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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Non-Bitchy Ways to Say "No"

One tiny word can make a big difference...You let a friend crash on your couch indefinitely. Your sister asks to borrow your pricey new shoes (the ones you haven't even worn yet) and yet you say "okay".

Your boyfriend wants to ditch dinner out tonight for a homemade roast - "You'll cook, won't you babe?" And you just agreed to take on a project for a stressed out colleague, even though you're swamped with your own workload. Sounds familiar? Many women get stuck doing things for others because it's really hard to say 'No!'. To save someone else the pain, you avoid a confrontional situation and just say yes.

Even though it may be unfair, and you end up in a high stress situation, saying yes sometimes is a lot easier than having to explain why you just can't do it. So before you utter another reluctant yes, (or do some internal damage repressing the subsequent rage), worry not, there are nice ways of saying 'No'. Read on.

Why you're a 'yes woman': When a guy is asked to take on an unwanted task, he generally doesn't hesitate to nip the request in the bud. No, he can't lend his bud 5,000 bucks. Sorry, no time to dog-sit for his neighbour...The reasons guys and girls don't react the same way to requests are both socially sanctioned and biologically driven. "Men are expected to assert themselves, that's what gives them status in our society, says social psychologist Susan Newman, author of The Book Of No. "They learn to say no early on becuse if they don't, they're labelled as wimps or pushovers."

On the other hand, women earn praise for playing nice and co-operating. "As girls, we're singled out for being helpful," says Newman. In fact, the female need to please others is so ingrained that many women equate saying no with saying 'I don't care about you'. Answering yes also appears to be hardwired.

Research shows that when women are co-operative, neural activity in the brain's reward region dramatically increases, bathing our bodies in feel-good martyrdom hormones. The result: women get an actual physical high from pleasing people. For many, it's an addiction. People think of the word 'No' as a negative and fear that using it will jeopardise a friendship or that their friends will think of them as selfish. Some women fear they will be left out of the group if they say 'no' or that their friends will think they are uncaring or lazy. Bottom line: women tend to be people-pleasers and agree to avoid confrontation and keep the peace, but that's not such a good thing!

Right of refusal: First, consider the resentment and bitterness that you invariably feel when you accpet a task you don't want to take on. Add to that the time required to do what you were asked, resulting in less time for the stuff that really matters to you, says Michael Silverman, author of Unleash Your Dreams. Also, giving into the 'yes habit' can backfire in your face: instead of coming off as a helpful person, you will earn a reputation as an ever-reliable doormat, says Silverman.

Not setting boundaries gives you little respect among friends, acquaintances, and colleagues, so they keep asking you for help because they know you're likely to accept. Finally, you don't do people any favours by coming to their rescue constantly. "Turning someone down forces them to rely on themselves," says Jana Kemp, author of No! How One Simple Word Can Transform Your Life.

'No!' There, you've said it... But it wasn't easy, was it? You feel like crap now, right? It actually takes time and practice before most women can confidently say 'no' without feeling guiltridden, comments Silverman. It helps to be prepared, however, so learn to spot the signs that an unwanted request is coming your way. "I've been meaning to ask... and "I know you're really busy, but... are obvious tip-offs, but be on the lookout for earlier hints, like awkward, drawn-out small talk, throat clearing, or a sudden lack of eye contact," explains Bill Lampton, author of The Complete Communicator.

If you find yourself already cornered, counteract your knee-jerk reflex to say yes by not responding right away. "Pausing gives the impression that you're truly considering the request, and also buys you more time to think," says Don Gabor author of Speaking Your Mind In 101 Difficult Situations.

When you do turn down the request, keep your 'no' short; something along the lines of 'I'd really love to, but I can't', says Newman: "Don't flounder around and try to explain why you have to refuse. The more wiggle room you give, the more ammo the other peron has to attempt to change your mind. Finally, resist the urge to apologise, since that only shows you're uncomfortable with your decision."

(Reproduced From Cosmopolitan. © 2010. LMIL. All rights reserved.)

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