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If you're someone who occasionally finds it hard to do the latter, well, join the club. At work, our responsibilities are ever-expanding (thanks, never-ending recession), and at home, we feel pressed to help stretched-thin friends and family."In this age of constant electronic connectedness, requests are coming at us every waking hour, making it even more important to be able to put your foot down," says Roni Cohen-Sandler, Ph D, a clinical psychologist in Weston, Connecticut.

It stands to reason: "Saying yes all the time can really zap your mood; it can also make you feel resentful and over-committed," says Simon Rego, Psy D, director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.Women may have a harder time saying no, psychologists and sociologists theorize, because of the way we're raised to value connections."Even if you are a very successful person, you're not going to feel great unless your relationships are harmonious," Cohen-Sandler says."And in our culture, women get the message that saying no is tantamount to being difficult, so we're often not able to say no unless we're at the end of our rope." Bowing out pay off, notes Rego: "Putting your foot down more often lowers stress and improves your confidence and well-being." Follow these simple guidelines to knowing when, and how, to make the most of this sanity-saving two-letter word.Read your body It's natural to want to be generous and "give up your own needs to meet someone else's," says Linda Tillman, Ph D, a psychologist at Emory University in Atlanta.To know if you've crossed that fine line from kind to compulsive people-pleaser, pay attention to how you feel -- in the moment and later."If you say yes and then find yourself feeling resentful or irritated at yourself or the other person, then you know that you were doing it not out of generosity but because you felt you to," Tillman says. If you can't answer the above right away, say: "I'll need to get back to you on that." Develop your ix-nay muscles "Saying no is a learned skill that anyone can develop," Newman says. Tillman recommends something along these lines: "I know you were really hoping to have all your friends around for your baby shower, so I'm even more sorry I can't go." 4. If you know you might waver when you see disappointment or surprise on the other person's face, it can be very empowering to lead with the no, says Tillman. Other red flags that you're being overly accommodating: Right after saying yes, you feel your stomach drop or your heart race, or you get anxious and wonder how you'll ever get it done. To quash requests, even when the prospect makes you uncomfortable: 1. Reassuring the other person about the opportunity you're turning down is one way to soften a rejection, Rego says. As tempting as it is to get into the many reasons why you can't attend your co-worker's birthday drinks, offering a simple, "Sorry, I can't make it! Overexplaining opens up the possibility of working around your unavailability, Newman says. Try: "No, I won't be able to be the PTA treasurer next year; I'm sorry." You've taken a stand, which can help you stick to your guns. Avoid a quick 'yes' you don't mean If you feel a potential marshmallow moment coming on, stop, take a breath, and ask yourself these questions, from Susan Newman, Ph D, a social psychologist and author of Do I have time for this? Try something like, "It sounds so fun; I would love a rain check! vary, alter, change - become different in some particular way, without permanently losing one's or its former characteristics or essence; "her mood changes in accordance with the weather"; "The supermarket's selection of vegetables varies according to the season"abide by, comply, follow - act in accordance with someone's rules, commands, or wishes; "He complied with my instructions"; "You must comply or else!"; "Follow these simple rules"; "abide by the rules"I could have given my own sect the preference and made everybody a Presby- terian without any trouble, but that would have been to affront a law of human nature: spiritual wants and instincts are as various in the human family as are physical appetites, complexions, and features, and a man is only at his best, morally, when he is equipped with the religious garment whose color and shape and size most nicely themselves to the spirit- ual complexion, angularities, and stature of the indi- vidual who wears it; and, besides, I was afraid of a united Church; it makes a mighty power, the mightiest conceivable, and then when it by and by gets into selfish hands, as it is always bound to do, it means death to human liberty and paralysis to human thought.

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