Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

DoorMats have a hard time saying “no.” I understand that. When you want to be liked, it’s hard to turn people down. But even if you can’t turn people down when they ask for a favor easily, you can control how fast you say “yes.” Postpone it for a little while. The longer you wait to say “yes,” the less you reinforce to people that you’re the go-to person for favors. A quick agreement makes it more palatable to ask often.

Making people wait for an answer, even if you eventually do say “yes,” shows that you’re not on agreeable autopilot.

If I need help with something, the first person I’ll go to is the one I know will say “yes” instantly. Most of us like instant gratification if possible. If you don’t give it, you might not be first in line to be asked next time. So that gives you less requests to try to force yourself to say “no” to or it could make you stronger about saying no.

Get into the habit of saying, “I have to let you know” when someone comes to you for a favor.

Wait as long as you can to let them know! You can explain (only IF you feel obligated to) that you have to check your calendar, or check with someone you have something up in the air with, or any other reason you can think of for why you must wait. Then you can let them know it’s “yes” or say you can’t. Stalling for time makes it easier to turn them down. It’s harder to say “no” when you’re put on the spot and can’t think. That’s why it’s important to say you’ll get back to them.

And if you want to turn the request down, do it by email. It’s not the best way to back out but it’s better than getting cornered into doing what you don’t want to do. Just making someone wait for an answer can make it easier to say “no.” You have time to process the request. Telling them you have to check your schedule, makes it easier to follow up by saying it won’t work for you.

Turn off your “yes” autopilot! Make people wait for an answer.

This is a good first step for breaking people’s habits of always coming to you for favors. The longer you wait, the more they’ll stop expecting you to always be there for them, even if they’re not there for you. Of course it’s fine to agree immediately if it’s someone you care about, who has shown he or she cares about you. But for the others, waiting allows you to take back some control, which increases your self-empowerment. It also allows more time for you, since you will say “yes” less often. That’s a good way to say, “I love me!”

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