‘Can you please do my part of the work, too?’
‘Sure!’ (Smiles politely on the outside, while her inner guts are screaming at her for saying no.)

No: a small two-lettered word. How hard can it be to say ‘no’ instead of ‘yes’?

Often, afraid of rejection and hurt, we tend to say yes to every favour people asked of us while in reality, if we take a look at the calendar, we hardly have time to breathe. As time nears, we simply don’t want to do it anymore but it’s too late. Friends, bosses, professors, roommates – we just can’t find the right words to say no to them. It’s like the word just disappears from our mouth… magically. As human beings, we all have trouble saying no and that often gets us in trouble.

Saying no to a person doesn’t necessarily mean you are rude and selfish. But don’t we all think otherwise? Where did it come from? Remember when we were a kid and our mom gave this stern note about being nice to all? ‘Be a nice kid and be polite to everyone.’ Seriously, mum? If you had said that to me now, I would have given you a million reason why I disagree and would have probably made a debate out of it. We are mature, as we all like to think, and we should be able to choose our own decisions. It’s still not too late to change our beliefs!

However, this can be tricky. If not handled well, it can damage the relationship between you and the person asking a favour; especially saying ‘no’ to a close friend. The question now is, how do we do it?

First, don’t delay it. We all have done it. We have hoped that they will forget about it the next week but sadly no one does. So the best thing to do is to say it as soon as you can. Don’t drag it till the last day. Say no right away.

Next, do not apologize and try to give lame reasons. That’s a big mistake everyone does. Fake reasons and later feeling guilty about it like a cheater boyfriend. Stop it! Just be direct and say, ‘I can’t do it. My plate is full.’ or even ‘Sorry, I don’t want to.’

Know your priority. Even if you have ample of time and still want to say no, go ahead. Most of us just want to curl up in the bed when we have some time off and eat pizza in our pyjamas.

Practice makes everything possible. The more we say no, the more comfortable we feel. Repeating the word puts you at ease. Just be persistent and look at the person’s eye when you say no. Eventually, they will get the message.

Stop feeling trapped and guilty. Take control and feel free to say no. As Steve Jobs said, “It’s only by saying ‘no’ that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”

WORDS BY INDUMATHI CHITRAMBALAM.