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Elizabeth Awoliyi: You Can’t Say ‘Yes’ to Everyone

Elizabeth Osho

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For the longest time, I was one of those people who lived to say YES to everyone! I was a people pleaser, I felt a profound longing to always give and to be generous. I wanted everyone around me to be happy, and so I would do whatever it took and whatever was asked of me. I would be over generous with my money, my time, you name it; if it was within my reach I would give. I am results oriented, and a natural giver so over time I attracted takers, who exploited the fact.

My giving certainly wasn’t because the Bible said give, and you shall receive. Over the years, with self analysis I realised I liked being needed and it made me feel important to be contributing positively to someone else’s life. You could come to me and my natural and immediate response would be to try and fix it. Whatever ‘it’ was. I would agree and commit to people’s requests when I had so many deadlines myself. I wanted some sort of recognition and got instant gratification from solving whatever the task was. No task was too big. ‘Yes we can’, was my motto.

Over time, I’ve realised that I am a ‘fixer’. I like doing things, and I enjoyed the recognition that comes from being the one that ‘saved the day’.

I was one of those people who would never be able to say ‘no, I’m sorry I can’t make it”.
So instead I’d say ‘YES, I’ll be there” and then switch off my phone and come up with a long and convoluted story about food poising and why I couldn’t join them. I cringe as I’m typing this because if any of my friends are reading this, they can now connect the dots. (I’m sure they connected them long before now)

Over time I realised I was only hurting myself. Being the person that helps all the people, all the time, with all of the requests eventually burns you out. I would help people and friends out so much that when I wasn’t available to help, they’d turn on me, and call me selfish. Forgetting the endless times when I was there.

I still am a giver, but I’ve just learnt where and how to successfully give without burning out on resources and energy.

Are you a YES person like I used to be? How does one find a health balance?

· Understand that by being a YES person, you are denying yourself of your own freedom, stop being a people pleaser.

· Prioritize who you want to help, don’t always say YES without thinking twice. When inundated with requests – range them in order of priority – family first, close friends, business associates e.t.c

· Reject the temptation to say yes to everything. For instance, Explain why you can’t be a full part of a project; offer to help align a specific part of it where you naturally fit in, you strength lies, and it wouldn’t be too tasking.

· Understand that you don’t have to be everything to everyone: ask people who approach you to choose one or better still choose for them: Either your time, your knowledge, your influence – they can’t take it all. This way you avoid being burnt out.

· Be cautious and study people. Stay away from people (no matter how nice they may seem) who always want to take and give nothing back in return. Direct your energy elsewhere.

· If you really can’t help, i.e you don’t have the time or resources, don’t string anyone along by giving empty promises. Give them a simple NO and send them on their way.

· Stall – It’s perfectly okay to request some time to think about it. Then be honest to yourself about how realistic it is for you to commit to their request at that given time.

· You can enliven, support and encourage others at a time to suit you so that you don’t eventually feel resentful of the time you’ve given. If someone wants your time, it has to be at a convenience to you.

· Learn to say NO and that’s the end of discussion. Explaining the reason why you’ve said ‘No’ can give people the position to guilt trip you or retort with “Oh, please just come later then, please adjust your schedule etc etc.

· Don’t fear the fact that people will stop liking you or call you selfish – let them say. People will talk anyway!

Are you a YES person? Please add to this thread. How have you successfully interacted with others without getting burnt out?

50 Comments

  1. Drknite

    October 15, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    I did not read the article nor did I care too. I was distracted by Elizabeth HOTNESS. She can be my yes girl any day.

    • Ahausachickintoronto

      October 15, 2015 at 5:40 pm

      This is so me madam Lizzy, but honestly I wish I had known all this in my university days, a lot of people I never would have been friends with because today I realize that they were just manipulative bigots due to my yes nature. It’s all good Sha because I’ve learned and I’m less stressed especially in relation to friends and people in general, I do what I can and if I can’t I can’t. It’s not by force.
      #sigh

    • ATL's finest

      October 16, 2015 at 4:52 am

      Lol @ is it by force! My bible told me let my Yes be yes and my no be NO. Honestly, I can’t please everyone something my mother taught Me in high school. So I grew up knowing that and I’m GLAd to say I have pissed folks off bcuz I knew when to stop their foolishness #imnosparetire#.

