For as long as I can remember, I have been a people pleaser. The word, 'NO', just wasn't in my vocabulary.
I often wonder if my propensity to please was because my mother was a giver. A woman who wanted to help everyone and anyone. If we had unexpected visitors she would welcome them with open arms. A roast dinner for five was extended to eight or ten - irrespective of the amount of food which had been prepared. She loved to give and see people happy and her love for her grandchildren knew no bounds. "Nanny never says, no," my daughter would say when it was time to pick her up after a sleepover. Yes, it made life a little challenging when boundaries and structure needed to be put in place. However, since my mother has passed (over twelve years ago) I reflect on the love and nurturing she displayed to my children.
That being said, I struggled for a long time with saying, 'No!' I sometimes wondered if I was like The Fonz, from 70s cult show, 'Happy Days?' He couldn't say, 'Sorry,' much to the delight of his fans. I wanted to say it, I felt compelled to say it but that singular little word evaded me.
It took me a long time to realise that I was avoiding rejection. I didn't want people to be angry or disappointed in me for saying no. I wanted their approval and friendship and I thought that by saying 'Yes', I would achieve that.
I've since learnt some strategies to help me manage their expectations and my work/life load.
1). Try to have a set response to unexpected requests.
"I'll have to check my diary and get back to you."
"I'm sure I have something already organised for that date/time."
Don't go into a ten paragraph explanation as to why you are unable to do something, make it SSS - short, succinct and sweet!
2). Remember that your time is important. Put yourself first. Don't expect other people to think about your feelings/need for space.
3). Don't apologise for saying, No. It disempowers you and leaves you wide open for being taken advantage of again. Remember, no means no!
4). Try to visualise scenarios where you are asked to do something that really would inconvenience/stress you out. Imagine how you would respond.
5). If you use Gmail, download the 'Just Not Sorry' plugin. It's a great tool for ensuring you check your emails for disempowering apologetic language. Yes, there's a time to say sorry but this little tool is a great way to respond with more empowering language.
REMEMBER.... it's not WHAT you say, it's HOW you say it. There's a difference to being assertive and being rude. Take a deep breath before responding so that you are calm and clear with that magic word, 'NO.'