The importance of saying No

Before You Say YesI always was such a Yes Woman. Yes to my parents. Yes to my lovers. Yes to my children. Yes to my bosses.

And I was MISERABLE!

And guess what? So was everyone else around me. Because my yes-es did not come with conviction and commitment. Oh, I did whatever they asked, but never well. I was too full of resentment, and that always shines through in the end result.

And don’t you find it intriguing that once we learn to speak up for ourselves, we are referred to as cranky and hormonal?

We are our own worst enemies too. Take the expression Release your inner bitch. We say that to each other!

“Really, Jane, you need to learn to release your inner bitch.”

Which suggests that in order to take a stand we have to be nasty and cruel.

I use the expression Release your inner You.

Because that’s what saying No really boils down to. Knowing what is right for you, and saying Yes or No based on that.

Why do we naturally say yes?

At the primal level, we are hard-wired to say yes. Yes, I will respond to the crying baby. Yes, I will keep the hearth fire burning. Yes, I will tend to the sick and the elderly.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

IF the crying baby is yours, not your grand-child handed off to you for the millionth time.

IF cooking is a task you truly don’t mind doing day in day out.

IF the elder care is shared across the siblings.

Won’t bad things happen if I say no?

Well, you might get a very cranky response to your no. This is because the person doing the asking has a need that you are unwilling to fulfill.

And, if the basis of your relationship is always meeting the needs of a person, you may actually lose this person from you life.

But are these truly bad things?

You are not responsible for how another person responds to your no. Reasonable people don’t ask with the preconceived notion that you will say yes. They are asking in case you say yes. And if you say no, they’ll ask someone else. No hard feelings.

And the person that just keeps piling demands on you? Well, it’s pretty one-sided, eh?

How do I say no?

By taking the time to figure out if doing what is asked is right for you. Ask yourself the following:

  • Does it match my values?
  • Do I have the time?
  • Is it a priority right now, or can it wait?

And I simplify it even further to:

  • Will this make me happy?

Isn’t that very selfish?

Seems selfish to base a decision on whether it will make you happy or not. But it’s really not.

Teenager: Mom, can you buy me these designer running shoes?

Happy Mom’s thoughts. No, because my child will never learn to work for those extras in life, and develop a strong work ethic.

Boss: Will you take on this extra project.

Happy Worker’s thoughts: No, because my workload is full, and to take on more would result in poor quality work.

Brother: Will you take Mom to the doctor’s appointment.

Happy Sister’s thoughts: No, because I am already exhausted, and I won’t be able to ask the right questions and ensure the right care for Mom.

So, you see? By saying no, you are actually improving other people’s lives.

They may not see that, but if you were to say yes, they’d sure see the negative impact.

How do I say no?

  1. Do not answer right away! You need time to think about it. That may only take a minute, but it might take a day or so. It’s okay to tell people you will get back to them.
  2. Check and double check with yourself that saying yes is truly right for you.
  3. Do not apologize. There is nothing to be sorry about. If you have done the first two steps, then saying no is the right thing for everyone involved.
  4. Hold your ground. Unreasonable people will try to push and cajole you into a yes. Firmly and politely stick to your no. Do not give excuses. Although, you  can give the facts on why saying no is the right thing to do.

It takes practice saying no. I still find myself wanting to say yes right away. My trick is to actually count to 10 before responding in order to create a deliberate pause.

And every once in awhile, I still slip up and say yes, when I really should have said no. But it’s so rare, I do not beat myself up about it.

And the results? Everyone is happy. Not just me. Everyone knows that when I say no, I have a good reason. And when I say yes, they are getting my full commitment.

Gracefully yours,

~ Eliza

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