Saying No and Meaning It!

I never thought I had a problem saying no until I had kids. Along the way, I realized that my kids were born to not take no for an answer. It looked familiar . . . did they get that one from me? Nah!! It must have been a long lost relative or something.

One could argue that not taking no for an answer is a good thing.  It may even be one of the keys to success. Yet, knowing when to take no for an answer is also a sign of wisdom and respect. Perseverance and stubbornness are two sides of the same coin. One is good, the other foolish!

I was venting to a friend one day when she turned and asked me: “Is there anything in the way you say no that makes it feel like maybe?”

It was as if a lightning bolt had hit. My friend was right. No matter what, I went soft inside after I said no. Not only that, but when I sat down to reflect, I realized that I felt like this most of my life. Plagued by self-doubt, I would first say no, only to doubt myself later. Wow!

Once I realized how I was part of the problem, I had a decision to make. I decided to go back to basics. I needed to become very clear as to what was important to me, what boundaries were not negotiable and how I could communicate all that to the people around me.

Like everything, it’s been a journey and I’m still traveling. This is what I’ve learned along the way.

  • Saying no is an act of self-care and self-respect. Every time we say yes when we meant to say no, something inside us snaps. We lose a little bit of our self-respect. After a while, we become uncertain and weak.
  • Ignoring our instincts and the way we feel can result to confusion and mixed messages. When we act against our highest good, we know it. There is a feeling of being let down, a sinking of the heart, a small voice whispering . . . “did you have to do this?” ” what about me?”
  • Becoming clear about our wants, needs and boundaries, allows us to say no before things get out of hand. When we consistently give in to other people’s demands and requests and ignore our personal needs and wants, we begin to feel resentful and angry. Eventually, we begin to blame others for taking us for granted and we may even lash out.
  • Being clear on the above, allows us to say no gracefully – it becomes a simple answer instead of a emotionally charged response or an attack on another person. Ultimately, people may not like that we said no but they will respect our clarity and conviction. Those who can’t respect and accept us for who we are, will leave and that’s a good thing.
  • Becoming aware of the ways we sabotage ourselves, is good strategy and plain common sense. Habits die hard and they fight back. You may find yourselves going weak at the knees and coming up with a thousand excuses as to why you may be too harsh and inflexible.
  • Like everything in life, we become better with practice. So, practice away!

Photo by Andy T on Unsplash

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