How to stop being a people pleaser (and learn to say NO)
Mum. Wife. Business Owner. Friend. Family member. A multi-faceted life means so many responsibilities, so many demands, so many expectations, so many people to keep happy.
I’ve spent years trying to please everyone - not wanting to offend anyone or let anyone down, not wanting to say no for fear of sounding rude or ungrateful, not wanting to seem incapable of juggling everything. So I habitually said yes, and it came at a massive cost to me.
Don’t get me wrong, I love to give, to help, to support friends and family. I’m naturally a sociable and hard working person, but saying yes to everything left absolutely no space for me.
So now, I put me first. Not all the time obviously, otherwise I’d be at the gym (or in a cocktail bar) all day instead of working. I’d be making the kids sit through Grey’s Anatomy instead of letting them watch Teen Titans Go! I’ve just shifted myself a couple of rungs higher up the ladder of importance (from right down there at the shitty bottom), and I actually figure. Woop! Sounds selfish, but selfish it is not.
I’ve been practising the art of being assertive and learning to say no, in all areas of my life - business, relationships, friendships, family gatherings, parenting… at first I felt it was self indulgent, but now I’m confident it’s not. My time is precious, and I’m no longer going to spend my time doing things I don’t want to do. I’m not saying I’ve turned into Verucca Salt or some sort of self serving stubborn arsehole, I’m just considering myself more, and that’s got to be a good thing. Right?
Here’s what I’ve been practising, and it’s pretty powerful!
The following can apply to business or personal life, friends, family, kids…
- DON’T BE SCARED OF THE WORD NO - You’re not being unfriendly, rude, selfish or mean, you’re simply saying no. Stay calm and keep it simple. Invite to a night out that you really don’t want to go to? “No thanks, that’s not really my thing” or “I really don’t feel up to it.” Work colleague trying to offload more work on you? “I’m sorry, I can’t take that on right now.” PTA attempting to rope you into running the lemonade stall at the school fete again? “No sorry, I can't help this time I’m afraid.” You can be polite, but stand firm and don’t waver.
- BUY SOME TIME - If you can’t say no immediately or you’re actually unsure of what your thoughts are at that exact moment, instead of defaulting immediately to YES, buy yourself some time so you can think it through in your own time. Then if it’s a no, you’ve had more time to prepare a suitable response. “Let me get back to you on that” or “I”m not sure of those dates, I’ll check my calendar and let you know” usually works.
- COMPROMISE - you may wish to compromise if you kind of want to do something / help someone but can’t give your all or don’t want to commit fully. Meet half-way if you want to, but don’t compromise yourself. Don’t say maybe if you really want to say no.
- BANISH THE GUILT - Don’t overthink something or worry about what people will think of you (will they think I’m a terrible person, will they be upset with me / criticise me / ostracise me). You might hate the thought of conflict, but it’s your right to say no. If a person is offended or upset, that’s their issue, and you can’t be responsible for how they react to your decision. If you’re worried a friend won’t ask you out again, suggest that although you’re not up for it this time, you’d love to next time!
- DON’T FEEL YOU NEED TO JUSTIFY IT - If you don’t want to go out on that big night, that’s your choice! Be honest and just say that you’re too tired / don’t want a hangover tomorrow / don’t like live music etc. You’ve been asked to look after someone’s puppy - “Sorry I can’t this weekend, I’ve had such a hectic week / I have a busy weekend planned.”
- DON’T BE FORCED INTO SOMETHING - If someone doesn’t take no for an answer (which may be the case if certain people are used to you saying yes) - stand firm. It may be an adjustment for them. Most people will pick up on this and respect your decision, but if someone continues to push you or guilt trip you, you’ll need to be very firm and reiterate your decision. If it persists, you may have to firmly tell them that you’ve made your decision clear and that you won’t change your mind, and therefore please stop asking me (i.e. fuck off)
- SET BOUNDARIES - It might take some time and some practice, and it may feel alien at first, but once you start becoming comfortable with who you are and what you want / don’t want, you’ll find it liberating. Get to know what your boundaries are and stick to them. Boundaries are personal and yours may be totally different to someone else's, so don’t compare yourself.
Saying no can avoid resentment. If you say yes to things that then cause you anxiety or dread, it’s not healthy. Ultimately, setting boundaries and saying no to things that don't serve you or things that drain you, is a massively positive step towards taking care of your own wellbeing (your physical, emotional and mental health). Respect yourself and make it a priority to take care of YOU.
Now, saying no comes more easily to me (apart from when someone offers me Gin, I just can’t seem to do that)
Much love, Fran xxx
ABOUT FRAN GRANT
Wife to a very lucky husband. Mum to 3 beautiful little boys. Gym, yoga and self care enthusiast. Lover of food, coffee, wine and gin. Self confessed bookworm and book hoarder. Advocate for keeping the magic of reading alive for today’s children. And last but not least - Writer (currently trying my hand at kids fiction and rhyming stories). Thanks for visiting my site - expect to see posts mainly related to reading and writing, with occasional musings about family, parenting and life in general. Oh, and plenty of book reviews! Hope you enjoy! Much love, Fran x