    • Damisko

      October 16, 2015 at 7:22 pm

      This is not me, it’s opposite of me. I actually had to learn how to say yes. I like to do things without being asked. And when I help or give I do it with discretion. If I see you showing off, living beyond your means and you ask me for help like borrow money. Sorry, u ain’t getting yes. And when I give, I make sure I don’t have expectation or pay back mind. However, I do believe folks who say yes, yes is not always coming from a genuine kind heart. It’s their own insecurity or doing things for others to make people like them. To get compliment, to feel better about themselves in a way of low key I’m better or have more. I believe, there are very “FEW” genuine givers in the world from the heart without any motives. My grandmother is the only I can say in my 20 something year of living.

  2. pinkie

    October 15, 2015 at 2:34 pm

    omg! this is so me.. omg!! I read it repeatedly and kept thinking ‘when did I send this to BN’. lol.
    it’s so bad. people always tend to take advantage of the ‘yes people’.
    I live my life constantly taking odd responsibilities and tasks for people.
    trust them to keep bringing more your way especially whan they know ‘No’ is a weakness.
    they borrow money and not return cuz they know you can’t ask back. I don’t even know if this is a form of inferiority complex cz sometimes I say to myself ‘Why exactly can’t I say No, why am I so damn scared to luz this person after all’?
    even after all said and done, I haven’t changed much. when I say no, I still look for a way to buzz and say yes. kmt!

    • RIFF RAFF

      October 15, 2015 at 3:57 pm

      Pinkie pie, I hope this helps:
      Love your neighbour as yourself
      It is NOT,it has NEVER been ansd it will NEVER be :
      Love your neighbour MORE THAN yourself.
      There’s a diffference between helping out and being a straight-out doormat.
      Don’t let anyone guilt you because you simply said NO. That is MANIPULATION
      And trust me, it’s going to happen, cos your entourage knows your mumu buttons already and they will most certainly manipulate your mumu buttons to their advantage and at your expense. Be assertive and stand your ground if u don’t “feel” a demand/favour/request.
      Let me tell you something scarier: When they will feel they don’t need you anymore or u don’t have anything imortant to offer, u will be discarded like a rotten mango. You will remain with nothing but your eyes to cry. When u will compain saying u said yes to their every demand and no one wants to return the favour when you are in need, they will ask you “did we force u to say yes?;” “was a gun put on your head?” I’ve even read such manipulative comments here. Borrow sense and start classifying your priorities.
      YOU CAN STILL SAY NO. AND MEAN IT!

  3. Theurbanegirl

    October 15, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    I would say I’m still a people pleaser. its really stressful being that. So I’m going to reply an email that’s been hanging now and say “No Thanks” Comfortably ?

  4. Psychic

    October 15, 2015 at 3:01 pm

    i read it like i was going to write an exam afterwards..This is my whole life outside. i just wish i knew the things i knew now like 3 years ago,especially those borrowing money and not returning,God will still punish this wicked people(preys).. Now though I’m so mean with my NOs,people will be looking at me like are u serious and i won’t even blink. (awon ajenimaye)whatever that means,i must have heard it on africa magic.

  5. olamide

    October 15, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    Like seriously, i do the same. I just can’t say no but seriously praying to change a bit cos some does take advantage of the fact that you can’t say no.

  6. AnnieRose

    October 15, 2015 at 3:08 pm

    Definitely one of the biggest challenges in my life right now. I cannot count hard earned un returned money in the name of one reason or another . One thing I’ve noticed is when ure in deep Shxxt, love/help rarely comes from the same people you put out your neck for.

