Life at UCB through the eyes of our international student bloggers

The art of saying ‘no’

The art of saying ‘no’

When we were younger, we seemed to be able to say ‘no’ without worrying about the consequences. As we grow up, we seem to find it hard to say no.

Somehow, saying yes felt more like an obligation more than a choice for us. We’ve learned to prioritise pleasing other people and ignoring what we truly want to say. Most of the time, we are too quick to say yes and too slow to say no.

We can’t please everyone all the time, that’s not our job. If we keep saying yes, someone will take advantage of us. Not only that, we will also find ourselves feeling tired and stressed out by catering to others’ demands or requests all the time.

Sometimes, we make a mistake of leading people on in the hope that we can soften the blow. Little do we know, leading people on would hurt more than rejection because we’re just delaying the process. On top of that, we’re just making people waste their time waiting to hear our answer only to be let down with rejection. We must understand and learn how to say no with grace and clarity. We don’t have to sacrifice ourselves just to please others.

If someone asks you to do something, they deserve your reply. It may feel more natural to give non-committal answers or to not answer at all. Still, the lack of clear communication from you may put the other person in a difficult position. You may come across as rude, having low confidence and low assertiveness when it comes to your own needs and boundaries.

The urge to lie may be strong, but we should resist it! Many people will see through it, and most importantly, we don’t need to elaborate. The bitter truth is most people won’t even want to hear it. It will probably just sound like a weak excuse even though it’s done out of being polite.

Explanations should only be given when it is necessary and appropriate. Feeling apologetic is common when saying no, but we need to be careful with our apology. It should sound honest and genuine. It should not sound defensive; it will seem like an unapologetic apology. Whatever you say, be transparent and sincere. Don’t apologise just to get out of an uncomfortable situation. Don’t go overboard as it may come across as not being firm in your ‘no’. That may give people the chance to turn your ‘no’ into a ‘yes’.

Allow yourself to say no. It won’t be easy at first, but practice makes perfect. I’m sure a lot of people want to be known as a good person, and there seems to be a belief that good people always say yes, but a good person also knows when to say no. We can’t keep saying yes to other people when we are not doing the same to ourselves. If you can’t be good to yourself, you can forget being a good person to other people. People will observe how you treat yourself, and if you don’t treat yourself the way you deserve to treat yourself, they won’t either. Always remember that your self-worth is not measured by what or how much you do for others.

If nothing works, just be direct. Being direct leaves no space for misinterpretation so people can take your ‘no’ seriously. Don’t waste your energy and time on avoidance or procrastination or whatever it is you do. Say no because that’s what you really wanted to say and you mean it.

Don’t be scared of being honest to people. Yes, you will hurt others unintentionally, but if they genuinely care, they’ll respect your decision and understand you. Saying no is also being respectful and fair to yourself.



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