As women, we are trained to be people-pleasers, yes-sayers, and general peace-keepers basically since our first breath. Sugar and spice and everything nice, right? And I love pink and dress up as much as the next mama, but I don’t like that we teach our girls – who become women – to be quiet, to not take up too much space, to say yes and make other people’s lives easier. No, thank you.
On principle, I am against this. In practice, it’s a little harder. It can be so, so hard to say no to someone, especially if it’s someone you care about. However, sometimes the hardest things are the best things in the long run. And that’s something I’m learning day by day.
Most recently, as we prepped for one of the biggest weekends of our lives – and the biggest of my husband’s career – Super Bowl LIII, I was really tested on my principles versus real-life practices. Okay, time out a hot sec. I gotta say, OMG PINCH ME! Watching my love go to the freakin’ SUPER BOWL was a dream come true. Despite the outcome of the game, we had the best weekend-long celebration. Something you always dream about as a wifey to a baller, but most don’t get the chance to experience. We are so, so grateful for the experience and opportunity! It was truly an unforgettable weekend.
As you can imagine, this exciting, event-of-a-lifetime brought everyoneeeeee, their mother, cousin, and neighbor out of the dang woodwork asking for favors. Yeah, that third cousin you haven’t spoken to since Christmas 2001? Yeah, he’s callin. And your frenemy from your old daycare? Yep, her too. Everyone’s hoping for tickets to the game, credentials, or asking us to appear at an event – it was honestly exhausting.
People kept calling in favors – often underserved – and it started to suck out the magic of the Super Bowl. So, I decided that enough was enough and that I was not going to let anything, or anyone, ruin the incredible experience. In order for that to happen, I had to put up some boundaries, and that started with saying, “no.”– Asia Saffold
I’m not going to sugarcoat it. It was hard! But I knew that if I didn’t figure out how to say no, I was going to compromise my own experience, and my family’s, too. It started with taking time to myself and really considering what I wanted out of the weekend. Once I felt secure in that vision, I gave myself a pep talk. If it didn’t align with that vision and those values, it was a no go.
That awkward moment when…
Again, this is easier in my brain than it is on an awkward phone call… but, hey. I finally realized that my sanity and wellbeing were (and are) worth a bit of discomfort. It’s only taken me almost three decades to figure it out, but I’m getting there. I had to remind myself that while I may have said no to them, I was able to say yes to preserving my own experience and sanity. It was a good lesson not only for the Super Bowl weekend but also for life in general.
I know saying my sanity was at stake sounds dramatic, but it’s true. I knew that if I said yes, I was going to be coordinating even more chaos than I already had on my plate. Which, by the way, was 15 people! So yeah, I didn’t need any more madness to manage.
It doesn’t have to be the Super Bowl in question – it can be any event, big or small. People ask favors of women all the time. I’m all about doing favors, so don’t misunderstand me; I love helping out. What I don’t love is being asked to do something and saying “yes,” when my intuition is screaming, “no no no!” I’ve found in my own life, and the lives of all the women I know and love, we say yes and go against our better judgment, to avoid the discomfort of having to say no and deal with the complaints.
I’m sure you understand, right?
I’ve also learned that most people are very understanding. As long as we deliver the “no” with kindness, and sometimes with an explanation (though not always necessary – don’t over-explain!), it’s received with grace.
The people who don’t understand? Who are resentful about the healthy boundaries you’re putting up? Well, they’re the takers. I’ll bet you that if you look back, you’ll notice what I have: throughout the relationship, it’s always them asking and me giving. They take, and while I bend over backward. I know my “yes” ultimately causes me to resent them, the situation, and generally feel bitter. Usually, it involves complaining to Rodger and his question, “So, why didn’t you just say no?”
Meanwhile, on their end? Well, they either don’t know you’re feeling put out – because you never said anything. Or they just plain don’t care. So, it’s time to speak up and say no.
It’s taken nearly 30 years, but I’ve learned that by saying no to others, I am saying yes to myself. When I say yes to myself, I’m able to be the best me – and, in turn, give the best to those I love. That means I can keep doing favors when they feel good and right. To me, that’s more important and so worth the momentary discomfort of saying no to some people or things.-Asia Saffold
When issa no for me…
As in all aspects of my life, this is a work in progress. I am not perfect, but I’m learning and growing every day. When someone asks me a favor, the most critical thing I weigh is, “how does this feel?” If it feels good, I love to give a quick, enthusiastic, “YES!” But if I can’t give that hell yes — if it’s a maybe, or a probable no, I have to think it through.
What I’ve learned is this: if it’s not a HELL YES! Then it’s probably a no.
So, when I’m gearing up to say “no” to someone, here’s what goes through my mind. In hopes of help empowering some of you mamas to say “no” when necessary, I want to share that list here:
- Be kind, not hurtful
- Respect the other person’s feelings and dignity
- Adjust my tone
- Assume the best in people
- Soften the blow with words of appreciation. For instance, “Thank you so much for thinking of me, but unfortunately…” and finish it up with a no.
- Be honest, but don’t be harsh. A phrase that became my battle cry leading up to the Super Bowl was, “I’d love to be able to include you, but unfortunately…”
- Be firm with your no – don’t let anyone manipulate you into saying yes when you want to say no.
- Above all – listen to my intuition: you already know what is right.
I hope this helps you mamas out when you’re struggling to say no, even though you want to. It can be for a big event like the Super Bowl or a wedding, or it can be your kids asking for yet another toy or anything in between. The concept remains: stick to your gut, be kind but firm, and embrace those few moments of discomfort for the greater good of your sanity. You deserve it, mama.
P.s Do you have any other strategies for saying “no” to those you care about? Any stories you wanna share with me? I’d love to hear !
P.S.S — welcome to my self care series! Keep a look out for more self care sunday posts !