  7. Tee

    October 15, 2015 at 3:13 pm

    Could not say it better myself it’s hard learning to stop this but still learning

  8. miss Pynk

    October 15, 2015 at 3:16 pm

    I used to be a yes person and then i realised folks weren’t “yesing” for me when i needed help. So i borrowed myself brain and remember that even Jesus didn’t save everybody during his time on earth, talkless of me- a mere and flawed mortal. Ever since then, my sense of self preservation improved and now I only do as much as I can and move on.

    pynk360.com

    • Beht why

      October 15, 2015 at 4:00 pm

      Lmao this reminds me of when I told my friend that she’s not Jesus. The babe said she likes to give peace to all. I told her to please tuck in her niceness a little, thank you.. People were playing with her head too much ahn ahn.

  9. AO

    October 15, 2015 at 3:17 pm

    This was well written…sometimes you have to put yourself ahead of others.

  10. Tolu

    October 15, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    My babe needs to read this.
    Nice article?

  11. Ada

    October 15, 2015 at 3:27 pm

    My brother no dey come bellanaija, this post is for him. He can make twenty appointments in one day and he will end up disappointing his family engagement because he expects us to understand. You can ask my brother anything and if he doesn’t know it, he will run round and try to get you an answer. You can shelve your burden on him. Just call him up and say I need a DJ in Lagos, he doesn’t know anyone o, he will say okay and then start looking for, I need this cousin’s number, he doesn’t have it o, he will try to find it. I need wedding dresses, nothing concern him concern wedding dresses o, but for where he will go and find out.

    I find his life tiring on his behalf. Sometimes you can just say “I don’t know”! It is totally fine!

    • banke

      October 15, 2015 at 3:41 pm

      awwww I like your bro. He’s so me. Too kind!

    • bruno

      October 15, 2015 at 4:49 pm

      saying yes to everyone always, is a bad behaviour.
      her brother is not too kind, he is weak. he is afraid of hurting people’s feeling by saying NO to them. I can tell he doesn’t have any real friends. people will pretend to be ur friend because they know the benefits of u not being able to say No to them.

      some people say yes all the time cause they want people to like them. u want people to like u always so u go about people pleasing every body, thats the beginning of ur problems in life cause u will suffer mercilessly, they will use the hell out of u.

      saying yes always is a very very bad behaviour. its a sign or doormat syndrome.

      I am teaching my self how to say no. saying no without having to explain my self or give a reason for saying no.

    • www.thelmathinks.com

      October 15, 2015 at 3:42 pm

      Awwww. This is so me, before I realized that there’s a thin line between being seen as nice and being perceived as a mumu. People think that because you’re so giving of your time, money, attention, etc you must be stupid and they try to take advantage of you, even close friends! One day I had to ask myself “biko who did I offend and what am I overcompensating for?”. It’s good to learn to say No. I still love to help and to give but I’ve learnt to strike a balance and put myself first once in a while.

  12. femmypages

    October 15, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    At times all of our kindness is taken for weakness because we can’t do but help one another.

  13. grown woman

    October 15, 2015 at 3:52 pm

    Not only could I not say no, I also didn’t make demands, I didn’t take something if I wanted it cos I didn’t want people to think I was too aggressive. I always said yes because I wanted people to like me. I was spineless, simple. But with age came a certain level of confidence. If I don’t have it or can’t make it available, I smile and say I am so sorry, but I can’t.

  14. Aduke

    October 15, 2015 at 4:07 pm

    I used to be a people pleaser too till I learnt how to be a “ME PLEASER”. U help all of them and when u re in need, they turn their backs on u. Now, if I am not satisfied, I can’t satisfy anyone. Even the bible says love ur neighbour as u love ur self not love ur self as you love ur neighbour. Beautiful essay Elizabeth.

  15. jefka

    October 15, 2015 at 4:54 pm

    For me the first step was to say no to myself and my heart when it goes on one of its emotional cruise.
    Reduce the number of acquaintances and friends in your life.
    Practice with your siblings and room mates and most of all your bf or gf.
    Most of all, please pray for the spirit of discipline.

  16. Phlegmatic

    October 15, 2015 at 5:11 pm

    I recently read about Phlegmatic personality and it explains the traits seen in Yes men and women. I like to believe I am a yes man, love to keep the peace. I love argument oh and making trouble but hate malice. Well one just has to be assertive and extra careful with answers to request. The final truth is us Yes peeps feel good by saying Yes, let’s be honest about it. Fantastic write up Elizabeth, well-done.

