(Photo courtesy of Gail Williams )
No. What a word. I don’t think there is another word that is so short but evokes so much emotion from us.
So why is it that we have such a hard time saying it? Sure we are capable of saying it about everyday things, but I am talking about saying it when we really don’t want to do something. It is a word that so many of us have paired in our minds with that less than wonderful emotion called guilt. It is such a powerful word and one so hard to say that it was even made into an anti drug campaign slogan-JUST SAY NO!
There are others though who actually can say no without a problem. I am referring now to those people who say no when we ask something of them, not the brave people who say no to peer pressure related issues. How many of those no-sayers (yes I know the word is nay sayers but I like no sayers better) do we label as selfish and egocentric?
It is not just saying no that is hard. We also have a hard time hearing no being said to us. Why is that? Well that’s easy. Because we want what we want and what we want is usually the most important thing to us.
So why am I writing about learning to say no? Because every once in a while, I forget to listen to the great advice I give others. I have taught quite a few people how to say no in a pleasant way (more on that later), but sometimes I just don’t take my own advice. (That’s a lesson for another day-how no one is perfect.)
About a week ago I was put into a situation where I was pressured into saying yes when my head and heart and body were shouting no.
I work part time because I have 5 kids and a husband who travels. I have chosen the part time route for its flexibility even though the pay is less than rewarding. Because I am Sabbath observant, I have a lot of preparation towards the end of the week for the Sabbath. For those who are reading this and are not Jewish, think about doing a Christmas meal or a Thanksgiving meal and then imagine doing that for two meals give or take every week. So I have shopping, cooking, cleaning and ironing that usually gets done between Wednesday and Friday afternoon.
Which is precisely why I have told my boss numerous times that it is really tough for me to work on both Thursday and Friday. On Tuesday I got a call from my boss saying that we are short staffed for Thursday morning and could I add on Thursday morning even though I am also working Friday.
Good old guilt starting kicking in, because I had unlike myself called in sick twice this past month. Once when I was really sick and once when my kids were sick and my husband was away on business. Of course my boss did her best to point that out as well. She was stressed because she needed to be able to cover the shift and there was no way she wanted to hear a no. You know kind of like the hold a pit bull has on you when he is attacking.
So I caved and did something that I really did not want to do. I added on an extra work day. I put a lot of extra not needed stress on myself. All because I couldn’t say no. All because I let my guilt kick in.
Remembering how you feel when you get pushed into saying no does have its positives. It reminds you of how to act when you get an answer of no from somebody else. Just today I asked a favor from someone, one I knew would be a long shot that she would actually be able to help me with. Still I hoped for a positive answer. Because I had recently experienced how bad it felt to be pushed into a yes when you want to say no, I was really okay with the answer of no that I received.
So how do we learn to say no?
My rule goes like this: Unless it is an emergency situation, an extremely good friend who would really blindly do the same for you or you really feel joyous and capable of saying yes, DO NOT give an answer right away. When I say capable of saying yes, I mean that you don’t have more than you can handle on your plate at that moment.
What you do is you tell the person making the request of you that you need to think about it or you need to check your calendar and you will get back to them. That will give you time to think through whether this is really something you want to do or can commit to doing without throwing you and your own life out of balance.
Asking for time to think about whether or not to say yes is not something that comes naturally. We have to run through possible scenarios in our minds before they happen and practice our response. Again, what we all need to remember is that unless it is an emergency, unless you have the time and energy to commit to it and you feel truly joyful about it, DO NOT give an immediate answer.
Next you need to examine how the request makes you feel. Does it make you feel uptight, stressed, uneasy or happy? Generally our body right away tells us what our answer should be if we listen well enough. When someone asks you to do something you are uncomfortable doing, you feel the knots in your stomach, or that sinking feeling in your heart wondering how you are ever going to get it done. Listen to yourself and be true to yourself.
When you have made the best decision for yourself, call the person back and tell them you are really not going to be able to help them this time. Don’t start with the apologies or explanations. It is your right to say no and you don’t need to give a detailed account of why. Your good friends won’t hold it against you. Those who would hold it against you, you are probably better off without them anyways.
It’s not easy, but practice makes perfect and it gets easier to do as you get more used to the fact that it is okay to say no.
And what about saying no non-stop to your three year old who seems to think that the only things worth eating are foods from the junk food category? The same child who was fed only home made healthy food until she discovered junk at age one? I don’t know about you guys but by us after about the 50th no, somehow the chocolate finds its way into her hands. Hmmmmm-wonder who gave it to her? Maybe I need to take a course on not being worn down by crying and wailing…….