Learn to say “NO”

Maybe you have a problem with conflict and so instead of saying “no”, you let all kinds of people push you into doing all kinds of things you don’t want to do.  Maybe you are used to being a people pleaser for everyone except yourself.  What will happen if you start saying “no” to things you really don’t want to do – will you lose all your friends?  The people who are really your friends will still be there and maybe you’ll lose some of the excess people who don’t really want anything  except control. (A)

OK, I admit it – I have trouble saying “no” to people. In fact, you could say I have a history of being an enabler – something which I am working diligently on changing.  I don’t like conflict and I hate hurting people’s feelings, but this has led to me into all kinds of complicated and sometimes compromising positions.  It has allowed someone to persist in behaviors that I find annoying or ones that are flat out harmful to me in the context of being a “friend”.  Being known as a “nice” person has its drawbacks when you find yourself playing the role of a “nice” doormat for people to wipe their feet on.

Now before my current friends who are reading this assume that I am talking about them – I would like to state that I have been working on this for quite some time and I am acres away from where I used to be when I was much younger.  I still do need to work on saying “no” occasionally, but I am much more comfortable and confident in saying it now when the need arises.  I have realized that while it may be somewhat uncomfortable at first, it saves much time and heartache in the long run.  I wouldn’t want someone to tell me yes and then resent me for it, so to follow the Golden Rule, I MUST say NO to things I really don’t want to do.  (Providing of course that it is not refusing to help someone who is in dire need or that I am not just being lazy.)

For example,  let’s look at dating. Someone asks me out whom I’m not very attracted to.  They are persistant, I am not dating anyone else, so I say yes. Of course, reasonably so, they think I must like them too, otherwise, why would I say yes? Then it’s just a matter of time until I have the guts to break up with them and hurt their feelings even more than if I would have persisted in my denial.  “It’s not you, it’s me” may be certainly true -but why would I do that in the first place?  Or I allow someone to cajole or pressure me into buying something I don’t want, going somewhere I don’t want to go, agreeing to obligations that I don’t have time for….the list goes on.  NO!  My life is mine and the happier I am in it, the more quality time and energy I will have to cheerfully help those who need it or enjoy the things I do agree to. The more I am able to say no to unreasonable requests and offer alternatives, the more it will help my fellow man to grow by helping her/ him recongize what is and isn’t a reasonable request.  I would want someone to tell me if I was being unreasonable! (Am I?) :-)

This is a matter for careful judgement – I do want to give everyone a chance and I think that in general we gain more from saying “yes” than “no”, it’s just that when it starts to cause you more harm than gain, it is time to examine the reasoning behind your acquiescence. As I have gained more confidence in myself, I feel more comfortable saying no and not being cowed or intimidated by someone’s frustration when they do not get what they want.  I think the balance is to seek win-win situations.  Can I say “Not right now, but later”? Or do I just need to put my foot down altogether?  For those who sometimes have trouble deciding, like me, I would highly suggest you take a look at a book I have found very helpful: Boundaries: When to Say Yes, When to Say No – To Take Control of Your Life by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

It’s ok to say “No” to the wrong things today so you have the time, energy and resources to say “Yes” to the right things tomorrow!

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