  17. Kay

    October 15, 2015 at 5:20 pm

    I dont know if i should cry or just keep quite. Lemme confess, aside money borrowing, been an escort to the salon, market, ‘helping’ with assignment etc d worst part is been a shoulder to cry on for most male friends going thru ‘breakup wahala’, with my clean church mind, i was tagged ‘if you need sharp sharp gf, ask kay…’ imagine how stunned i was the day i heard such. Most times i sacrifice my time, money, comfort to make people happy and its like ‘kai this girl is stingy, this girl is wicked’ bla bla bla.
    Now, its TEAM MEAN, no more shining teeth again. God is gradually dealing with me in His way.
    Thank you Liz, The Lord personally sent you to me!

  18. Unique

    October 15, 2015 at 5:24 pm

    About 3 years ago, while leaving with my aunt, i had this neighbour opposite us that will always scome around to as for PMS. I was eager to help at the beginning and overtime i begsn to feel guilty as i am not the one buying this fuel i am dashing our everynow and then but still i will say Yes whenever he comes around. Until a dsy csme when there was no fuel to dash out, he csme as usual and when i told him of the unavailability, he ddnt believe. He felt bad and i myself start feeling bad too. – i was mumu extraordinaire. But the problem is i dont know how to ask from those i help buh i could give ma last penny to please.
    I lesrnt my lesson the hardway.
    An uncle of mine bought me Dre Best headphone, i went to visit a friend who happend to be doing her masters at OAU. She asked me to gift him the headphone and without thinking twice i gave her. About 3 dsys later, my uncle ask for the whereabout of the headphone. I couldnt tell him that i gift someone. I had to go all the way to Ife to het it back.
    From that day, i give myself brain the kindnof help i render.
    Not that i still dont offer help, but i do so with balance now

    • abby

      October 15, 2015 at 6:23 pm

      dis is me! if I don’t help I feel bad abt it! now I am in a village,stuck in a village just bcos I wanna help a colleague of mine(not a friend oh) with chores during a burial ceremony happening on saturday . so atm,i am down with high fever,cold,cough…and I am scared to say,i am tired of this village and I am rili too lazy to help cos I am sick and I plain dunt wanna help!!!! I just hate chores!!!! but I cant say dat…****begins to wail**** I am stuck in dis no light,no good network,no breeze Godforsaken Village!!!!!!

    • lis

      October 16, 2015 at 9:13 am

      Hahahahahahahahahaahaha…. Oh my God.. Dis is too funny… I am crying laughing… No breeze too? Really?

    • MC

      October 16, 2015 at 6:23 pm

      But what would you do this to yourself!?!
      Also, did you not know that you were lazy and didn’t like chores before you offered/agreed to help!?

  19. Unique

    October 15, 2015 at 5:26 pm

    Sorry for the typos,
    *living
    * Dre Beat

  20. californiabawlar

    October 15, 2015 at 5:33 pm

    You people are nice o!! Me that I don’t even put face for ground to the point that folks will be asking me something…hehehe. While i’m not good at giving people my time, I don’t know how to say no to financial requests…I can borrow money to give someone money…smh…I don dey wise us now sha. Plus luckily for me, only few people that know that I’m a people pleaser and they are the ones cashing in…everyone else thinks i’m a snob or just useless and who am I to prove them wrong?? 😛

    • notanutelllalover

      October 15, 2015 at 7:38 pm

      lool.. this is me! People dont ask me because they think I am a snob and i will be quick to say no. What very many people do not know is that as long as it is within my power, i will bendover backwards to help them. Sometimes, i feel like i overcompensate sef, offering people stuff even when i know that they probably dont deserve it.
      For my family, I will probably always be a Yes-Woman, I feel like I need to be even better. Fortunately, i dont have plenty friends so its all good 🙂

    • The real D

      October 16, 2015 at 6:51 am

      Ok, the first time I saw your name I had to read it twice and then I smiled because my hubby is not a nutella lover either. I tell myself anytime I see you comment that I would have to comment on the name but I either forget or miss your comments. Try Reeses peanut spread, (that is, if you are not aware of it already) there is a high probability you’d like that. not healthy like nutella so not ideal for weight watchers like me but tasty.

