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Difficulty Saying ‘No’ ?

By their very nature, which tends towards being agreeable, co-operative, a team-player, courteous and conflict-avoiding, introverts can struggle with saying ‘no’ to other people, particularly those who are more dominant and assertive.  As a result they can often end up stressed through having too much work on, or feeling forced to attend events / functions/ meetings that they’d rather not be at.  The net result can be burnout or an inability to perform to the level they would like to, by having to juggle too many different balls or becoming overwhelmed through having to engage with too many people.

Some reasons we say ‘yes’ when we really mean ‘no’:

  • You want to help.
  • You don’t want to appear rude or to alienate yourself from other groups because you’re not in agreement.
  • You dislike conflict and are afraid the person might be angry if you don’t do as they ask.
  • You don’t want to miss out on a possible opportunity or to jeopardise a relationship.

As introverts we are likely to worry about some (or all) of the above when we are put in a position where we are being asked to do something or go somewhere.

It can be a revelation for many introverts that saying ‘no’ is a vital part of self-care and boundary-setting and will not be taken as a career-ending action.

It is only our perception and belief that if we say ‘no’ we will seem rude, or people will get angry, or we will miss out. The reality is that, if we say ‘no’ in an appropriate manner, the other person is more likely to value our honesty and assertiveness, and very likely to be understanding and not put up resistance.  Saying no is about respecting and valuing your time and space.

There are a number of different ways you might do it:

  • ‘I can’t commit to this as I have other priorities at the moment.’ – When you have too many other things on at the time.
  • ‘Now’s not a good time as I’m in the middle of something. How about we reconnect at xx time?‘ -When someone breaks in while you are focused on something else.  You are saying not now rather than never.
  • ‘Let me think about it first and I’ll get back to you.’ – Buys you some time to work out if it is something you actually want to be involved in.
  • ‘I’m probably not the best person to help on this. Why don’t you try X?’ – To help the requester by pointing them in the direction of someone else who may be better able to help them.
  • Simply and assertively saying “No, I can’t.” – Where you don’t even need/want to provide an explanation.

Like all changes in behaviour, it takes practice to get in the habit.  But once you do so, and get more comfortable saying ‘no’ and realising that the world doesn’t fall apart when you do so, the better you will get.

As a result, you will buy yourself more time to work on your priorities, and avoid picking up other people’s work.  You will end up feeling more in control, deliver better work and feel more fulfilled.



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