The GuardianThe Guardian

I've learned to say no and not care what other people think: why did it take so long?

By Emma Brockes

21 Jul 2022 · 3 min read

Editor's Note

Read this article to discover how the practice of saying "no" can change you life for the better.

I wanted to do something I knew would make other people annoyed. It was the right thing to do; I was fairly convinced of that fact. I was also confident that, in the language one uses to push through awkward decisions, I had “every right” to do it. If I did this particular thing, it would make my life easier, but it would also result in the disapproval of others. I can do this, I told myself. Actually, no I can’t. Hang on a sec, yes I can! Wait, no. Oh for God’s sake. OK, I’ll do it tomorrow.

For some reason, this summer, this particular dynamic is one I’m seeing come up all the time. I live in the US, but my social group is dominated by British and Australian people, who, I suspect, struggle more than Americans with certain types of assertion. The majority of Americans I know can change their minds about something, or turn it down flat, without dragging themselves around a Navy Seal-style internal obstacle course. The Brits and Australians I know – particularly, but not exclusively, the women – find it almost impossible to deliver a clean decision when they know it will result in the anger or disappointment of others.

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