A single woman’s dating life is full of opportunities to meet Mr. Right. Unfortunately, all too many women miss out on great men because they have said yes to the wrong ones. Why do we do this? Are women hard-wired to struggle with setting limits? Are you overly worried about being liked, popular or kind? If your attention is spent on trying to please others, how can your needs and desires ever make the list?
Codependency notwithstanding, it’s not always easy to speak up for yourself, but it is incredibly important. Learning to say no is a life skill we all must master if we want to be happy.
Here’s the rub…
If you have a hard time setting limits--and say "Yes" when you want to say "No" or stay quiet when you have a preference--it doesn't let your others know you. Our boundaries speak for us at every turn: asking for a well-earned raise, or turning down unpaid overtime; politely ending a conversation; opting out of time-consuming volunteer work; making a correction if we've been overcharged; agreeing to drive a friend's child in carpool. We also have to set limits with ourselves: deferring pleasure to get tasks done; having yogurt instead of ice cream; getting to bed on time; saying "no" to a second date.
These skills are critical to making sure the world knows what you want and what you value. When it comes to dating, dating is a game of chance AND of numbers. You have to be discerning if you are going to find the right guy. There is a time and a place to date lots of men while figuring out what you really want, which gives you many opportunities to practice. At some point, you’ll know more about the kind of guy you’re looking for and want to stop wasting time on the ones who don’t fit the bill.
As a skill, learning to say NO when you need to:
- Improves the quality of your relationships
- Increases self-confidence (self-definition, clarity about who you are/what you want/, etc)
- Makes others perceive you as more trustworthy
- Improves your emotional and physical well-being
- AND, saying No when you need to makes it easy to say YES when you want to
If you’re reading this and feeling, “I’m really not that good at doing this” here are 5 ways to jump-start learning to set healthy boundaries and practice saying NO when it’s the right thing to do:
- First, try writing down what you would like to say. Remember that you can be gracious and kind without being forceful or giving false hope that you’ll change your mind. Ideally, you want to be direct, gracious and firm. “I’m sorry, I would love to go out with you but I am already dating someone.” OR “Thank you for thinking of me but I don’t see us as a good fit together. I hope you can understand.”
- Once you know what you want to say, rehearse it out loud until you feel more comfortable. Sometimes it’s helpful to have a few rehearsed lines for situations that come up with some regularity. “I’m sorry, I don’t date co-workers, I’m sure you can understand” OR “Thank you for the date, but I would like to go home instead of going to your place.”
- If it's something difficult to say it helps to start out with, “This is hard for me, and I feel a little bit awkward, but I want to tell you (or “need you to know”).
- When you rehearse your lines, be sure to take some deep breaths and visualize yourself in action.
- Affirm your right to choose; to have needs and wants that differ from others.
Setting limits is liberating, enhancing feelings of competence and self-esteem. No longer is the need to avoid, explain, feel unnecessary guilt, resentment, or obligation. All of which contributes to self- and mutual respect, reciprocity, a sense of vitality, inner peace, and the ongoing health of your relationships.
Dr. Sue Mandel is a psychologist and dating coach who specializes in relationships and the psychobiology of love. She brings 27 years of unique experience helping individuals and couples find and keep love in their lives. To schedule your FREE 20-minute consultation contact her at email@example.com.