For whatever reason, I get this strange feeling of guilt whenever Im forced to tell someone no.
Nobody likes saying it — and why would they, when it feels so good to say “yes”? ButIfeel absolutely terrible.
And whenyou have trouble telling people “no,” problems arise.
Allow me to explain.
Last week, while I was doing some cardio at the gym, I got approached by one of the trainers. It was the day after Thanksgiving, so I suppose he figured it was a good time to recruit new members for his high-intensity interval training class.
After spotting me, he asked if Id be willing to try a new workout challenge” and offered me a free demo class.
Surely, I did not need — or even remotely want— to try out any new workout challenge. Im a creature of habit, and Ive been doing the same workout routine foryearswithout a hiccup. But I simply couldnt bring myself to tell him no. I mean, after hearing him give me his whole fitness spiel, I didnt want to just dismiss him. That seemed callous.
So I figured, what the hell. I had nothing better to do that day. I decided to give it a whirl.
Well, 45 minutes and a few dry heaveslater, I had completed the class… and spent $100 for four more sessions.All because I couldnt tell this dude no.
I know that Im this way with my friends, too. Whenever any of my buddies triesto make plans with me, I agree without checking my schedule. When I realize I can’t follow through with the plans, I cancel — and come off looking like a flake.
But I dont like to think of myself as a flake. Im justsomeone who cant say no. If anything, I’m trying to be polite. I’m trying to be a good guy. But this often backfires.
Although having a hard time saying “no” can lead to many unfavorable — and expensive — situations, it usually comes from a place of good intentions.
In a recent article forWall Street Journal,Elizabeth Bernstein explains the reason why some people are so averse to saying “no”: “No is a rejection.
When youre someone who cares about pleasing others, having to reject someone is not a very good feeling.
Dr. Vanessa Bohns, assistant professor of management sciences at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, tells Bernstein, “One of our most fundamental needs is for social connection and a feeling that we belong. Saying ‘no’ feels threatening to our relationships and that feeling of connectedness.”
I can definitely agree with this. At the gym, I was anxious not to seem rude. And whenever any of my friends make an effort to do something — like watching a basketball game or attending some party — I feel bad turning down the invite. Even if its something I actually dont want to do.
However, by avoiding the word no, I only set myself up to fall short on following up on plans down the road. And I become the flake I didnt want to be.
According to Bernstein, my fear of hurting my friends’ feelings isnt as serious as I think it is. This is because of something called “harshness bias,” which she says is our tendency to believe others will judge us more severely than they actually do.”
While its certainly nice to keep the feelings of other people in mind, failing to say “no” will usually do more bad than good. By saying “yes” when someone tries to make plans with you — only to end up saying “no” later — youll give others the impression that youareflaky or unreliable.
Youmay not have full intentions of following up on your commitments, but the people to whom you commit probably will — and theyll be pissed at you when you inevitably let them down.
Its important to be comfortable saying “no” or, at the very least, saying something along the lines of Ill get back to you, as Bernstein explains.
People-pleasing is all good until you realize youre constantly letting down the people you initially intended to please.
Its important to focus on being someone whos reliable,not someone who never says “no.” If youre worried that your friends or the people youre interacting with will look at you any differently after telling them no, youre either overreacting or better off without them anyway.
But, whatever you do, be careful. Theres a fine line between being overly polite and being flaky.