(The art of saying the word “no” and how it may make you happier.)
In the Dalai Lama’s Art of Happiness one of his simple boiled down explanations for happiness is this: Take a piece of paper and write down all the things in your life that make you happy. Got it? Now, in a separate column write down all the things that make you unhappy. Great. Now stop fucking doing those things (ok, that may be paraphrased).
If you are doing something that makes you unhappy then stop doing it, it’s just that simple right? So why do we complicate things? Because there are some things in life that are a little more complicated. You probably don’t like going to work, picking up after your dog, or sitting in traffic but for the most part we have to do these things because they are a means to an end. Sure you don’t like going to work but that paycheck allows you to put a roof over your head, buy that new Chloe purse, and all those other that make you happy. Sure you don’t like picking up after your dog but you realize all the other benefits of having a dog. Sure you don’t like sitting in traffic but you’re usually going somewhere for a reason otherwise you wouldn’t be sitting in your car.
But there are things you do that make you unhappy that you can stop doing just by saying the word “no”. Why do we have such a problem saying the word “no”? It’s only two letters and is one of the shortest words in the English language. Because when you say “no” what comes with it is negativity and disappointment to someone else. Right? Here’s why that’s not true. Let’s say you get invited to a wedding of a coworker you hate, a birthday party “up in the club”, or get asked on what appears to be a date. If you don’t want to do any of these things all you have to do is say “no”. Because if you’re going to show up half assed then you’re going to be in a poor mood that is going to affect how much fun you have with these pepole anyway. Go all in or don’t do it at all. Be committed. On top of your bad mood there are other things that go with these commitments like buying a gift, losing sleep, being hungover, sitting in traffic, and or having to listen to a boring girl talk about her cats before you give her that ass out hug at the end of the night. It’s actually worse if you do go, because those people truly want you to be there and if you go then you’re being disingenuous to yourself and to them.
I know what you’re thinking, it’s easier said than done right? Here’s the solution. When someone asks you to do something you don’t want to do, say “no” immediately. Just blurt it out before you have time to think. The reason this works is because it’s blunt and effective. It shows the person that right away you feel strongly and it conveys a clear message. Then afterwards if you feel it’s necessary, explain your feelings about it instead of beating around the bush then saying “no” in a text message at a later date. Your immediate “no” will also propel you in to your reasons and then you’ll find that people are usually pretty respectful of your decisions and opinions. They will probably value that you told them how you honestly feel then respect you more for it. What most people don’t realize is it’s actually a mistake to go around in life trying to please other people. They will respect you less and you will respect you less. It’s actually ok to say “no”. And although at times it’s tough to do, all you have to do is blurt it out then the rest will follow. When it comes to doing things you don’t truly want to do just say “no” and it will increase your overall happiness.
[Photo: A covered bridge in southern Vermont]