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I'm Just a Girl Who Can't Say No

Posted on August 11, 2015 at 9:00 AM

Remember the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma!? It's one of my favorites. Gloria Grahame as Ado Annie sings a song near the beginning of the musical called "I Can't Say No." While the song is really about saying no to kisses from boys, the first few lines could apply to quite a few of us is many other situations:


I'm just a girl who can't say no,

I'm in a terrible fix!

I always say, "come on, let's go!"

Just when I oughta say, "Nix!"


Does this describe you? Do you say yes when you know you should say no, just to keep the guilt from setting in? Do you frequently find yourself agreeing to some task or another, a volunteer opportunity, one more [carpool, bake sale, PTA meeting, fundraiser, etc], when what you really want to say is, "NO!"? Do you envy others who seem to be able to turn down one of these "opportunities" without feeling guilty? Do you worry about hurting someone's feelings by turning them down?


Good news! You, too, can set boundaries and say no without guilt! Just imagine: You agree to tasks you enjoy. You spend more time with your family. You still help others, but you do it when it works for you. You don't have to overschedule anymore.


Place a high value on your time and schedule it.

Your time is just as valuable as anyone else's. You are allowed to be in control of your schedule. Make a schedule of all the activities you participate in each day and each week. This includes anything you are involved in, such as lunch with a friend, carpool, meetings, date night, work, time with the kids, etc. This will let you see any pockets of time that may be available, as well as when you are overscheduled. Use this information as you consider whether or not to join in, commit to, or add on.


Remember that saying no is not personal.

You are setting appropriate boundaries when you turn down something you don't have time to do well. It's not a personal attack or slight to anyone else, and it doesn't have to do with anyone else. This is how to walk away without feeling guilty or worrying about hurting feelings. Don't let yourself take on the responsibility for how someone else feels or what someone else thinks you should do. That is about them, not you.


Don't give in to peer pressure.

Just because Debbie and Susie are helping doesn't mean you have to do it, too. If you think it sounds fun and you have time, great! Go for it! But if it's just one more thing to fit in between carting the kids to soccer practice and getting dinner on the table, maybe it's okay to sit this one out. There will always be a next time.


Let your no mean no.

When you agree to do something, commit, follow through, and do it. But when you say no, don't later give in and say yes. If you do this, people will not believe you when you turn them down. They will think they can coax you into a yes if they keep asking. Because it worked in the past. Be kind, but firm when you abstain.


Try the broken record technique.

If you find that you have difficulty getting others to accept your no, use the broken record technique. Come up with a phrase and repeat it until the other person stops asking. See example below.


Super Pushy Person: We really need another volunteer for this weekend's school fun fair! Can you help out?

You (already knowing the weekend is half booked with activities, and planning to use the other half to relax with the family): No, I can't help this time. We already have plans.

SPP: But it's only all day Saturday! Can't you come for at least a little while?

You: No, I can't help this time. We already have plans.

SPP: But we really need you!

You: No, I can't help this time. We already have plans.

Hopefully, by this point, SPP is getting it that you are not giving in. You can change your tone of voice as needed, from, say, wistful regret, to matter-of-fact, to kind and firm, but don't give in after already saying no.


Saying no when you need to can change your life. You can stop feeling guilty and being disappointed with yourself for not following through. You can take back control of your schedule. You can feel powerful making good decisions about your time.

Categories: Women's Issues, Life Skills

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