say no

Imagine hearing these questions from people in your life:

  • “Can you pick up the kids at school today?”
  • “Can I borrow the car?”
  • “Can you serve on this committee?”
  • “Can you help me move on Saturday?”

Do you notice any resistance coming up in your body? Does your cynical sidekick in because you’ve heard some of them all too often? Do you automatically feel guilty just hearing the questions because you immediately want to say “No” without hesitation but feel like you’re supposed to want to say “Yes!”?

Where Does All This Trouble and Stress With the Word “No” Come From?

When you were a child, were you ever in a situation where you really, really wanted something, and the answer you got was “No” – but you kept pushing anyway, hoping your persuasive powers would move the parental decision mountain and get you what you wanted? And did the conversation ever end in your parent saying, “I said NO, and NO means NO!”?

Those two little letters, taken together, sure packed a wallop, didn’t they? And they play a pretty significant role in our process of learning what’s possible and what isn’t in our lives – including what we have control over…and what we don’t.

Isn’t it interesting, then, how we never questioned our parents’ inalienable right to say “no,” yet we so often feel that we don’t have that same right in our lives?

It’s a word that many people have said “no” to with only anger, guilt, or resentment. What makes this one word so hard to say? And why is it too hard for us when we hold our ground and tell them no? Many of us feel guilty about saying ‘No’ – even though parents never had any issue telling their children NO! Why do they get away with being able to refuse while we can’t see tom find the same courage in ourselves?”

Saying this one seemingly simple word carries a ton of emotional energy for most of us because of the meaning that we attach to it. The act of taking a clear stance that doesn’t immediately give the other person everything they want makes us uncomfortable because it feels like we’re:

  • being selfish or self-centered
  • being stingy
  • being mean or unreasonable
  • rejecting them
  • opposing them
  • hurting them
  • fighting with them
  • ignoring their needs
  • interfering with their happiness

We have a set of hard and fast rules in our heads, learned from parents, teachers, and others, that says we’re “supposed to be” agreeable, cooperative, self-sacrificingly generous, always inclusive, kind, philanthropic…you name it, the list goes on and on!

It’s probably not a coincidence that you’re riddled with guilt every time you say “no” to anyone. That feeling might stop some people, but in reality, it should be the opposite; after all, no one will ever tell me what I’m saying is wrong!

The phrase “No” can have many meanings for different people and how they use it throughout their lives. For most of us, though, we know exactly why we don’t want to hear those two words come out of our mouth – because there are so few chances as an adult where someone says yes without question or hesitation. Identifying the particular words that come into your head is extremely helpful in starting to understand the meanings you are attaching to saying “no” and in the beginning to understand not just where those meanings came from, but how to start replacing them with new, more self-empowering meanings.

According to TechQuila Computer news, saying “no” really means is that you’re setting a limit – that’s it! You’re verbally communicating that, at that moment and in that situation, you are choosing to limit what you’re willing to invest. It doesn’t even go into the “why” of your choice, so how could anyone possibly judge your motives with any accuracy? It doesn’t brand you forever as being a bad person, and it doesn’t mean you might not make another choice on another day.

Usually, the “why” is because it makes us feel safe, manages our personal resources (time, energy, emotions, etc.) so we don’t get depleted, or reflects a value that we hold as important.

So, give yourself a pat on the back the next time you say “No” – acknowledge yourself for honoring your right to set limits that take care of YOU. Allow others to have whatever reaction they have, knowing that they are operating from their own set of rules and meanings, not from a perspective of what is the best care for you.

Say “No” with pride! And know that you just might say “Yes” the next time!