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Why is it important to learn how to say no?

The below piece about When We Met Podcast is written by Shubhangi Singh and you can connect with her on Instagram for any questions or to share your opinion about the piece. You can also listen to When We Met podcast by Platform For Artists on Spotify, Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Hubhopper, Gaana, Anchor or any other podcast app or even watch it on Platform For Artists's YouTube channel.


One of the most important lessons you can learn in life is prioritising your needs. I am sure many of you have heard about Maslow’s theory of need which categorises different types of needs into a hierarchical pyramid stating its importance. Well, in practical life that hierarchy doesn't hold much prevalence but it does tell you that you must put your needs in an order of its priority.


Prioritise yourself before work or before being a people pleaser. I am not telling you to be selfish. You can still be there for others while making sure that you don’t abandon your priorities in the process.

The importance of prioritising your needs over the needs of others comes with the practice of saying NO when you don’t want to do that certain thing which someone asked you for.



In this week's episode of the When We Met podcast by Platform For Artists, we are going to talk about the importance of saying no.

We often find ourselves in situations when other people are demanding anything which you are not in a will or place to give. So, you either agree to it and say yes or for your own sake - say no. But what do we often do? We say yes to things we didn't in the first place wanted to do and end up in a project, favour or anything else half-heartedly.

Saying yes to certain things and opportunities might bring a greater impact to your career and growth but saying no especially if you are not comfortable to do so - is a powerful step towards your personal growth. 


Why do we say yes?


While reading the book “The Art of Saying No” by Damon Zahariades, I learnt that the tendency to say yes is borne out of several factors.  People often take offense at things that aren’t intended to give offence. I can count the number of instances where I respectfully declined any request by someone of my time, money, resources or attention and that individual felt remorse and showed immediate display of offense. It took me a long time to come to terms with the truth that as long as I am being courteous and respectful, I am not responsible for the offense taken by the person requesting. 

Then there are other reasons for saying yes to something you may not want to do, like fear of missing out on opportunities.

Have you ever said yes to a project or perhaps a client because you were afraid that you would miss out on this opportunity which might not fetch you money but as the client claims - will give you the “exposure”? Probably a lot of times.



As the Joker (Heath Ledger) of the movie The Dark Knight said, “If you are good at something, never do it for free”. I believe in this ideology religiously and yet here we are saying yes to that client in the hope of that exposure he promised by giving away our time and effort. it might not be worth it.

I, being an artist, myself know that the tendency to say YES comes from the place of ‘FOMO’. The fear of missing out and of not being able to take advantage of opportunities and the biggest of all - to not regret later. 


The problem isn't that we say yes to opportunities but the problem is we fail to recognise and further categorise which opportunity is worth our time and effort.


“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.” – Steve Jobs

Okay, but how do we say NO?


There was a time when in lockdown everyone was staying home and working, a lot of people felt that it is okay to schedule a meeting even on weekends. Amidst all of this I strictly decided not to open my laptop on weekends and give myself time to relax. On one Saturday, I got a call from someone from work who was constantly trying to get in touch with me but I did not pick up since it was a weekend. Then a message from that person pops up saying “can we get on a call, it is a little urgent” I communicated to that individual that I understand it's urgent but you can drop a mail to me and get back to you on Monday since I strictly do not work or do anything related to work on weekends.

We did talk on Monday and that person understood. Moreover, was absolutely okay with it. This is how I said no. The entire reason to say no to anyone is because otherwise you won't have control over what your priorities and thoughts are. You need to set a boundary.


Here are some points to keep in mind when you say no because it is important that you say it the right way. 1. Be direct and straightforward


Someone asks for your help and you are in no position to give time to that person. How do you convey this? Well, for one, don’t beat around the bush. State your condition and convey in a respectful manner that you can’t help. Before saying “maybe” remember that you are giving false hopes to the requestor or perhaps false hopes to yourself.


2. Say no in a respectful manner


I understand that the word no is in itself a little intimidating and probably you hesitate in blatantly declaring a “NO”. You would overthink what if you sound extremely rude or what if your relations with that person gets awkward or unbalanced.

Many people will actually think those things but that doesn’t mean you would become a people pleaser.

You can find different ways to say no.

Here are a few examples:

A) I can’t commit to this right now because I’m focused on a high-priority project


B) I’d really like to help, but I’m swamped with work right now. I hope you understand


3. State your genuine reason


It is easy to just say no and walk away or simply say “I can’t I am sorry”. I want you to think for a second. You want to help that person or take that project up but you can’t. Why? Because of a genuine reason.

You don’t have to justify your why but before that it’s important that you at least communicate your why. Convey the reason for you saying no to that individual. Avoid making up excuses like you have a fake wedding to attend or you have a doctor’s appointment for something that hasn’t happened to you.

You will most likely feel guilty later.


4. Stop overthinking or stalling


“I will respond to his/her request later or maybe tomorrow”

When tomorrow comes, you will still stall it or procrastinate to decline their request because you have made 1o different scenarios of the consequences which might not exist in the reality or in the practicality of that situation.

We human beings have a tendency to get liked by everyone. The harsh truth is that you are not in control of other people’s emotions. You are in charge of your own thoughts and actions. As my mother always said “Not everyone is going to like you and it should absolutely be okay.”


5. Do not feel guilty of denying


Saying no doesn’t make you a bad person. It simply means that you respect your time and yourself. While you also respect the requestor enough to give him/her an answer. When you were child, do you remember how easily you said no to almost anything you didn’t want? Fast forward to adulthood, you are now worried if you say no what will that person think of you. Or had you did say no, you probably felt bad about it. or perhaps guilty. It is not your job to appease the requestor.

Now, go back and read point 4th again!

You can be a good person and still say no. Yes or no doesn’t define what kind of a person you are. It’s important that you realise the effects of saying yes to everything and burdening yourself. Don’t let others prioritise your own schedule.

You can listen to the third episode of When We Met podcast by Platform For Artists on Spotify, Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Hubhopper, Gaana, Anchor or any other podcast app or even watch it on Platform For Artists's YouTube channel.


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