Having lived with a toxic person in your life, you may realize you find it difficult to say no. No is a way of setting up boundaries, and is therefore a completely unacceptable answer to a toxic person. Because in their mind you are an extension of them; a tool to be used for their benefit.
So not only do you lack the practice of saying no, you may have also come to the conclusion that it is pointless to even work up the nerve to try. Besides, if you were not a people pleaser already, the toxicity of the abuse will surely have turned you into one. So once you leave the abusive situation, saying no remains as difficult as ever.
We talked about Learning to Say No before, but I wanted to share some simple strategies that can help you make an easier job of it.
Here Are Some Strategies to Say No
‘No’ Is A Complete Answer
One thing that you have to realize is that ‘no’ is, in fact, a complete answer—as the saying goes. You may want to explain your refusal, but by no means do you have to. People may ask you for those justifications (usually as fodder for arguments that they want to start), but my advice is the following: just repeat your initial answer until they give up.
Blame Your Schedule
When someone asks for your help, and you are hesitant to say no, say you have a conflicting appointment instead. It deflects blame from you, and onto your schedule. It is the simplest of excuses, but also the only one that seemed to work with my siblings—although they usually insisted I give them extensive detail of the other engagement. Try not to overcomplicate this, you don’t want to get yourself tangled up in a big web of lies and excuses. A simple ‘Oh, nothing interesting’ should be enough.
This strategy is a bit of a band aid rather than a cure, but it is totally acceptable for co-workers or other acquaintances.
Take Some Time
When dealing with particularly pushy people, answer with something like the following: “Let me get back to you on that.” It gives you time to think about your answer, and the opportunity to”practice” your reply. It can also give you the opportunity to say no through a less personal medium than turning them down face-to-face.
I sometimes found saying no right to someone’s face too intimidating. So I would walk away with a “let me check my calendar“. I could then easily answer their question by text or email.
Don’t Get Sucked Into A Discussion.
People that will not take no for an answer will want to engage in a discussion. Asking you for explanations will wear you down, and you may eventually give in. Usually repeating your reasoning will stop that.
When I first started saying ‘no’ to family members they did this a lot. So I learned to just keep repeating it, and some of its other variations: “No, I don’t have the time to do that”, etc. It finally helped maintain some boundaries, but it also landed me with the label Autistic (because people who say no are inflexible and therefore autistic, in case you missed my family’s reasoning). Hey, at least they backed off.
Make A Counter Proposal.
Are you really quite tempted to say ‘yes’, but you keep thinking about that pile of work on your desk? You know that saying ‘yes’ will mean burning the midnight oil to get your work done. So why not make a counter proposal? Propose a different time or a less time-consuming activity.
Find Something You Can Do.
The counter proposal also works if you want to help, but cannot or prefer not to do whatever you were asked.
I used this a lot when people would ask me to help move, as I have bad knees that do not take kindly to carrying things up stairs. So I would for example suggest I take care of catering for the moving team.