How to Get Better at Saying No

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Do you struggle to say “no” even when you really want — or need — to say it? Claire gives you some tips on how to recognize when you should say “no,” and how to get better at actually saying it. Plus, she answers a question from a listener who is working from home and struggling to separate his work life from his home life.

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Claire Bidwell-Smith

Claire Bidwell-Smith  00:00

N, O, two simple letters. Why are they so hard to say sometimes?

Claire Bidwell-Smith  00:12

I’m Claire Bidwell-Smith. And that’s what we’re talking about today on NEW DAY. Why is it so hard to say no sometimes? Honestly, this is one I struggle with myself for multiple reasons. And I’m sure you’ve got all your own reasons, if you find yourself challenged with having to say no, here and there. Here’s why it’s important to say no, it can really help to do less in our lives, and to concentrate on stuff that actually matters. When we say yes, all the time, we can find ourselves juggling a bunch of stuff that takes away from the really important things in life. Saying no keeps us on track with our goals and objectives with the things we’re really trying to achieve. Saying no is important for our mental health. It helps prevent burnout stress, and it’s a big part of self-care. And contrary to what you might think, saying no can actually improve our relationships, can help us create healthy boundaries, and let people know what they can and can’t expect from us. So why do we keep saying yes, there’s actually a fair amount of research around this. Some studies point to childhood. For instance, most of us were taught that saying no to an adult or teacher was a form of rebellion and resistance. But being raised that saying no is a bad thing can have some really negative impacts on how we learn to communicate as adults. And that can make it difficult for us to communicate our preferences and to speak up for ourselves. Another reason we say no is to avoid conflict and out of fear of letting people down. But really, we’re just doing a disservice to ourselves and others when we operate under this motivation. Here’s when to say no. Say no if you feel uncomfortable, listen to that gut reaction. If you feel no in your body, don’t say yes. Say no if you feel guilt or obligation, lean into confidence and away from guilt, value your self-worth and don’t do things that people try to guilt trip you into. Definitely say no when you’re overloaded. The consequences here are too big, burnout stress, mismanaging and trying to juggle too much never leads anywhere good.

Claire Bidwell-Smith  02:09

And don’t say yes to things just to please someone else. It’s usually far from worth it to take this tactic. And doing so could leave you resentful and angry. To practice saying no a little more in your life. Try it out here and there and see how it feels. Take note of the benefits. Be communicative, clear and honest about your reasons for saying no. Let the person asking know that you just can’t take it on right now. Express gratitude for having been asked. But be clear when you say no. And if you’re really unsure about giving a notice something, check in with friends and family. Often other people can be a great gauge of whether or not you should commit to something and whether or not you can handle it. Lastly, try asking yourself these questions. Do I have the time and energy to do this? will say yes add value to my life? What makes saying no important to me? Is someone trying to bully me or guilt me into this? Am I just doing this to please someone? Am I being used? Does saying no to this mean I can say yes to something else more important? Am I saying yes, just because I’m afraid of missing out? Does something more important require my attention right now? Do I need time to rest and recharge? What would need to change about this opportunity to make it a yes. Give it a try. And oh, say no and say yes to self-care into your mental health.

Claire Bidwell-Smith  03:37

Turning to your questions now, that’s my favorite part of the show, then I’d love to hear from you. Send me a question at or at Today we got an email from Michael in Denver. He asks, do you have any tips for separating your work and personal life for people who work from home? I’ve been working from home since mid-March 2020. And I find it so hard to find a balance. If something pops up in the evening or on the weekend, I find myself just walking upstairs to my computer to do it. Because I’m home and I can. But I don’t like it and want to find ways to mentally leave the office even if I don’t physically leave the office. Oh, Michael, this one really speaks to me. And I’m sure it speaks to everyone out there or so many of us. My husband and I both work from home. And we have been for the last couple of years as well. And I totally relate for the most part, it is really hard to stop working. It’s just so hard to turn it off and actually spend quality time because like you said, it’s just always there. You can just always get on the computer. I totally find myself envying people who have job responsibilities that kind of end at the end of the workday or end when they leave the office. My work never ends and neither does my husband’s. We get into conflicts in my house because my husband and I work so much and I know we’re not the only ones going through this. Either, the kids are criticizing us for working too much or Mark and I are taking too turns being annoyed with each other for it. So I think that it’s important to get as boundaried as you can here, pick a day or an evening that’s sacred each week for when you do not touch your computer. Obviously, there’s going to be like work emergencies that pop up. But trying to keep the sacred time that you just really reserved for being at home with your family or going out and being with friends, or enjoying yourself and just not doing work is really important. Use that time for like enjoyment, relaxation, time with your family, or just for like reading creativity. On the flip side, if it helps, pick another day where you get to like, just have a work free for all. On Mondays, you can work as much as you want, and until late. But other days, you pick a shut off time, like 6 or 7pm. And you just don’t touch the computer or phone after those times. I suggest doing some like self-inquiry too, in addition to these, like practical limitations, are there things you’re avoiding or procrastinating over and you’re using work as a way to make yourself feel like you’re doing something productive instead of these other things that you need to do, are there emotional needs of yours or your families that you’re avoiding.

Claire Bidwell-Smith  06:10

This is what I’m always accusing my husband of I’m like, you’re just checking out, you don’t want to hang out with us. You’re just working and I don’t think you need to be. And sometimes I think that is true for him or for me or for maybe for you, Michael. So finding out what these things are that you might be avoiding and how can you address them? Or are there like other things you’re avoiding? Like, bills, household projects, work is just the ultimate easy excuse for all of this stuff. Because it seems legit. But that is the total rub of the work from home conundrum. There’s always work to do. But it comes down to this question, are you really living the life you want to be living. And if you keep gravitating towards the work, then I think coming up with a new hobby or a project to focus on so that even if you don’t want to be present at home or present to certain things, you at least have something besides work that you can gravitate towards, reconnect with old friends, start up a creative project or sign up for like online classes to learn a new language. Just fill your life with some more interesting things than work so that you’re not gravitating towards it so quickly. Ask yourself, what if you had six months to live? Would you still be avoiding all this stuff and working? And lastly, ask for help. These days, work is a real addiction. Our phones and computers are addictive. And there’s no one here to teach us self-regulation with these things. So it’s okay to ask for help. Tell your family or friends or colleagues, let them know that you’re struggling with your work life balance and see what suggestions and support they have to offer, at the very least so you can be accountable to them since you’ve started talking about it. Michael, it’s totally normal to struggle with this stuff. And I’m really glad that you’re realizing it and that you’re talking about it. I think we all need to be talking about this issue a lot more and helping each other build a culture in which we’re not so work obsessed. So thank you

Claire Bidwell-Smith  08:07

Thanks for listening today. Make sure you come back on Friday for my incredible and important conversation with palliative care physician Dr. Sunita Puri. If you haven’t done so yet, subscribe to NEW DAY so you never miss an episode.

Claire Bidwell-Smith  08:23

NEW DAY is a Lemonada Media Original. The show was produced by Kryssy Pease and Erianna Jiles. Kat Yore is our engineer. Music is by Hannis Brown. New Day is produced in partnership with the well-being trust the Jed foundation and Education Development Center. Thanks for listening.

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