  21. patsychy

    October 15, 2015 at 5:37 pm

    My dear …..u just spoke to me the time i needed a HALT from all these over niceness and kind heart….i don tire for my family and some close friends…..my uncle just spoke to me last sunday to buckle up…..in his words….’if u dont place family and friends second in your priority and yourself first….u can never make it or move forward….cos they will keep pulling u down’…have learnt my lessons..

  22. abby

    October 15, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    ermmmm…lol..I am a ‘yes’ person but laziness will not allow me,like ‘yes’ I wann help out with d dishes but I am too tired…so I tell u how I have injuries so cant wash, yes,i wanna help with cleaning d house but oh my gawd,i am toooooo tired,si I act like I didn’t c u an keep pressing my phone. So I tink I am a ‘yes’ person financially, I give a lot of money out!!!! pple tink I have money,like how can u look dis good and not have money??? I even borrow my boss money sometimes!!! I give and give and give money out….sighs…..and nobody gives me*****ok,strike dat! u dunt have to be negative, abby****

    • abby

      October 15, 2015 at 6:17 pm

      ***ENDOFRANT***

  23. Tosin

    October 15, 2015 at 6:24 pm

    best comments ever!

  24. Missappleberry

    October 15, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    Lol. I cant even laugh at all this comments. I’m so not a people pleaser! All i think about is myself and i have no apologies. I’m selfish like that. I only spare time for my family, my gfs i have known for so long and then the boo. Ain’t nobody has time for such doormat purpose. Hiss! 😐

    • BM

      October 15, 2015 at 10:57 pm

      Buahahahahaa!!! Been waiting for your “kind” to show up! I’ve been like ahn ahn..if everyone so far is like “OMG!! This is soooo me!”, where are the TAKERS or those who don’t give a….,about pleasing people??! Lol. Seriously though..yes. I will be joining all to say, this is such a timely article. I am actually in a period where I am doing some re-evaluations in my life and discarding the deadweight AKA the leeches. Beyond, being a people pleaser and being Mrs. Problem solver, I have always been that one to put on a façade of everything being okay…the strong one, even when there are times I’m dying inside! Always, listening to people’s problems (natural listener and empath I guess), even when I’m really not in the mood to hear. I find myself getting involved to a point where I am pretty much worn out. No mas! I can’t “come and die” as they say. It’s soooo not healthy! Great article hon. And yes…you are pretty #nohomo hehehe

  25. BNers as usual

    October 15, 2015 at 6:29 pm

    As usual, all of them must belong!

    All of you wey i no, you wey no dey send person?
    you wey no care even if your bf/gf dont have a dime on him
    you wey your kobo cannot leave your purse/wallet
    you wey buying food for yourself na wahala, always looking for who to buy for you

    all of you wey stingy pass d sting of death, you stingy to yourself not to talk of another person.
    you come here dey form men pleaser

    God is watching u in 21D

  26. Koffie

    October 15, 2015 at 6:33 pm

    I’m a Yes girl for close friends (3 friends), the rest of the world except family think I’m some mean girl. I can beat my chest that two out of those three friends can go to the same lengths for me sha. The 3rd friend has let me down at the times I needed her but I’m built to be loyal so. I think what I need to learn is how to be nicer to non-friends, a babe that did her pre-NYSC IT in my firm (see me see ownership) almost cried one day I was honest but blunt after she asked me to do something for her (not work-related). She felt she’d have helped me if tables were turned and thought we were friends. Erm, *side eyes*
    Some times, you need to be firm and blunt sha, no one has time to be used.

  27. Suwa

    October 15, 2015 at 7:11 pm

    After reading like 20 times, I decided to have a talk with me. Thanks a lot.

