Are you a people pleaser, always saying yes even when you want to say no? Maybe you’re exhausted and need to go home on Friday evening to rest but instead say yes to going out with friends, sacrificing the sleep and rest you need. If you find yourself compromising your needs to make sure you meet the needs of others, you need to learn to say no. 

In a 2016 article, psychologist Dr. Vanessa Bonds wrote that many people agree to things, even things they would prefer not to do, simply to avoid the discomfort of saying no.1 Instead of saying, “No, not this time” many people would rather say yes. No one wants to upset friends and family by saying no. No one wants people to think they’re not nice. We just want to fit in and keep the peace. 

“It makes no sense that we have to do things we don't want to do to feel good about ourselves, and that if we do things we want to do, we feel bad about ourselves,” says Jay Shetty.

You should not feel bad for saying no, but how can you stop being a people pleaser and start putting your priorities first? In this article, Jay Shetty breaks down seven steps anyone can take to feel comfortable saying no.

Conserve Your Energy

There’s never enough time in the day to do everything you want to do, yet when someone asks for something, out comes your schedule to see if you can fit it in. You don’t want others to view you as a bad person if you don’t help, so you try to make time to do whatever they need help with, even if it means using the time you need for yourself. According to Jay Shetty, this is a mistake.

The truth is, this is more of an energy problem than a time problem. You can always find the time to squeeze something in, but you can’t squeeze out more energy than you have to give. When you try to squeeze out more energy, it drains you and makes you feel worse while affecting your relationship with the other person.

“What ends up happening is you reflect that negativity after that experience onto the person who made you do that,” Jay Shetty explains. “So now not only are you unhappy with how you spent your time, you’re drained of energy, and have a negative view towards that person. Potentially, you may have ruined your relationship with that person, because now you see them as a burden.”

Jay Shetty explains you need to ask yourself an important question before saying yes. If I take the energy to do that, do I still have the energy to do everything I already had planned?

If the answer is no, you need to explain that you do not have the energy to serve them in the way they need. Taking time for yourself to conserve and replenish the energy you need will help you feel better and support them better in the future. 

By explaining you do not have the energy to help them, they’ll be able to understand your reasoning, and you won’t make them feel bad by just saying no.

Don’t Leave No Open-Ended.

Don’t say no without saying no. When someone asks you for something, and you know you don’t want to do it but say “Maybe, I’ll see what I can do” or “Let me get back to you”, you create the hope that you will say yes.  

“If you use any words apart from ‘No, I can't do it. I'm sorry’, then people still have hope,” Jay Shetty shares. “They still feel like it’s going somewhere. It's almost like leading someone on.”

When you haven’t fully committed, you tend to forget about it because in your head, you’ve already said no. Three days later, the person calls and wants to know if you are going to help them. You’re left apologizing for not getting back to them and still saying no … or not. Maybe you feel bad you didn’t get back to them so you end up saying yes anyway. 

Avoid this situation by being upfront when asked. There’s nothing wrong with saying no. 

“The more disconnect there is between what we think, what we say, and what we do, the more friction that exists in our mind, and in our life,” explains Jay Shetty.

Know Why You Say No

Take some time to reflect on why you say no to things. When you understand why you say no, it will strengthen your ability to make that choice. 

“Many of us are indecisive,” explains Jay Shetty. “We struggle to figure out what we're doing. We don't know why we say yes or no.”

Instead, Jay Shetty encourages you to ask yourself why you want to say no. Don’t force yourself to say no if you aren’t sure why. Get to the root of why before you flat out say no. 

Once you determine why you want to decline, explain it so the other person can digest it. Make it about you. Explain you’re not the right person because it conflicts with your schedule or doesn’t align with your goals right now. 

While saying no may hurt the other person in the moment, it’s less hurtful if you explain your reasoning and make the no about you rather than them.

Be Clear When to Say No

There are times when no should always be the answer. If something goes against your values, priorities or mental health, no should be the answer. It is essential to consider these things before saying yes to anything. 

“If saying yes to something is going to make you say no to yourself, the chances are you don't want to do it,” Jay Shetty shares.

Simone Biles is a prime example. She stepped onto the biggest stage in sports, the Olympics, and made waves by declining to compete in some of the events. She had trained her whole life for that moment, and she chose to say no. She opted to take care of her mental well-being instead. 

Her no didn’t mean she was quitting, it was simply her prioritizing her own needs. When she was ready, she returned to win a bronze medal for the United States.

Saying yes to avoid conflict can create more issues for you in the long term, says Jay Shetty. Saying no to preserve your values and your mental health or to keep your priorities straight is always the best answer.

Show Gratitude

Gratitude is showing your appreciation for something. Even though you might say no to an invitation, showing gratitude for the invitation lets them know you’re thankful for the opportunity. 

“Treat everything with gratitude,” Jay Shetty explains. “Write to someone and say, ‘Thank you so much for the interest. I'm so grateful you thought of me.’ Even if you're about to say no, start with gratitude.”

If you treat things with disregard or distaste, you create a negative space in your mind and the other person’s mind. Taking a minute to be thankful is a beautiful gesture.

No Isn’t Forever

Just because you say no to something now doesn’t mean that no is forever. No just means it doesn’t work for you right now. You can let the other person know you will let them know if and when you change your mind.

According to Jay Shetty, we don't realize that although our lies may make someone feel good temporarily, our honesty will keep them in our lives. If no is the right answer for the moment, but you’re honest in saying “It doesn’t work now, but I will keep you posted if I change my mind,” you build trust with the other person.

Be Assertive and Affectionate

You can be kind and clear about your answer even when it is no. 

“We always think we have to choose between being assertive or affectionate,” Jay Shetty says. “It's not: you either get to be affectionate or assertive. You have to be clear or kind. The truth is you don't have to choose. You can be both.” 

If you say yes but don’t want to do something, you feel stressed and lack motivation. This can come across as being rude and unwilling. Instead, thank the other person for the opportunity, express your gratitude and explain you’re focusing on different priorities now and don’t have the time to help them. You can be assertive and affectionate while not offending anyone in the process. 

People-pleasing is about doing things for other people so you feel liked and included. It’s not wrong to do something for others, but when it infringes on what you need, you can employ these tips to help you say no with confidence.  Take back the time and energy you need and deserve by learning how to say no without feeling bad about it.

More From Jay Shetty

Listen to the entire On Purpose with Jay Shetty podcast episode on “7 Steps On How To Say No Now” in the iTunes store or on Spotify. For more inspirational stories and messages like this, check out Jay’s website at jayshetty.me.

1 Bohns, V. K. (2016). (Mis)Understanding Our Influence over Others: A Review of the Underestimation-of-Compliance Effect. https://ecommons.cornell.edu/. Retrieved February 21, 2022, from https://ecommons.cornell.edu/bitstream/handle/1813/74812/Bohns1_Misunderstanding_our_influence.pdf;jsessionid=34E1889FF25CD08EA193888E012A83B5?sequence=1
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