We’ve all been faced with the inability to say “no,” even when we know we should, where we find ourselves trapped in situations wondering how on earth we’ve gotten ourselves into them in the first place.
So, how do we learn to be authentic with our “yes” and “no” responses without compromising our integrity and alienating others?
If we say yes when we should say no, we’re most likely undermining ourselves.
The subliminal message to ourselves is that others are more important than we are, and that their needs trump ours. No one should be more important to us than ourselves. The relationship we have with ourselves is the most important one we’ll ever have while on this earth, and it might as well be a good one.
Let’s say Tracey, your best friend, wants you to babysit her two toddlers. You get on well with them, and you know that they’re not difficult kids, but you had planned to spend an evening at home with a book and a glass of wine for some much needed R&R. Also, you’re capable of helping her, however when she asks, there is an internal uneasiness, a hesitation of sorts. There is part of you that is saying “no.” You know that it is important for you to make time for yourself, but you also value Tracey’s friendship.
What do you do? Listen to your internal voice.
We all have that internal voice that we should listen to when we need to decide yes or no. Often, we ignore it, and instead give a response that we feel is expected of us. If we listen to and reflect on our internal uneasiness, the answer will be clear. Saying yes just to please others or because it is the expected thing to do is absolutely not a good enough reason to do so. It doesn’t matter whether we have the capacity to help. If it feels like an internal “no,” it should be communicated externally as a “no” too.
If we take time to reflect on situations when we heard an inner “no” but said yes regardless, it’s clear that sometimes it will be a loud no, and sometimes just an uneasiness. Either way, it is there to be listened to.
Similarly, if there is a clear feeling of having to say “yes” to Tracey, then we should totally say yes. Giving a no answer when it feels we should say yes also undermines us; we are still not listening to our internal voice. We all need a favor from our friends from time to time, and most of us enjoy giving as much as receiving.
Our internal yes should be clear, it should be easy, and it should feel right. It has to feel like a complete and total yes. If there is any doubt, this should indicate to us that we would need some time to think about it, and we should then respond accordingly. There is nothing wrong with saying: “Can I get back to you on that Tracey, I just need to look at a few things in my diary.”
Being authentic in our yes or no responses mean we are truthful, honest, real and respectful of our own needs. Authentic yes and no responses show we are adhering to what author Don Miguel Ruiz calls being “impeccable with our word,” as set out in The Four Agreements. Being impeccable with our word is saying how we feel, but with kindness and love. He suggests that our words should not cause pain or destruction. Saying no when it is an internal no is empowering. It is you being true to yourself. It is you doing what’s right for you, and putting yourself first.
Saying an impeccable “no” does not require us to make up all sorts of excuses as to why we’re saying no. It is not necessary to create a fictional cold, a mean boss or an ailing granny as any of our reasons for saying no. A simple “No, I’m sorry but I can’t” is sufficient. Lying about it means that we will have to continue to lie about it, if and when the occasion arises.
There is also no need to explain that we’re trying to empower ourselves by listening to our internal voice. That is nobody’s business but ours. A simple uncomplicated answer is all that is needed.
If we say yes all the time, we allow ourselves to be taken for granted. If we say no sometimes, our yes will be more appreciated!
I hope this helps to say no when you mean no. It has really helped me in my quest to have an authentic relationship with myself, and with my world.
Author: Lorenzo Stride
Editor: Catherine Monkman