5 Things You Can Always Say "No" To

Because we're socialized to be people-pleasers, it's notoriously difficult for many women to say "no." In an article for Fortune, S'well CEO Sarah Kauss reminds us that there are many things we can always say "no" to, even when it might disappoint people. Kauss arrived at this conclusion after over-committing herself throughout 2015. Describing the downsides of this approach to life, she writes, "I committed to be in places that were inspiring but not critical to my personal or professional goals. So while incredibly grateful for the massive amount of opportunity, by year’s end, I found myself exhausted and questioning whether each opportunity was worth my undivided attention and participation." Therefore, Kauss is striving to make 2016 "the year of 'no,'" during which she will be "running opportunities through my 'just-say-no' filter'" — and I suspect that an awful lot of us would benefit from the same practice.

If you'd also like to say "no" more often this year, remember that there are very few situations when you truly can't. You might make some people unhappy by saying "no," but they'll usually get over it. A lot of the guilt we feel over saying "no" is self-imposed. Unless someone else's livelihood is in your hands or you are obligated to do something as part of your job (and even then, there are still totally valid excuses to get out of it), what course of action you take is up to you — and no one else.

Here are just a few of the many things you're allowed to say "no" to.

1. Sex

You do not owe sex to anyone. Even if you went to their apartment. Even if you engaged in foreplay. Even if you've already started and changed your mind. Sex is a completely mutual activity, and a respectful partner won't want it with someone who isn't enjoying it as much as they are.

2. Doing Favors

A favor by definition is something you don't have to do. We often feel like we must do favors in order to maintain relationships, or that, if someone has once done a favor for us, we're required to return it in some capacity — but the truth is that they're always optional. There is no penalty for declining to do favors other than the guilt we impose on ourselves (or sometimes the guilt others impose on us, but people who guilt us aren't usually worth our energy anyway).

3. Extra Work

Obviously, we can't say "no" to doing our jobs without a penalty. But we can decline extra work our bosses offer us or try to impose on us. For example, a boss once started giving me assignments soon before the end of a shift, and I was feeling overwhelmed because I had a meeting planned for then. So, I said, "I'm a little concerned I won't be able to finish this before my shift ends, and I have somewhere to go then." They said "no problem" and took away one of the assignments. Usually, people will understand that we don't always have the time or resources to go beyond what's expected of us.

4. Family Time

Many of us have had our families guilt us into spending time with them by bringing up all the sacrifices they've made for us, but the truth is, nobody signed a contract reading, "If we make the following sacrifices, you have to devote two hours a week to us." It's nice to show your family you appreciate them, but if you have something more important to do or can only tolerate their company in small doses, you get to choose how much time you spend with them, just as you do with your friends.

5. Social "Obligations"

Very few of our social obligations are actually obligations. Your friend may be disappointed if you miss their birthday party, but if it just wasn't possible for you to make it, they'll understand. And it's unlikely your life will be drastically altered by missing the supposed party of the year. Sometimes we need time for our jobs, our families, our friends, or ourselves, and the people who care about us should respect us enough to know we're not just blowing them off out of selfishness.

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