Alright this might sound kind of landmark-ish, but research has shown that there is a “right” way to say NO.
To summarize the article for you, researchers did some experiments (yay science!), and discovered that people who say “no” with the phrasing “I don’t” are more likely to stick to their decision compared to people who use the language “I can’t”.
For instance when telling yourself no to a sweet treat, saying “I don’t eat junk food” versus “I can’t have a candy bar” . Or in saying no to bailing on a run, using the sentence “I don’t miss workouts” versus “I can’t miss a workout”. Those who said “I don’t” were more likely to make the healthy food choice or stick to a workout plan.
As subtle as that may seem , saying “I can’t” creates a negative feedback loop in your brain reminding you of your limitations and basically forcing yourself to do (or not do) something. I completely agree with this sentiment because I KNOW if my brain says “I can’t, or basically I’m not allowed, to eat that piece of cake”, I’m going to immediately rebel and say “F*@#% you brain! I’m going to eat that damn cake!”. While if I say “I don’t eat cake, I eat delicious mangoes for dessert”, it is an empowering feedback loop in my head because it is a choice that I have made and I am in control.
BASICALLY when saying “no” to a temptation or bad habit, “I can’t” is a restriction, “I don’t” is a choice.
So instead of denying yourself something with a lame-ass restriction from “I can’t” that you know you are going to go back on a second later, use your words to make you feel empowered. [Bam! Who needs Landmark when you got Grown-Up Party!]
And as a bonus, check out the 5 most persuasive words in the English language. The power of words!
[PS. For the record, I strongly believe the “won’t vs. can’t” method will help on the health front, but I have my doubts of how effective this method will be when saying NO to commitments of TIME. I’ve scoured the internet for science experiments specifically to help on that front as I’m pretty sure not over-commiting my time is what I am the worst at, but so far I haven’t found any science to help me out. If you got any studies in your back pocket, please let me know!]