Relationship expert and author of Embracing Conflict (self-published), Paula Quinsee says there is a time to say no, especially when something compromises your values, boundaries or beliefs. She says it could even be something you really don’t want to do for various reasons, like having prior commitments.
Quinsee explains that one needs to learn to say no when it comes to compromising yourself and your own needs, values and beliefs. She says it’s about how you say it, rather than the fact you’re declining a request – this affects the outcome and potentially the relationship.
“When you do have to say no, for whatever reason, the best way is to do so in a respectful way. Make them understand why you’re declining and whether you’ll be able to help at a different time if it’s something you’re willing or prepared to do,” she says.
Beginning your response with “I’d love to do this, but…” is a gentle way of saying no to the other party. It’s encouraging, because it lets the other person know that you like the idea, but are unable to be involved.
“Let me think about it and get back to you” is another approach you can use – it’s almost like a “maybe”, which allows you to hold off on committing until you’ve decided to accede to their request or have found a way to decline.
She says if it’s something that is completely against your value system, you can then explain that you’re uncomfortable with the request and unfortunately can’t do anything about it. “If it’s done respectfully, honestly and authentically, then they’ll see that you’re not refusing because you’re being stubborn,” she says.
“In some instances, we all have to do things we don’t like, but you have to look at the bigger picture and ask yourself: “Is it worth saying no and dealing with the drama that’s going to unfold or is it easier to just keep the peace?” says Quinsee.
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“There are times when we have to say yes to things we don’t want to do, but when we look at the bigger picture, it may not be such a big deal,” she says.
“In those instances, you need to handle the situation to the best of your ability by being mature enough to not let it get to you.”
It’s also important for you to remember that saying no has benefits, such as giving your in-laws a chance to know the real you, as well as your capabilities and responsibilities towards yourself, your family or your career. It also creates boundaries, which are often crossed if one isn’t firm and vocal about one’s standpoint.
Life coach Thandi Vellem adds that standing up to your in-laws will most of the time not bode well for harmonious relations, particularly if they are intentionally acrimonious towards you.
“Confronting them will be adding fuel to the fire. They are likely to be more receptive if you make your point through their child,” she says.
“If that fails, you will have to choose to ride the wave of conflict and not confront them, or confront them with the purpose of restoration. The purpose will speak to the tone, words and timing,” says Vellem.