The ability to say no is possibly the most underrated skill one can have. Personally, this has been a great challenge for me and remains one of the most important lessons I have learned after graduating college. This can be especially difficult if you are a compassionate person and you care about upholding that image.
You want to fit in. You do not want others to curse your name. You do not want to feel selfish or heartless. However, your energy and time are finite; you owe it to your health, your goals, and the people you love to say no.
Internally, the unwillingness to say no dissipates your focus, weakens your social influence, and lowers your overall confidence. Externally, I will leave worst-case scenarios up to your imagination.
Say no. Even the most compassionate figures in history were known for their ability to say no. Legend has it that Jesus Christ himself would move from village to village, heal a few sick people, and then turn down the rest before moving on. He had places to be. He was on a mission.
The moral of the story is if you want to accomplish great things, you can stop for side quests but there is a limit on how many you can take on. When altruistic things become distractions to a greater purpose or your overall wellbeing, then these altruistic things are just that: mere distractions.
How do you get over this fear of saying no? You give others the freedom to do so to you without repercussion. You do not spite those whose only harm was to tell you no.
By doing so, you give yourself the validation and the resolve to tell others no. You will not feel that you are making it personal and you will not feel that you are a heartless hypocrite.
Removing ego under the face of rejection grants you the courage to say no. If you can take a no with grace, then you can give a no with expectation for others to take it with grace.
Granted, sometimes “no” itself is rejected. There are some scenarios where you must push back harder upon rejection. If you are on the receiving end of a rather persistent pushback, you need to create space to reevaluate. Do not let someone strong-arm you into making a decision by forcing you onto a back foot.
Unfortunately, sometimes a refusal of a no can be dangerous, especially for women. For these scenarios, space management and defensive empathy should be utilized as a strategy to avoid trouble long enough until you can get to safety.
It is always a good idea to be empathic to people telling you no and the people you are telling no to. However, empathy should not faze you from doing what you need to do. Say no. And you will find greater things to say yes to.