At two years old we could easily say no. What happened?
Many of us became ingrained with pleasing others. Get along, go along, help and serve. Can you relate?
As adults this translates into many ‘yeses’ that are really ‘no’s’ in our insides. ‘Yes’ to social gatherings we don’t wish to attend, volunteer committees we don’t wish to serve on, or unpaid overtime at work–what is it for you?
In her TEDx talk Sarri Gilman, MA, MFT, a psychotherapist and author of Transform Your Boundaries suggests learning to say no is fundamental to having a healthy relationship with yourself and others. Saying yes to too many things can lead to feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, and even burned out. Gilman recommends tuning into our “inner-compass,” or intuition, by becoming quiet and listening for what the right decision is before committing to anything. Understand that others may get upset when you say no. People we want to surround ourselves with will respect those boundaries, even if they initially feel upset or disappointed. (Rollin LCSW-C, MSW Psychology Today, June 3, 2016).
As a recovering people pleaser, learning to say ‘no’ has been no small feat. There are still times I slip and say ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’ when I mean ‘no’ which costs me a lot in energy and time. Recently a friend invited me to an all afternoon, free health event with a noted presenter.
It triggered my two people pleaser buttons.
An over concern about people’s reactions (I didn’t want to disappoint my friend).
Some part of me never wants to miss an event/activity...it'called 'FOMO' (fear of missing out) and yes, it is a real thing!
For me, the free, notable presenter in town from the east coast, on a health topic which sounded interesting, brought me to, “I can’t miss this". This led to a lot of time spent discussing the event and possibilities etc.
Finally I told my friend I’d text her in the morning. When I checked in with myself a clear ‘no’ arose. I had a personal healing session scheduled in another part of town that morning. I needed a walk on the beach by myself afterward. I texted my friend with, “No thank you.” By doing so I connected to a big ‘yes’ for me.
You can spend your precious energy on what brings you joy rather than on what drains you or on what you don’t have space for. When your life moves like a bullet train the tendency is to make impulsive choices. You may react from how you think you are supposed to be rather than from what is true for you. When you notice how you feel, you can connect your head to your heart and make wiser choices.
Something I do (most of the time) which works well is to ask myself:
Will this give me energy or take it?
I listen to my body because it tells the truth. If my stomach goes into a knot or my chest feels tight, I trust this, for it means a resounding ‘no’ from the inside. If I ignore my inner-voice, I may fall into the “disease to please” and that sickness only hurts me. If I say ‘yes’ when I mean ‘no’ then I’m lying to myself and others. There is no virtue in that for myself or anyone else.
How do we become two years old curious with the finesse of saying ‘no’ when we mean ‘no’?
The following are recommendations from my experiences with coaching clients:
Give yourself at least 24 hours to get back to someone. For example, “I’ll check my calendar and get back to you tomorrow.” “I’ll reflect on this and ….
”Say ‘no’ as the first word of the sentence. It is easier to honor this commitment if it is the first word out of your mouth.
Say ‘no’ with confidence. Look into the other’s eyes. Use a direct, firm voice. End with an acknowledgement. For example, “No, I won’t be able to serve on this committee. I appreciate your thinking of me.”
Avoid sharing long winded excuses. One suggestion, “I have another commitment already. Thank You.”
Realize that saying ‘yes’ when you mean ‘no’ causes resentment. This takes your energy and creates discomfort. You are protecting your energy and likely your health by saying ‘no’.
If ‘no’ is your honest response, it is honorable to tell the truth. Others will choose to think whatever they will. You have no control over that. You do have control over making the choices that will serve your life and bring you success.
Finally, if you are severely ‘no’ challenged I offer the following homework:
Keep a list for a day/week/month of what you are saying ‘no’ to for every ‘yes’ you speak.
Say ‘no’ one time a day for a week or even 2 weeks (or 1 x a week, to begin).
Journal and/or reflect on: Am I being nice or am I being real? What is the cost of saying yes?
Saying ‘no’ when you mean ‘no’ can challenge what you’ve been brought up with.
When you eliminate what drains you, you’ll make space for what is really important.
When you say ‘no’ to what takes your energy and time, you are saying ‘yes’ to your bigger agenda - your precious, more successful LIFE.
Suzan Tusson-McNeil, PCEAF, CPCC, CHWC, Expressive Arts Coach and Facilitator, with WisdomQuest Coaching, helps women over 40 to move powerfully through transitions, rediscover their natural creativity, and learn to play again. Her Body Wisdom programs help women heal as they learn to listen to their bodies. Suzan is also certified as a Life and Wellness Coach and has been successfully guiding women to their purpose and joy, individually and in group programs, for more than 15 years. For more information you may check out her website here: www.SuzanTussonMcNeil.com