I remember my kids going through the toddler stage and how frustrating the word “no” was as they practised it, and practised diligently they did – over and over again!
As annoying it is, most of us accept that it is a critical stage in a child’s development and it’s part of the process of learning independence and setting boundaries. But at some stage after that, this seems to get knocked out of us. Knocked out so that we fit in, knocked out because we learn that we need to please others and in that process, we sometimes lose the ability to act and live authentically.
We start to say “yes” when we mean “no”. We need justifications and excuses when we say “no” and tie ourselves up in knots when these justifications sound hollow.
If you can relate to this, then it’s time to revisit this valuable skill that we acquired in toddlerhood.
I believe that it is possible to say “no” gracefully. The grace comes when you don’t need to accompany the “no” with an excuse. If you’re thinking…..”it’s not an excuse, I’m giving an explanation“, see What’s the difference between and excuse and an explanation?
One of the keys to avoiding excuses is in how you phrase your “no”. The words “I can’t…..” or “I won’t be able to….” necessitates a “because……” which immediately sets you up for an excuse.
Assuming your “no” is for a social engagement, some alternatives include –
“I won’t be attending….”
“I am not attending….”
Resist using “because”. In most instances, it’s actually unnecessary. If you disagree and feel compelled to provide a reason, then, how about giving the real one e.g. “I won’t be accepting your invitation to the ballet because I don’t enjoy the ballet very much.” Anything less than the real reason goes back to being an excuse!
Replace false apologies with genuine ones. Exchange “I’m sorry I can’t….” with “I’m sorry to disappoint you……”
Remember the Dr. Seuss saying….
“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind”
The bottom line is, be true to who you are and learn to say “no” when you mean “no”.