This is for all the people pleasers out there and all the people who run roughshod OVER the people pleasers badgering them and bullying them into doing things they can’t do, don’t have time to do, and frankly, don’t WANT to do.
That covers just about everyone.
NO MEANS NO
We all know from experience that there are many ways to say no that will piss off the person asking you for something.
There are also plenty of ways to say no that will not alienate the person you’re saying no to.
The goal here should be to develop a vocabulary and a Rolodex of choices that you can use in most situations to say no appropriately—which means graciously, clearly, kindly, and directly.
Nothing good will be gained by saying yes when you don’t want to or can’t, and there are many complications and consequences to saying yes when you mean no.
We’ll get into those in greater detail further in this article.
COMPLAINING + RESENTMENTS = YUCK
For those of us who feel uncomfortable saying no, what often happens is we say yes and then build up resentment against the person we said yes to.
Making matters worse, they don’t know because we never communicate it to them.
We tell ourselves one of our 200 Lies about this person and how stupid or mean or insensitive they are for not intuitively knowing where our boundaries are and then intuitively respecting them.
Instead, we suck it up, we swallow it, and we keep it a secret from them.
We don’t, however, keep it a secret from anyone else.
We complain about it to anybody who will listen.
The only person we don’t talk about it with is the one person we should actually be communicating with—but that just seems too frightening.
Can you relate?
THE COSTS OF COMPLAINING
Complaining is a waste of time and given that you already don’t have enough time, you really should waste 0% of it carping about something you’re unhappy about.
There’s a fork in the road here—you want to stop complaining about things you’ve already committed to, rightly or wrongly, that aren’t finished yet AND the things that are already completed.
It’s pointless to complain about either of them.
COMPLAINING ABOUT SPILLED MILK
Why are you still hanging onto and upset about something that’s over? No amount of complaining is going to change the experience that you’ve had.
You can certainly examine it to figure out what happened, what you didn’t like, and what you would like to do differently—that’s a useful activity.
But getting together with friends and whining about something that happened in the past that you are powerless to alter just seems like a colossal waste of time. And really, do you feel that much better after complaining about it one more time?
Did you really need your friends to co-sign your bullshit that you are justified in being unhappy?
COMPLAINING ABOUT TODAY
Complaining about things that you’ve agreed to do is not going to get them finished any faster and off your plate. So if the point is to turn a corner, you probably don’t want to spend any more time getting to that corner than you need to.
If part of your agenda is to make everybody else as miserable as you are about this task, we need to look at that separately. That is not what I would consider a good choice.
You might want to set a timer for 15 minutes and really dig into the construction behind your thinking that builds an argument for making everybody feel as shitty as you do as if that will somehow make the task more pleasant, easier or more quickly completed—which again is really the primary goal.
Let’s be clear—As a reformed people pleaser, I’ve certainly done this in the past. I’ve agreed to things I didn’t want to do and then took it out on everyone around me.
And I still have the same kind of thoughts sometimes when something unexpected that I perceive to be unpleasant happens.
If I’m not centered and in a peaceful frame of mind, my first reaction may very well be, “Oh hell no, this is not happening and I’m going to let everybody know how unhappy I am about this so they are just as unhappy as I am.”
So you can think what you want to think—your thinking may never change. But your behavior can.
That’s what I do. I don’t worry so much about what I’m thinking—I’ve come to understand that my mind just makes up crap all the time. Sometimes it’s super helpful and creative and other times it’s complete rubbish.
Regardless, I just choose not to act on those thoughts today. But I’m not a saint—pure in heart and in thought. I just try to be pure in deed. That seems to be a goal I can hit.
So when everything is considered, the quickest, easiest thing to do is just do the task(s) and never agree to do it or them again under the same terms that upset you in the first place.
Going forward, your goal should be to say yes to fewer of these kinds of things which eliminates the need to complain in the future.
THE DEATH OF COMPLAINING
So now that you are:
- no longer complaining about things that have happened that you can’t change
- no longer complaining about things you are doing currently that you’ll never agree to do again in quite the same way
- no longer dating yes to things you should be saying no to
You have just eliminated the need to complain at all. Congratulations.
If you’ve got a story cropping up right now that says what about advocating for myself when something breaks under warranty or I get bad customer service—that’s a different kind of complaining. That’s not whining AND doing nothing to change the outcome—this is communicating to shift the outcome.
WHINING VS COMPLAINING
Whining is complaining to anyone other than the person who can actually affect a different outcome for you.
It’s a waste of time and probably drains your energy. You may get worked up and a little spike of enthusiasm from your righteous anger but that will have a rapid decay and soon you’ll feel as crappy as you did before or maybe even worse.
Complaining as I mentioned before is really advocating to affect a different outcome.
So, if after reading this, you feel comfortable (or at least willing) to go back to the person who you said yes to inappropriately and now saying something like:
“Hey—you know that thing I agreed to do yesterday? I shouldn’t have. It was a mistake. I can’t for this reason [INSERT REASON]. I’m so sorry if this has created a negative consequence for you. I am working on developing new skills and one of these is saying no appropriately and another one is correcting mistakes sooner so I can course-correct sooner as well. Again I’m sorry that you have been involved in my learning process. I will do better next time. Thanks.“
Then that would fall under the category of good complaining and not whining.
FOMO IS BULLSHIT
Right now, there is a concert happening that you are not attending.
There is also a sale where are you are not shopping.
There is a wedding and a funeral that you are not participating in.
There is a hike you are not taking.
There is a meal you are not eating.
There is a cure to cancer you are not discovering.
There is love you are not making.
As the song goes, that’s life.
This bullshit about missing out on things is all a product of some crazy consumption machine that wants to manipulate your feelings enough to make you feel miserable about the current circumstances of your life so that you will continuously seek outside of yourself for happiness and fulfillment.
