If we find it hard to say a firm “no”, then it is because we are all social animals, and a categorical “no” leads to conflict or isolation. But it’s still better to have a decisive “no” than a prolonged depression. Because constantly restraining your feelings in the family or at work and not being able to discuss or find a solution is a risk for your own self. Refusal will inevitably make itself felt. Either a symptom (depression) or rebellion and escape. For some of us, saying no is as difficult as picking up a microphone for a timid person.
If this seems impossible or too painful, you can resort to psychotherapy: discussing with a specialist why it is difficult for us to say no, we gain experience of acceptance and feel more confident in real situations. As long as we avoid conflicts, we cannot learn to deal with them constructively. And not knowing how to decide, we try desperately to avoid them, but we fail. Usually, there is fear behind it. By understanding its causes, we will be able to say “no” consciously. The next few exercises will help with this as well.
1) sort out your thoughts
Observe yourself: what thoughts, feelings, and attitudes are stopping you? “I don’t know”, “I don’t know how”, “I am afraid of condemnation”, “I am afraid to seem rude”. What do these feelings indicate? Admit your fear. Ask yourself: Will it be better or worse for me if I agree? Note the thoughts that arise in you. Practice isolating them. Gradually, you will get used to thinking of them as just your thoughts and not reality.
2. listen to your body
Do you disagree with a statement or proposal? Want to refuse? Trust your bodily sensations: the body reacts faster than the mind and gives clues. Tension will indicate a reluctance to agree. Practice identifying it in order to recognize it at the right time.
For example, how do you feel when you receive an invitation to an event and don’t dare to decline it? Rapid breathing? Wanting to take a step back, clench your fists? You may not be able to reject the offer right away, but next time you will understand the signs of resistance.
3) imagine different situations
Prepare as much as possible for situations where you need to say no. Imagine, for example, that you refuse to go to a nervous family dinner. What do you say? What will they answer to you? How will events unfold? Often we imagine the worst case: we will be hated, revenged, or will suffer for a long time from our rejection. How likely is it?
Think of other possibilities. Also listen to yourself when you imagine your no. Think about what would make you feel calmer. For example, what if you heard a friend’s approval? Or would Superman fly to you at the first call? Find looks that give you confidence.
4. Make a note of all the moves
Create a notepad, paper or electronic, and write down the situations in which you wanted to say no, but failed. And the situations in which you managed to defend your position. Allow yourself to fail. And celebrate your successes. If “arguments on the stairs” came to your mind – a worthy answer that arose at the end of the conversation, do not refuse them, write down: they may come in handy next time. And cheer yourself up, don’t give up. The way out of the labyrinth is not found the first time! Allow yourself to try over and over again until you start working out.
5 sit down at your computer
Think first about the other person you are going to disagree with. Sit down at the computer as if in front of you were your opponent – you can even display a picture of him – and tell him the reason for your refusal. For example: “I can’t go to family dinners anymore because …” Do the exercise several times. It will help you get into action: our brain does not distinguish between a real situation and its simulation, as neurosciences say.
You can enhance the effect by videotaping your “performance” and reviewing it, add any additions you find useful, and then record a new version. Repeat this until you get used to your face and voice saying no. You will quickly feel the effect – get rid of unpleasant anxiety, increase self-esteem and stop being afraid to firmly refuse.
6) do it gradually
Practice less significant “no’s” on small occasions with people you know and like. For example: “Please close the window.” – “No, I don’t feel like it right now.” Pay attention to their positive reaction, to the ordinary, everyday life of the situation. Then move on to the next stage – more meaningful “no” to the same people. Observe their reaction again. Finally, do both parts of this exercise with people who are not the closest and not necessarily sympathetic. This will allow you to get stronger for real hard bounces.