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Say "No" With Grace

The Yes Man’s motto can’t guarantee good results every time. Learn the Art of No and how it can do wonders for you.
Does this sound familiar? While your konsyensya is screaming, “No! No! No!” you hear your voice saying, “Oh sure, I’d love to be in charge of the whole two-million peso fund-raising project! And yes, I’ll do the year-end reports ASAP, too!”

We’ve all been in situations where we’ve had sleepless nights, exhaustion, worry, loss of control, resentment, and anger—stress caused unnecessarily because we can’t say no.

Why do we find it next to impossible to say this two-letter word? “Most women find it very hard to set limits on what they do for others,” says Judith Selee McClure, PhD, author of Civilized Assertiveness for Women. “Women are conditioned to say, ‘Yes, I’ll give you whatever you need or want’—and to feel guilty when they don’t.” Since childhood, we’ve been trained to please, be nice, help out, and avoid hurting other people’s feelings. So when people come to us with a request—be it simple or preposterous—we all jump in and say “Yes! Sure! No problem!”

Fact is, it is a problem. But we go on and say yes because we don’t want to feel that we let them down. It’s time to avoid the guilt and still feel empowered by saying no properly. Declining graciously is an art and when you say no, you make a statement: “My time is precious. I have a life. I have control over my time and my life.” Check out these sitches and learn:

The Flip Side Of Family

Why you say yes: We owe our parents our life and so give in to every family demand—which can run from spending every single Sunday dinner with the clan to sending all your siblings to college. Marlyn, 27, a nurse, provides for her younger sibs, but admits that deep inside, she resents her parents. “I kept mum to my parents, but I took out my anger on my sisters. Since ako nagpapa-aral sa kanila, I feel I have a right to control them.”

Say no by: Asking for concern instead of complaining or sulking. For instance, when pressured to visit the whole family every Sunday, Teresa, 26, says she dealt with this situation by telling her mom very sweetly, “'Mom, I need to sleep on Sunday. I’m just too tired. It isn’t easy being the new supervisor in my company.” They tell my relatives, ‘Oh, Teresa can’t be here kasi pagod siya. Na-promote siya kasi!’”

Money matters are trickier. Most Pinays are expected to help their families financially, and it’s a duty from which we can’t wholly extricate ourselves. The best thing to do is be honest. Marlyn says she finally talked to her family. “I told them I could only afford the tuition fees but not daily allowances. So now my sisters have part-time jobs, and my parents tell them to be more grateful.”

Boyfriend Blues

Why you say yes:
He loves you and you love him, so that entitles him to special treatment, right? Not all the time, especially when what he asks of you makes you feel uncomfortable or is downright harmful to you. Thelma, 26, for instance, can’t help but say yes every time her boyfriend asks if he they can do the deed sans protection.

Say no by: Giving incentives. Laila, 23, for example, promises her guy a reward when she can’t see him. She told him one time, “I’m going to the spa with my barkada on Saturday, but on Sunday, maybe you’d like to explore my soft and pampered skin?”

Sex-related issues, however, entail more than just saying no. Sometimes, you need to totally avoid the situation: Don’t get into bed if you know he won’t put that condom on. Or, don’t be caught alone with him when you don’t want to have sex at all.

Work Wreckers

Why you say yes: Officemates and colleagues can bombard you with endless and varied requests—from eating lunch out to taking on impossible workloads. Saying yes but being unable to deliver can do more harm than good. Moreover, people may take you for granted or lose respect if you keep saying yes.

Say no by: Exuding professionalism. Remember the mantra, “Trabaho lang, walang personalan.” If you’re busy, then it’s easy to decline requests. Juliet, 27, a marketing officer, often says: “Can’t take on your paperwork. Boss will kill me if I don’t submit this report tomorrow.” If it’s your superior who assigns you new tasks, remind her about the other projects that she’s already lined up for you. Then, ask her where the new task should fall on the list of priorities. That’s just what Lorelie, 24, a marketing assistant, tells her boss. “I usually say, ‘That assignment sounds exciting but I’m working on the project you wanted. Let me know how I should re-prioritize.’”

The Friendship Factor

Why you say yes: Peer pressure is hard but keep in mind—you’re an adult now. Don’t let anyone, especially your friends, bully you into buying clothes you can’t afford, eating at expensive restaurants you don’t like in the first place, or trying things you don’t agree with in principle.

Say no by: Being honest. Friends are wonderful—they’ll always love you no matter what. Marlyn says, “If they’re your friends, they’ll understand. My friends know nagpapa-aral ako ng mga kapatid ko. I just tell them, ‘I can’t go shopping today, guys. I have no money at all.’ It’s no big deal to them.”

When People Get Pushy

Why you say yes: We sometimes get bullied by the salesgirl who insists that the green polka-dot dress looks perfect on you, or by the hairstylist who says your new cut will look better with new highlights. Don’t feel bad about saying no. You don’t know them! Moreover, they’re simply trying to generate business.

Say no by: Being firm. Sandra, 29, a writer, says, “The manager at this spa I go to once made me lambing and said I may be interested in a liposuction. Hello! I told her, ‘No thanks!’ Then I never went there again!” Don’t get flattered or threatened into doing what you don’t want to do. Then, immediately leave.
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