"No problem" or "Sure, I can do that" are very common phrases among ADHDers when asked for a favor, whether it's looking over a presentation, sitting a cat or serving on a committee. It can be difficult to think things through before giving an answer especially if it is an exciting project. We also want to be nice and helpful or just don't know how to say No in general.

It's nice to be nice and people appreciate that they can count on us whenever they need help. But even if it seems like a positive trait, research shows that agreeing to more requests than we can handle has a negative impact as well.

  • It affects our health and causes anxiety, anger, stress, regret, and feelings of powerlessness if you're overcommited, overworked, and overwhelmed
  • It often leads to having financial problems as a result of inviting others frequently, lending money and forgetting to claim it back, not negotiating enough.
  • It costs time to take on extra tasks at work frequently or lend a hand to friends more often than our schedule allows. Especially at work this behaviour can lead to burn out and also being taken less seriously by colleagues and superiors. Because being nice can also be interpreted as being weak.

So, why do we say Yes then? To avoid conflicts? To make up for some negative impacts of ADHD at work? To avoid appearing selfish, uncaring or lazy? Probably one of those. Especially women often struggle with communicating their actual standpoint. From an early age, girls are raised to please others, act empathetically and bow to societal pressure.

If this sounds familiar, it's time to set boundaries and protect yourself without feeling guilty or damaging relationships. No need to be afraid that others will be upset if you turn them down. Instead, it will be perceived as a sign of strength if you communicate your negative answer in a way that is appreciative, polite, respectful, and clear.

Susan Newman, social psychologist and author of "The Book of No" suggests a multi-step process:

  • Evaluate what's in it for yourself and what's in it for the person who requested the favor? Does it further your own goals? Is the other person just pushing over work for their own convenience?
  • Take your time to reflect on what you were asked and give the answer when you have thought it through. Saying yes or no is always better than not answering at all.
  • Keep it simple and short, as long excuses will only encourage the other one to try and convince you. Express your thanks for the offer, and say you have other priorities or commitments.
  • Offer alternatives like a different deadline. Referring to someone else can also be a good option

Here are some examples of what you could say next time:

"Thanks so much for thinking of me but I can't join tonight. It's important to me to spend time with my family in the evenings.""This sounds like an exciting project. Unfortunately, I have another project that week which needs my full attention.""I'm honored by your trust in me. Nevertheless, I don't feel comfortable doing this and I'm sure you can find somebody else who can do this for you."
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