Jump Start: Self Care September: Day 12

Happy Friday everyone! The activity for the fifth day of our Get Organised & Motivated week is going to be a huge boost to your productivity and long term happiness. Today we’re going to piss someone off. Seriously, bear with me.

how to say no to people

What you have to do today is say no to someone or something, or set some necessary boundaries. Many of us find this so unpleasant and scary that we avoid doing it and pass the buck, eventually ending up overloaded, fed up and resentful.

Sometimes you simply need to say no. Think of it as a sign of self respect, and remember it can also be done in a decent and respectful way. In fact, letting people down in a timely fashion is the polite thing to do…

Why might you feel resistance to this? Well, you might:

  • Worry about it affecting your work prospects
  • Be unsure how to express yourself in an awkward situation
  • Empathise strongly with how disappointment feels
  • Be avoiding conflict with someone who might start a row
  • Worry that it will make people dislike you

Let’s address these head-on. If you perform to a good standard at work, you have a right to be paid a fair wage and to work reasonable hours, etc etc. You have a right to personal time and a private life. If you’re in a ‘last straw’ situation then say ‘no’ for your own general health and sanity.

If a potential freelance client wants you to work for free and the work is unlikely to give you any real benefits, especially if you already have a great portfolio and your name is already out there, just politely decline. For example, I set out a certain amount of time each month for pro bono work (it’s my way of making a small charity donation), but there’s no way I’m doing that for commercial clients who clearly have big budgets to spend elsewhere, and are vaguely offering me ‘great publicity’ and/or ‘strong possibility of paid work in the future’. There aren’t enough hours in my working week.

Agreed, it can be tricky to know how to let people down sometimes. But the best thing to do is to try to be honest, and hopefully respectful at the same time. Keep it short and to the point, and don’t over-elaborate with too many reasons and apologies, or you’ll look like you’re wavering. While most people don’t set out to take unfair advantage of others, there are a few unscrupulous people out there who do and they may well see your discomfort as an opportunity to do more of the same.

Now on to the popularity thing. It is human nature to want to be liked or loved, and to fear being disliked. Well, newsflash, you could be the nicest person on the planet and there will still be people out there who really can’t stand you. Truth is, you don’t actually *want* people in your life who dislike you and disrespect you – you will never, ever win with them, so don’t even try and definitely don’t beat yourself up about it.

Putting your foot down with people like that is unpleasant in the short term, but it’s fantastic in the long run because you’ll end up with better people around you who don’t take the piss or make you feel like a lesser species. There’s no point spending your precious time tiptoeing around trying to avoid potential negative consequences, many of which are imagined and will never come to pass. Think of all the good things you could be doing instead.

So, take a deep breath and try:

  • Thank you for thinking of me, but I won’t be able to do that because there’s a conflict of interest / I have other priorities right now.
  • Sorry I have to let you down, but my circumstances have changed recently.
  • What did you just say? [pause] It’s not OK to talk to me like that.
  • From now on, you need to start darning your own socks / cooking the dinner on Thursdays / paying the rent on time.
  • That’s my daily rate because it reflects my skill set, qualifications and experience in the industry.

Or make up your own one, to best fit your situation. If you find that level of directness excruciatingly difficult, here’s a useful one I use on days when I’m feeling a bit wobbly:

  • I’ll have to check and get back to you

Who are you going to politely piss off today? It’s fine if you need to check and get back to me…

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