  28. l

    October 15, 2015 at 7:28 pm

    nah you sabi.. if you ike dont learn how to say NO i learnt thru the hard way.
    i remember a friend who recently moved to naija and how she needed some cash to sort few things…. (me being me) which is the old me said okay even though i knew deep down i needed that money for myself cause at that time i was investing in my startup business. well just to cut the story short… she promised she was going to pay me she went as far as to narrates how she borrowed from (wont say her name) and how she paid before the agreed time. her story obviously gingered me to give her cause i had hopes she was going to keep to her promise… can you believe up till today this babe has not even called nor paid me my money… shes on instagram living the life (heard she sleeps for money) thats not the point!! see me thinking maybe she went back to yankee cause i called this babe but obviously it didnt go through, i tried reaching her this babe was unreachable. to think is someone you call a friend. at that time i needed the money and desperately didnt want to ask my parents for money. before the babe decided to change her number.. i remembered i called with my sis number and she picked up and then i proceeded to ask “babe how far nah”? ” you just forget person like that” just to start a convo and this stupid girl was even replying me cause obviously i didnt introduce myself until i knew i had her attention then i said is me oh laughing just to make things easy for her (but why do i need to go through all these just to collect my own money that i saved up while i was in uk cause i knew i was going to need it to start up a business) (i didnt give her everything i had but it was alot and i needed the balance so i can proceed with my startup business)
    this babe then said oh i havent forgotten and then tried to turn the table around (reverse psychology) by saying “you that just forgot me.. so u only called me cause im owing you abi”? the babe is MAD!! may your yarnsh that u use to get money one day burn with spiritual fire!! ode!!!!
    the summary is learn how to say no especially when is needed!! cause that experience taught me a big lesson…. i dont need to read how to say NO cause i learnt through the hard way so im hoping this story helps someone out there…
    shes enjoying oh on instagram and snapchart but she don forget she owes me.. thief!!! idiot!!

  29. Doc...

    October 15, 2015 at 7:31 pm

    My mum was NYC to everyone and couldn’t bear to say no to any1 until it burnt her out.. I have learnt a lot from what I witnessed….Am a NYC babe but I choose carefully those who deserve my kindness…and what I cannot bear I won’t bear….thanx Liz for this piece.

    • ATL's finest

      October 16, 2015 at 4:54 am

      Lol my mama 2nd ! I had to call her out too like for real. I’m no more this way thanks to God for I come FIRST

  30. l

    October 15, 2015 at 7:44 pm

    as you see me oh.. if i can write “NO” on my forehead without looking stupid then i will (lol)
    no jokes oh!!! imagine one of friend (his no more my friend) asked me for money to buy mac laptop and then i asked okay so when will u pay me back this guy had no clue.. i even asked him since you have this amount of money with you why not buy what you can afford (other brand) this stupid guy said “but is mac book i want and i know you can lend me” see how useless people are.. you will not buy what u can afford longer throat.. me i just said “NO” in-fact i told him his longer throat is too much.. ode you want take my money and buy mac book!!! i remember when my friend borrowed money from and said she wanted to buy school text books not knowing she used the money i gave her to go shopping.. im sure your wondering how i knew.. the ode told her friend, and her friend then told me… that day i craze for the babe cause this babe had no intention on paying back that week.. she told her friend quote “is it not (my name) i will give when i have the money but now i dont) i swear if i give you stories..infact youll start saying “NO” most people dont care, they only think of themselves… so me i became “AKA GUM” when is necessary. I HAVE CHANGED AND IM PROUD!!

  31. Candy

    October 15, 2015 at 10:59 pm

    This post is for my dad and my boyfriend. I hate the fact that they are ‘Yes’ men. It’s so annoying because they do things for people at their expense. They lend to give and people usually manipulate them. And when they are in need, those people they help just vanish.

  32. Titto

    October 16, 2015 at 4:29 am

    Hmm, I used to be like this but not anymore. Learnt to put myself first now.

  33. lis

    October 16, 2015 at 9:26 am

    My own case is this… I can say NO but I usually attach a really long explanation after dat.. Am tired of explaining.. Even whenn I explain it makes dem more angrier… Pls an article I desperately need is : how to give a short NO… Like NO, period

  34. Londonder

    October 17, 2015 at 6:02 am

    Apt. Thanks for this Liz.

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