vacation; rather than blow it on a 2-week getaway to a place I’ve been before. That’s my focus.

This may sound a little money-obsessed but I hope it helps others too. (This is just relevant to me at this age). You may have different passions or goals that you are reaching for. And you might feel that money isn’t as important to you but you have something else you are trying to achieve. For example a skill, being a caretaker to a person or pet, or anything you believe will significantly improve your life if you invest in it. Just remember to respect YOUR OWN time and money. Don’t leave it up to someone else to let you know how you should spend it.

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