Paul Haarman: How I Got Better At Saying No (And What to Do If You Think People Take Advantage of You)

I have never been able to say no. I cannot say this enough times. People have come to expect it of me, and are more than willing to take advantage of that quality in me.

What is okay for one person may not be okay for someone else. To some people, just saying “no” once is enough to get your message across without hurting another’s feelings. However, what if you are the type of person who has a difficult time saying no? What if you find it impossible? You don’t really want to hurt anyone or make them feel bad but at the same time you feel extremely guilty every time someone asks something…anything of you…and you can’t seem to refuse them?

This is how my entire life has been. I’ve always felt like saying no was something that was rude and mean. And that is true in some cases, but not all. There are many times when you can say no without it being offensive to the person who asked for your help or time says Paul Haarman.

Learning to Say No (The Right Way)

I learned this lesson very late in life (for me). The reason why is because my mom had a difficult time saying no, too. She let people walk all over her and take advantage of her kindness, which made her resentful toward them. Now she has become extremely critical of other people’s behavior if they show similar signs of being inconsiderate or ungrateful toward others’ kindnesses, or just flat-out rude. I realize now that she was projecting her own experiences onto others. She taught me to be the same way, which is why my life has been so difficult in regards to saying no.

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But over time (and through many difficult experiences) I realized people would take advantage of me if I let them and there was nothing wrong with being a little selfish sometimes. So about a year ago, I made a conscious effort to change this aspect of myself because it wasn’t fair for me or other people who were involved. Now, if someone asks something of me and it’s a reasonable request, I will consider it first before giving an answer. If it takes more than just a few seconds to decide on the answer, then I have to give it more thought. If I just have a gut feeling that the answer should be no, then it’s usually because of something from my past experience or whatever I know about that person—and this is where you need to trust your instincts…

My Main Point

Your family and friends should always have respect for you and not take advantage of your kindness. But sometimes we let people in our lives who are inconsiderate and don’t deserve us—we may or may not even realize this at first or at all. This is what happened with me, time after time again. People would ask something small of me, like passing along an e-mail address, phone number, opinion on an outfit they were thinking of buying, etc., and I would do it without batting an eye. But after the fact, I realized this was something that should have been asked of someone who had time to spare—not me.

I’m not talking about the person asking if they can bum a cigarette. People should know their boundaries when it comes to asking people for things. It’s also important for them to realize that just because you said yes once, does not mean you will say yes every time they ask again in the future. This is where respect needs to be involved in your relationships with others…for everyone’s sake…

If You Think People Take Advantage of You

First of all, look at how often people are asking you for favors. If it’s happening on a daily basis, then this is a sign that you need to reevaluate your relationships. You do not have to be around people who will never respect you and take you for granted. While it’s important to surround yourself with family and friends in our lives, there are some people who just aren’t worth sparing time for—like the backstabbers, gossipers, etc.

Conclusion by Paul Haarman:

When you have a lot going on in your life, it’s easy to let people walk all over you. I’ve been there and done that—more times than I can count. Now I try to look at each situation as if my mom was the one asking me for something (since she has always had trouble saying no). Sometimes this is even hard for me, but other times it’s like second-nature. I “see” myself reacting the same way she would—which causes me to say no or politely decline their request. If this still doesn’t work for you (it didn’t work 100% of the time with my mom), then maybe try telling them why you can’t do what they of you.