Saying “No” isn’t easy. In fact, when you have social anxiety that simple little word can be all but overwhelming. You might think that the person you’re saying no to will hate you or will think you’re lazy or will assume you have something against them.
You may even find yourself compelled to give excuses or explain in detail why you had to say no. Sometimes you’ll even talk yourself into saying yes just to avoid the anxiety involved with the word no.
Saying No is Important
Above all else, remember that you have a right to say no. If someone wants something from you that you can’t give – be it money, time or anything else, it’s well within your rights to say no without any other explanation at all. They won’t hate you. Really. Of course, that’s easy to say – but how should you deal with it in the moment?
If you’re in a situation where you must say no, take a breath and remind yourself that it’s up to you what you do and don’t do. No one else is in control of your actions. It’s your decision and your decision is to say no. Kick out any thoughts that start with “But…” or “What if?” and tell yourself that you’ve made your decision.
Don’t wait too long before you give your answer; the longer you take, the longer you have to undermine your own confidence. Getting your answer out there is one of the hardest parts.
Stand by It
One big problem that many people with social anxiety have is a feeling of guilt when having to tell someone no. This is made worse if the person badgers you about it, asking you to reconsider and not accepting your answer. It’s important for your own well being that you stick with your decision, even in the face of repeated requests.
Explain that your answer is no and you’re not going to reconsider, then ask that they please stop. If the person refuses to honor your request, it may require putting some distance between the two of you.
After you’ve put your answer out there, it’s important to remind yourself that you did the right thing. You may feel guilt, you may feel fear and you may feel your anxiety bubbling up, but it’s time to nip that in the bud. Tell yourself you made the right decision for yourself and you have nothing to feel bad about.
You don’t have to make excuses or try to justify things. Focus less on the “why” of it and more on the “right” of it so you don’t get lost in second-guessing your reasoning.
Sometimes you’ll still find yourself overcome when saying no, especially if what you were asked was something important. Even those without social anxiety struggle with saying no sometimes, so there’s nothing to be ashamed of here. The important thing is to cope with it when these feelings do rear their ugly head.
Think about what works in soothing your anxiety now. Perhaps it’s meditation, your favorite tea or a long walk. Just because the source of your anxiety is different doesn’t mean that your standby coping mechanisms won’t work. You may find that some things work better than others when dealing with anxiety from telling someone no.
It’s your right to say no when it’s the right answer for you.