Q: Dear Leah:
I am overwhelmed with all that goes on in my life. My friends tell me I should say no more often. I have a hard time doing this because I want to do these things and I don’t want to upset people. Do you have any ideas on how I can start to say no without feeling so bad?
A: Dear Always Yes:
I can give you a checklist to look at when you evaluate whether to say no or yes. The more you practice this objective way of looking at decisions, the easier they should become. If you still feel bad/guilty for saying no after trying this for awhile, you may want to take a deep look at why you need to please others so bad and get help on working this issue out.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself when the next decision arises. Count the NO’s and if the no’s outweigh the yes’s, say NO (based on Marsha Linehan’s, Skills Training Manual).
1. CAPABILITY: Do I have what the person wants?
2. TIMELINESS: Is it a bad time for me to say no? (Ex. Is it right before a raise review where no might look bad?)
3. HOMEWORK: Is the request clear or will I have to figure things out?
4. AUTHORITY: Is this person in authority over me?
5. RIGHTS: Does saying no violate mine or their rights?
6. RELATIONSHIP: Is the request appropriate and reasonable?
(Ex. Do you think it is reasonable for your neighbor to invite himself over for dinner every weekend? However, would it be appropriate for your daughter in college to do so? It depends on the relationship.)
7. RECIPROCITY: Does this person give me a lot? Do I owe them?
8. GOALS: Does saying no interfere with my long-term goals?
9. RESPECT: When you take the emotional and logical part of the situation and try to make a wise decision, what do you come up with? For instance, making the decision purely emotionally might mean saying no to teaching Sunday school because the person said no to you when you were the teaching coordinator.
However, looking at the situation “wisely” might mean deciding to say yes because you really want to be involved with the children on Sunday and it might be helpful experience in your long term goal of becoming a school teacher.
10. FAMILY: Will this decision be a help to my family/significant others? Or, will it affect them adversely because it takes more of my time, resources, etc.
Hopefully, this checklist can help you be more objective about your decisions to commit to extra activities.
Best Wishes, Leah
(Send your questions to “Ask Leah” at email@example.com. Leah Danley is an Edmond-based licensed professional counselor with a master’s degree in counseling psychology, and a master’s degree in health promotion, and nine years past experience as a registered dietitian. To schedule an appointment with Leah, call 517-8673. Answers are for general information and do not constitute therapy, advice, or services.)
Q: Dear Leah: