Who has room for a friend Who has money to spend, And a goblet of gold For your fingers to hold, At the wave of whose hand Leap the salmon to land, Drop the birds of the air, Fall the stag and the hare. Who has room for a friend Who has money to lend? We have room for a friend!

Who has room for a friend Who has nothing to lend, When the goblet of gold Is as far from his hold As the fleet-footed hare, Or the birds of the air. Who has room for a friend Who has nothing to spend? We know not such a friend.

-Dora Sigerson Shorter

Picture the following scenario: someone asks you for something - a boss, a friend, a partner, etc. - and, even though you want to refuse, you just can't? So, you do what they ask, acquiesce to their wishes and demands, only to end up kicking yourself for it later. Sounds familiar? For me, is it, as I often have trouble saying no, and I know I'm not the only one. See, since I was a little girl, I was told to be compliant, to do as I am told, to be liked, accepted, or later on keep my job and position. Before we continue, I would like to clarify - this is not intended for the people who say “no” too often, nor is it for those with healthy boundaries who know when to say no, and when to say yes. Instead, this is intended for people who have trouble saying no to things they know they should refuse.

"Picture the following scenario: someone asks you for something - a boss, a friend, a partner, etc. - and, even though you want to refuse, you just can't?"

As I said, I had, and still have, trouble saying "no" to people. I used to think that that makes me selfish or a bad person. I tried in so many ways to change that - listened to every podcast, went to different seminars, read plenty of books, but none of it seemed to help. It irritated me how in most of these articles or speeches, writers would encourage people to reject others and take care of themself - which sounded horrible to me. I thought - what will happen to all the needy people if everyone would behave this way? We shouldn't be nice and helpful to only a selected group of people, I thought, as some of the most helpless, annoying, or troubled people are the ones that need help the most. So, I couldn't bring myself to adopt this behavior.

However, a few years later, I finally was able to see it all from a different perspective. Sometimes, by saying no, we don't hurt people, but rather, help them. Yes, sometimes, saying no isn't helpful to you alone, but also to others. Take, for example, a parent that says no when his child asks for candy for breakfast - they don't do it because they dislike their child, but because they know what is good and healthy for their child. And that may be the simplest example. So I adopted the following system that helped me saying no - when saying no, we must think about why, when, and how we say no. I realized that these three perimeters, these three questions, were what mattered, not the "no" itself. Now, let's jump right in and get to the first part - the why.

"We shouldn't be nice and helpful to only a selected group of people, I thought, as some of the most helpless, annoying, or troubled people are the ones that need help the most."
Saying No And Staying Alive

When we are saying no, we must understand why we are saying no. If you say no to someone else's request for selfish reasons, then yes, you are selfish. However, if fulfilling a request, even if made from selfishness, will benefit them in some way and is something you can do without hurting yourself or others, "no" shouldn't be your automatic response. Before saying "no", think well about why you are saying it, about your reasoning. Now to the next question you should ask yourself - when do I say no? You know what they say - timing is everything. Sometimes, a no can be "not right now," or in other times, a "no" must be delayed (meaning you do need to refuse the request, but not right away). Timing can be an important part of saying no. Choose the wrong time, and you exacerbate the pain of rejection. Choose the right time, and you can significantly lessen the potential pain and hurt. Some NOs must be said immediately, while others require good timing and calculation.

The last question you must ask yourself when saying no is how to say it. There are many ways to say anything, including the word no. So, why not say it in a way that is most likely to mitigate pain and encourage trust? We must learn to say no in a way that will come across best. We must learn to refuse without being deliberately hurtful and while respecting the other side's feelings. If the asker is rude - be firm, and if the asker is vulnerable - be gentle. Saying yes and saying no - to yourself or others - are opposite sides of the same coin. In fact, the point of saying NO to some things is so that you can say YES to better things. See, whenever we say yes to something, we are saying no to something else. So, if saying no is difficult for you, focus on the other side, on what you say or could say yes to. Remember, you are completely entitled to say no, so don't let anyone bully or convince you otherwise.

Reality Is Relative