I never knew I had such a hard time saying no until I'd said yes so many times, I'd become exhausted and grumpy. I like to say yes. It makes me feel helpful. As though I'm contributing to the world around me by sprinkling some of my agreeableness on top of it. But the more I started to evaluate exactly who was receiving my affirmatives, the more I began to realize that my giving wasn't getting me anything in return. So I started to say no.
We women have a harder time saying no than do men. When I say no, I almost feel obligated to explain why I said it. Men don't get caught up in those reindeer games. They say no and move on. There's no guilt or hand-wringing. It's just no. That's it.
Saying no doesn't make us selfish. It makes us sensible. There's only so much time to do so much for so many people, after all, and when saying yes doesn't lift your spirits or make you feel really good inside, you have to ask yourself. Why are you saying it?
I say no to my kids a lot. That's hard to do. We want to say yes to them, to respond to their every whim, to make them happy, to treat them to wonderful experiences. Funny. I remember my parents' rules and the things they said no to far more than I can recall their yeses. No is a statement. Conversation over.
In truth, I think women are more programmed to be pleasers than are men. We have a nurturing need to help others, to pitch in, volunteer, lend a hand, you name it. And that can be good. But when you begin to realize that all the times you're saying yes are taking you away from other things you'd rather be doing, it's time to drop a little N-O. Without feeling guilty about it.
So try it. No need to reason about it. You don't have to explain it. And please, don't make excuses for it. Just say it. NO. If that singular word makes you feel a little too abrupt, you can always say what my favorite "Pirates of the Caribbean" character, Captain Hector Barbossa, says: "I'm disinclined to acquiesce to your request." At least your no will sound a little fancier that way.
(PS.. the thumbnail picture of my three oldest sons was taken the day they were reunited at summer camp where Michael is a counselor. They hadn't seen each other in a month, and I love those genuine smiles. I'm sure they've had plenty of fist fights since. ;)