Please read that again out loud like this:
It is bullshit that I feel bad about missing out on things that are happening right now around the world that I am not participating in. What’s occurring in my life right now are activities and experiences that I’ve selected. And I can’t be everywhere at the same time doing everything at the same time.
The feelings of lack and frustration, impatience and envy and loss are all products of some crazy consumption machine that wants to manipulate me into feeling crappy so I will look outside of myself for a sense of fulfillment and happiness.
Intellectually, I know this is true—in my gut, I still feel the impact from all of the messaging.
I want to bring my full attention to this so I can begin to recognize and then dismantle these feelings.
And I definitely want to prevent any actions I might take to change those feelings that would involve anything other than sitting still in this very moment.
And so I want to bring attention to that so I can begin to dismantle those feelings and definitely prevent any actions I may take to change those feelings that would involve anything other than sitting still in this very moment.
If you are genuinely and authentically dissatisfied with your current circumstances, rather than looking outside of yourself for something to fix how you feel, what are the actual actions that you can take to adjust your circumstances?
Do you need a job?
Do you need a better paying job?
Do you need a home?
Do you need a larger home?
Do you need to live alone?
Do you need to live with other people?
Do you need to start a relationship?
Do you need to end a relationship?
Do you need to live in another city or town or location?
Do you need to lose weight?
Do you need to exercise more?
Do you need to change your diet?
Do you need a structured plan for paying down unsecured debt?
All of these are things you can change—if you are willing to spend the time to change them. And none of them require you to consume anything.
So again, this idea that you are missing things is true—you are missing things. That fact doesn’t diminish the quality of your current life. At all.
And of course, what we ignore and what is most important about addressing FOMO is that saying NO to something is actually saying YES to something you value more.
Ultimately, it comes down to mindset. Are you viewing the world and your life as a glass half empty or is the glass half full?
Here in modern western culture, We have consistently and deliberately been programmed to see the world as glass half empty. Commerce is driven by a sense of scarcity and entitlement.
The strongest antidote to this illness is gratitude.
I suggest you get out a piece of paper and write down 10 things that you are grateful for.
This is a daily practice of mine and it works miracles at keeping me grounded and focused in my life.
This doesn’t prevent me from being ambitious and nurturing the desire in me that wants to grow my business and my impact and reach in the world.
It just prevents me from buying things I don’t need and engaging in activities that don’t either grow my business or bring me pleasure or both.
And because I am paying attention to whether these activities are helping me to grow my business or bringing me pleasure, when I recognize that something isn’t doing one or the other or both, it becomes much easier and faster for me to change my behavior.
Being engaged in my life and aware means that I can take action much quicker and/or pause when appropriate because I’m no longer in a reactive state, living my life as if I were a pinball in a machine being bounced from flipper to bumper to flipper again with no agency and no choice. That’s just bullshit.
I do have agency and I do have choices.
AN EXPLANATION OR AN EXCUSE?
My dog ate my homework.
The subway was running late.
I forgot—I’m sorry.
Which of these are explanations and which of these are excuses?
Here’s a hint: an explanation includes you taking responsibility for the outcome.
You are encouraged to share explanations for why things did or did not happen.
This is useful when you are trying to establish or maintain healthy boundaries.
You also need to be willing to accept the consequences of what has or has not happened.
Often, we want to take responsibility only when there are no consequences or the only consequence is somebody saying it’s OK And letting us off the hook…
Sometimes it’s not OK. And it is still appropriate to take responsibility and accept the consequences.
For myself, the irrational fear that comes up is that I will die as a result of accepting responsibility.
Unless it’s literally life or death, it isn’t life or death. It might be inconvenient, it might be uncomfortable, it might be expensive—it might be all of the above.
But if it doesn’t literally kill me, it’s not going to kill me.
It’s best to keep explanations simple and direct and factual. Pay attention to any impulse that wants to embellish or ship responsibility.
That’s migrating into excuse-land and bullshit.
WHAT’S BETTER THAN GOOD NEWS?
The only thing better than good news is bad news fast.
When the answer is no, say it soon if not immediately.
You’re not doing anyone any favors by delaying the inevitable.
The sooner you tell someone no, the sooner they can find the next yes.
Not telling someone no quickly is either lazy, cowardly, or disrespectful.
We all know what it’s like to be waiting for an answer from someone when they say, “Maybe—I’ll get back to you.”
It’s only natural to assume or hope that in the interim they are trying to rearrange their schedule so they can say yes to you.
What might be happening, though, is that they are waiting to get back to you hoping that either somebody else will say yes first or that they will come up with a good enough reason/explanation that you will hear the ‘no’ and not be upset by it.
So when the shoe was on the other foot, you can see that it’s only right to let somebody else know quickly as well.
THE BOTTOM LINE
These are the things to remember before you say yes to something that doesn’t serve you or that could be done by somebody else just as well and on time.“You don’t need to get lost in your thinking or feeling and agree to something—particularly if you’re going to feel bad about it right after you’ve agreed to it. Click To Tweet
It’s ok to say yes.
It’s also ok to say no.
It doesn’t make you difficult or selfish or mean, or any other label someone may try to stick on you just for taking care of yourself.
And if YOU are labeling yourself any of the above for having healthy boundaries, look at that and see what you can do to quiet that kind of self-talk—it’s not helping.
If you’re ready to learn or improve your ability to say no effectively and appropriately, enroll now in our Rapid Results Coaching Program or Next Step Coaching Program. There is an entire module built to fix this Time Thief.
One of the pioneers of professional organizing and productivity, Andrew Mellen is the best-selling author of Unstuff Your Life!. He travels the world speaking, teaching, and coaching individuals and global brands including the New York Mets, Genentech, American Express, Time, Inc. and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.