“No” is an important and powerful word. Its primary uses are for protection and self-care. Adults are quick to use it to protect a child, but many people don’t know how to use it to protect themselves and their relationships.
Many people are taught that they must say “Yes” and that “No” is not an acceptable answer to anything. They do not learn the essential skills of knowing when and how to say “no.
Think about this scenario for a moment: A young woman and I were talking, and she said “I say yes (to things) because I feel like an asshole if I say no. Then I go and do it, and I don’t want to be there. I think about the things I want to be doing instead. Then I feel like a bad friend because I am having these negative thoughts and feelings.”
By saying yes when she wanted to say no, she gives her Harsh Inner Critic an opportunity to criticize her. The situation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when her unhappiness shows in her behavior and she judges herself as being an asshole or a bad friend.
When you allow yourself to say “No,” you have an opportunity to grow. You can feel strong, and proud of the way you are taking care of yourself. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to determine whether the right answer in your situation, is “no”:
1.”How am I feeling?” A good way to determine whether to say yes or no is how you feel when you are asked. Do you feel happy and excited, or stressed and angry?
2.”Am I saying yes because I feel obligated, guilty, afraid?”
3.”What will I be sacrificing to say yes?” Do I have the time available to do what is being asked of me?
4.What will I have to give up that I want to do? Would saying yes cause me to feel deprived?
5.”What are the consequences of saying no?”
6.”If I say yes, will I end up creating distance in the relationship?” When you are feeling grumpy or angry, not only will you distance yourself, the other person will feel your unexpressed emotions and will also withdraw, perhaps without realizing it. For example: “The other night my sister and I were going to go out and have fun. I told my boyfriend and he wanted me to join him and his friends. I felt caught between two people I love. When I told my sister she got mad. I ended up staying home because I felt so bad and mad. I couldn’t please anyone, not even myself.”
7.Is there a way to say yes and feel good about it? Would it be possible to limit the time spend fulfilling the request?
As you think through these questions, the answers that are best for you often become clear. Also, you can try writing the answers down and discussing them with a close friend for added clarity. If not, make the best choice you can and be gentle with yourself as you grow.
Next week, we will talk about different ways to say “no.”