Saying “No” to Commitments and Surviving: Things to Think About

You’re a busy guy. You’ve got tons of responsibilities: work overload, family duties, chores and to-do lists, time with your wife or girlfriend, time with your kids, working out, having a beer with a buddy… the time commitments can be endless. Where does it end? When you can sit back and breathe, do you ever feel overwhelmed and like you’re burning the candle at both ends?

Stress has many components, and for guys who have a hard time saying “no” to others, it can seem much worse. I know. As a recovering “nice guy”, it was really hard for me in the past to say ‘no’ to others, when they would ask something of me. As I’d take on more and more commitments, I would overwhelm myself, and either generally not be of use to the people asking (by dragging my feet on something), or by generally internalizing a lot of anger at them, and at myself for not getting what I wanted.

If we can learn to say ‘no’, we take the power back that we’ve given others. Having expendable time in your life will be something you create consciously, instead of reactively (and through fear) making commitments to others when you don’t really want to.

I think we can’t say ‘no’ to commitments because we don’t want to let down the other person, because if we do, then they’re mad or disappointed in us, and who wants that? When we give others power over us, to overly praise or reject us, then our fate kind of lies in their hands. If we can learn to get ourselves to the point where it’s o.k. to to say ‘no’, and check it out with the other person if we need to (“I’m afraid if I say ‘no’ to you, I’d disappoint you. Did I?”). If we start seizing back the ‘no’ we mean to communicate, and state it with empathy and not anger, we’ll ultimately get a lot father in our lives.


About Jason

As "The Man That Men Will Talk To," Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC is a private practice counselor and psychotherapist for men and couples in the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area. He works with struggling men to find happiness in their lives, and with their wives.
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