Hello, my name is Stephanie, and I’m a people pleaser. I have a hard time saying “no” to unwanted commitments because I’m incredibly afraid of upsetting people or even worse – *gasp* – having them think I’m a bitch.
I actually have a good example of how my people-pleasing puts me in undesirable situations: A few months ago, an acquaintance asked me to take part in a particular social event that required a significant amount of work on my part. I really did not want to do it.
Like, I shit you not, I would have rather gone to a Nickelback concert alone than take part in this.
But, I was afraid of coming off as the woman Kendrick sings about in “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe.” So, I did what any normal person would do: I shrieked, “Yes – OF COURSE!!” in my highest-pitched voice.
The moment the words came out of my mouth, I felt like kicking my own ass. I spent days venting to my boyfriend, my mom and basically anyone who would listen: “WHY DID I SAY YES TO THIS SHIT?”
I ended up following through with the commitment, and guess what? My entire weekend was wrecked because of it.
Then, why on earth did I say yes?
I’m sure some of you can relate. There have been many studies conducted about women having trouble saying “no” in the workplace. It’s one of the reasons why they earn less than their male counterparts.
Many of us were taught as little girls to be agreeable because girls who say “no” can come across as “bossy” or “selfish.” And no one wants to be those things.
I’m also gonna get real and tell you one of my truths: I am so afraid of portraying a stereotype, that I take “nice” to an extra level. I would rather be a pushover than come across as an “angry black girl.”
How freaking horrible is that?
It is no way to live.
After that hot-mess weekend, I vowed to myself that I would learn to say “no” because I am a boss babe who values her time. This is my life, and I shouldn’t waste it being a pushover.
There’s a clear distinction between between saying “yes” because you want to help vs. saying “yes” because you’re afraid of conflict: Agreeing to take care for a week because my sister has a work trip? That feels valuable and rewarding. Agreeing to let my roommate’s inconsiderate boyfriend move in with us for free? That does not feel valuable, and actually feels terrible.
So, how will I say no to unwanted commitments in the future?
The Monday after the event with my acquaintance, I analyzed the situation with my manager/good friend C. We’re marketers, so we analyze everything. C told me her stance: “I used to be that person, too. But, now, I’m in my 30s and married with a kid. My priorities have shifted, so, I don’t really care who gets mad at me when I don’t want to do stuff for them.”
I was all like, “Okay, that’s amazing. But how do you say no?”
She laid it out: “I just say, ‘No, sorry. I don’t really want to.’”
I wish I had C’s strength + power to be upfront, but, I’m a work in progress who is not quite there yet. So, I rounded up five alternatives that I will be using from now on. They might be helpful to you too.
- “I have other plans.”
- “That doesn’t work for me.”
- “I have a lot on my plate, and I am unable commit to this.”
- “I don’t [fill in the blank with whatever they are asking for].” A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that saying “I don’t” is more empowering than saying “I can’t” to unwanted commitments.
- “I’m not interested.”
Basically, the experts say you should not be overly polite, but that you shouldn’t be a jerk either. Don’t beat around the bush or ghost people, because that’s rude af. Most importantly, they say you should not feel guilty for taking ownership of your time.
And I agree. You only get one life, and time is your most precious asset. Spend it wisely. I’ll be trying my best to do the same.