Imagine your friend invites you to a party and you know you don’t want to go (for whatever reason), but you can’t say no to her. You want to come home early today to celebrate your son’s birthday but your boss tells you to stay late to finish some more reports. You want to say no but you can’t. You are just about to leave your home and all of a sudden the phone rings. It’s your friend on the phone who wants you to go with him to watch a movie, you know you’re busy, but hey it’s your friend and so you can’t say no.
If you’ve identified yourself with any of the above scenarios, then this might just be the post you want to read now.
Many situations in life require you to say NO and stand up for your rights but because you fear hostility from others, you comply to others’ desires and requests. We’ve been taught culturally that saying “no” sounds rude and so we try to be “nice”. But being nice is overrated, especially when it costs us our self-esteem. The book “Don’t Say Yes When You Want to Say No” by Herbert and Jean Baer says it this way:
The more you stand up for yourself and act in a manner you respect, the higher will be your self-esteem.
I am not suggesting that you start acting like a jerk and say no to each and every request that is made of you. But when situation demands, know what your rights are and stand up for your self. Though don’t be aggressive.
Aggressiveness VS Passiveness
Aggressiveness is when you tend be violent while persuading others to come in terms with you. Say “no” aggressively and you guarantee that your relationships with others will be hurt. Passiveness is when you’re too afraid to express your rights and so remain timid and shallow so that the situation remains “under control”. Being aggressive or passive can reflect in all areas of life, big or small.
A Personal Example of Passiveness
Here’s a personal example of passiveness which, at first, might seem very insignificant, but serves the purpose of showing how passiveness plagues even a 60 second encounter with people: It’s about me ordering an ice cream ( this was before I started dieting) from McDonald’s. So here I was at the counter placing the order. I ordered a McFlurry Oreo, handed over the money and waited for my turn. And what I got was something I didn’t order for: McFlurry Kit Kat! But the interesting part is this: Neither did I complain nor did I ask for refund. I thought doing so would be a hassle so I simply walked away.
This is how being passive feels like. You never get to speak your mind. And even when you do, you speak the wrong words. Since then, I have been trying to be more assertive and choosy when it comes to complying with others. In this effort, I’ve come across some techniques which I’ll share here in a moment. These techniques will help you become more assertive and make it a lot easier to say no.
Using the word BECAUSE
When trying to decline an unreasonable request, make sure you use the word “because” even if there’s no evident need of doing so. Here’s what a research from a Harvard Psychologist Ellen Langer shows: While she was waiting in line to use the photocopy machine of a library, she asked people “Excuse me, I have five pages, may I use the machine?”. Only 60 percent let her make copies. Then she made a simple adjustment to her request and the compliance from people reached 93 percent! This time she asked “Excuse me, I have five pages, may I use the machine because I am in a rush?”.
The weirdest thing about this experiment is the effect of the word “because”. People didn’t really bother whether she was in a rush or not, their reaction was purely subconscious. The reason is that Ellen Langer repeated the experiment for a third time with yet another modification to the request. This time she said ” Excuse me, I have five pages, may I use the machine because I have to make some copies?” Well, everyone was there to make copies. But guess what, again 93 percent let her make the copies. People merely responded to the word because.
Don’t be Sorry
Don’t be sorry for something you haven’t done. It’s not your fault that you are busy or it’s your son’s birthday or this is the vacation you’ve be longing for. Being overly apologetic is the hallmark of a passive person. Though sorry seems to be the hardest word (haven’t you head that song!), that’s the one word we tend to use when we think of being nice. Read what Jo Ellen and Robin Chandler have to say in their book “The Nice Factor”:
Along with apology is the perpetual asking for permission. Nice people ask permission for everything, including whether it’s all right to ask permission. Asking permission means that you can be refused. Asking permission is a clear indicator to other people that you’re not sure whether it’s all right, and it puts you in a subservient role.
Train the Brain: Try it at a Restaurant
Using the techniques alone don’t guarantee 100% success. You might still receive hostility from others. And this is the major cause of why many of us have settled for passiveness, simply because we cannot face negative reactions. So now is the time for us to train our brain to be cool and calm despite danger. This is an exercise I have borrowed from a book (I can’t recall the name of the book at the moment). Here it goes: Go to a restaurant and ask for the menu. Take your time to read the menu… but don’t order anything. Walk out! Do this at a restaurant you haven’t been before or don’t plan to go anytime soon! This exercise trains your mind in two ways: First it expands your comfort zone and second it trains you not be apologetic.
In a Nutshell
In a nutshell, do the following things when trying to assert your “no”:
1. Use the word “because”
2. Don’t be apologetic
3. Prepare before hand for any negative reaction
I’ve been using the above techniques with quite success. Do let me know how it turns out for you!
Stand up for yourself,
Othman was born on 19th May 1986 in Bahrain and is pursuing a degree in Civil Engineering. Othman enjoys a diverse array of interest such as psychology, fitness, newsletter & website designing and public speaking. http://www.OsmanSafdar.com