Why Saying "No" Is Good For The Soul
There was a time when I found myself saying “yes” to things, only to regret it minutes later. Whether personally or professionally, I did not want people to think of me in a negative way. Doing this consistently made me feel as if I was putting myself on the back burner, in order to please everyone else. It was also exhausting.
In the book, The Power of a Positive No: Save the Deal, Save the Relationship – and Still Say No, author William Ury says that the dilemma we face in saying “no” stems from an internal struggle between plugging into our own sense of power and a simultaneous desire to cater to, or foster, a relationship.
In other words, our fear of what we might lose tends to win over our own needs. We find ourselves doing one of three things in response to a request:
1. Accommodate. We say yes when we really want to say no. This brings us a temporary, false sense of peace, only later to be replaced with resentment. We defer to the relationship with no regard for our power and ironically end up undermining the relationship in the long run.
2. Attack. We often do this with those we love the most, the ones we take for granted. We say “no” aggressively, stepping strongly into our power, but with no regard or attention to the connection with the other person.
3. Avoid. We don’t prioritize our personal power OR the relationship; in other words, everybody loses. We dishonor ourselves and amp up our own discomfort by leaving something unresolved and disrespect the other person by not providing them with an answer.
Sounds crazy, right? If you're like me, you may think that surely you don't do these things. Well, you are. It’s actually a two-way communication process. We need to honor ourselves but also let others know where we stand. It’s important that you learn how to say no so you feel empowered while still maintaining relationships with others. Saying no helps establish healthy boundaries and lets others know what to expect from you.
A helpful strategy that can enable you to say no with greater ease is to gain clarity around the kinds of things to which you want to say yes. Make a list of your top three priorities (and understand that they may change). Post these priorities where you will see them all the time: your bathroom mirror, your nightstand, your laptop, your car’s dashboard.
When someone asks something of you, check to see if it will serve any of the things you stated you wanted to put your time and energy toward. If the answer is yes, feel free to go for it. If it is not in line with your objectives, say no. Period.
Be clear, confident, consistent, and concise. As my mother used to say, people aren’t mind readers. They will never know how you feel, unless you say so. It’s not necessary to offer a lot of information to explain your reasoning either.
You can always say something about the kinds of things you are willing to do, or the time frame in which you might be in a better position to say yes. This lets others know you are acknowledging their request, and shows respect for the person who asked. Communicating to others that they’ve been heard can go a long way toward strengthening a relationship, even when you say no.
"No" is a complete sentence. And you can say it in such a way that everyone understands what’s going on and why. Think of it as part of your self-care routine. If we really mean no, it’s a great thing to be able to have the skills to express that. Practicing strategies to help support us in saying no can shift our relationships to become more honest, authentic, and free of resentment.