Sheepishly I snuck into the freezer to grab some left-over Halloween candy. Was I unable or unwilling to tell myself,”No”? Or did I really want to say, “Yes, you deserve a sweet little treat?” Using wisely those two simple words is key to our futures. Yes, No, and the mediating term, It depends, are resiliency building tools that allow us to responsibly make choices.
Wanda struggled to say No. She told me, “Too often I feel helpless and powerless. When people ask me for a favor I say Yes when I don’t want to. Sometimes I end up resenting my friends. My teen kids walk all over me. I say No and then they nag, wear me down, and I give in. Sometimes I end up feeling frustrated. Then I say things I feel ashamed of. I even yelled ‘Shut up!’ to my daughter! How do I start to take control of my life?”
Wanda is not alone. Many women struggle to say no when they want to say yes. Let me explain. We were sold a bill of goods that it wasn’t nice to say No. The result of such behavior is ending up resenting those to whom we say Yes. We often and eventually make ourselves sick or blow up at others.
Oprah Winfrey talks about The Disease to Please. Most of us as children learned the habit of pleasing grown ups in order to receive needed attention and love. We worked to make the adults feel happy so they would say or do something to make us happy.
We work to make them feel appreciative so they will say or do something to make us feel appreciated. We work to make them feel proud so they will say or do something to make us feel proud.
Disease to Please and External Locus of Control
The above paragraph describes a lot of them making us. This unconscious habit is called external locus of control. It means that our care and satisfaction is dependent on people and circumstances outside of ourselves. As children we are dependent on our caregivers. But at some point we benefit by declaring our adulthood, making decisions that reflect our matured values, and sticking with those decisions.
In some ways one of the jobs of becoming an adult is to act as our own caregiver, to be our own loving and guiding parent. Begin to have an internal dialogue that is lovingly supportive and yet, self controlling.
Value your Yes and No
Begin by telling yourself, “I value my time. I will decide if and when I will give it away.”
Acknowledge when you feel proud of yourself. Of course it’s wonderful to receive care, appreciation and encouragement from others. The problem is when we need it, especially from own children, we make ourselves unnecessarily vulnerable and create an inappropriate relationship with them. Caregivers need to give their children guidance, support, encouragement and love. It becomes a problem if we need those same attentions from a child! Choose to absolutely live your own truth and nurture your own self-respect.
Learn to say Yes and No to reflect who you are. You will earn your own respect and that of others. In the end true friends want you to give out of overflow and your children want a parent who lives in her truth, demonstrates personal power, and knows a personal sense of worth. That way everyone benefits.
Yes allows us to:
- Take risks and expand into new territories of thinking, places and doing. “Yes, I can.”
- Support others in acting with courage to try something new, from starting a career to leaving an unhealthy relationship. “You deserve this. Please say Yes to it.”
- Build a sense of spacious living and appreciation of simply being alive. “Yes, Yes and Yes!!!”
No allows us to:
- Create boundaries to stay in integrity with our principles and values. “No, I will not.”
- Care for ourselves, protecting our time, effort and values. “No, that is not good for me.”
- Care for others, especially when we are in a position of authority. “No, that is not ok for you to do.”
- Build self-discipline such as when we tell ourselves. “No, you’ve had enough sugar (alcohol, gambling . . . ).”
- Attain our goals. “No, I don’t have time to chat. I have a crucial deadline.”
Ten Tips for Saying No
“No is the world’s most powerful stress management word.”
- Ensure that you give no, yes and it depends consideration.
- Give yourself time to consider the request by saying, “I’d like to think about it.”
- Repeat the request before saying, “Thank you for asking but no.”
- Offer an alternative with, “No, but what I will do is . . .”
- Suggest that someone else is better suited for the task.
- When appropriate, explain why you are saying no. “I’m saying no because . . .”
- State the conditions that will help you meet a request. “After I finish this assignment I will do it.”
- Explain what is not good for your group, team or company. “The most effective use of my time is . . .”
- Show you care. “I hear you are in a bind and I wish I could do more but . . .”
- Ensure you say no in an appropriate manner and not in violation of company policies or procedures.
A Side Note About No
Saying No has some challenges. The brain is hard wired to receive No as a punishing comment. Just watch most two-year-olds who typically attempt rejecting firm No’s. Even for adults, it continues to be experienced as a minor rejection. In the article, ‘The Power of No’, Psychology Today, December 2013, is this explanation:
The brain reacts pleasantly to positive stimuli but wildly painfully to negative stimuli. No matter how you gift wrap it, No is a negative event. . . One hurt lingers longer than one compliment.
This ensuing hurt can create relationship conflict. Sometimes it can feel like a verbal conflict with sales personnel who do not accept No for an answer. Did you know they are trained to get three or more Yes’s out of you so the next defining response will be the Yes-sale? In all fairness there is a new generation of sales personnel who listen well to discern your needs so that they can clearly say, “Yes, I can help you” or “No, I cannot provide that and I suggest you go down the road.”
The middle ground of the Yes and No dance is, It depends. It depends allows us to qualify our No, depersonalize it, and make giving and receiving easier. Example: “It depends on whether I have other commitments.”
Notice and explore your use of Yes, No, and It depends. Just know, you are not alone if you struggle to say a hesitant It depends, an enthusiastic Yes or a firm No.
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Patricia Morgan MA CCC helps her readers, clients, and audiences lighten their load, brighten their outlook, and strengthen their resilience. To go from woe to WOW call 403.242.7796 or email a request.