30 Oct 2012

The ‘No’ Word Is A Good Word

 

Saying ‘no’.. or being able to say ‘no’.

An interesting question don’t you think?


Saying ‘no is one of the hardest deals of all. I am not specifically targeting the bad ‘no’ in this conversation because it is hard to say ‘no’ to the more exciting but dangerous facets of life. That is more a question of self-control and knowing what is good and what is bad for us. I am thinking about the beneficial ‘no’, in some cases even life-saving, I am focusing on that part of our personalities that finds it impossible to turn down requests, to refuse favours and to simply say ‘no’ when everything becomes too much.


I am not a good example. I find it very difficult to say, ‘no’.


I always take on too much, agree to everything and then find myself laden with obligations and panic-stricken that I will let someone down. Do you know that feeling? We want to do it all, to be involved at every level, to make a difference and to share ideas; we stretch ourselves, commit our time and our energy and very often, without thinking it through. I am foolhardy and believe that 24 hours is a bottomless pit and that everything is possible.


Naive. Yes.

I suspect I am not alone here. I don’t mean disorganised because if there is one thing I am, it is organised. I mean that I don’t say ‘no’ when I should.  What happens? An already well-arranged life becomes too hectic and frenetic because a simple ‘no could not be delivered. I find it interesting that we can’t say ‘no’. I believe it is because most of us are generous, kind souls and that we would rather give of ourselves than not. Simplistic, but on the whole truth. We want to be positive and who wants to be the one to say, ‘no’ – we all live for the feel-good factor.


The more important questions are, when should we say, ‘no’ and how can we teach ourselves to say, ‘no’?


Yes, we need to accept that saying ‘no’ is ok and that ‘no’ does not equate with being a bad person. This is a really hard place to find and an even harder place to remain. Especially for women who are expected to be perfectionists at work, at home and at play. We, women, presume we can do it all… that is who we are… so saying, ‘no’ is generally not an option… We need to accept that all is not possible… that to do a great job we need to prioritise and that pleasing all others above ourselves can result in a poor result all around. How often do your great ideas… your fabulous plans… become mediocre because there is not enough time to concentrate on them all? We compromise… we say, ‘yes’… we make it all happen, but not in the way we really want to… because we take on too much… The pie is only so large and the slices only become smaller.


We should say, ‘no’ when and if we want, without guilt and repercussion.

I know, easier said than done and I am the biggest offender of all as already stated. I am working on this. I think the way forward is to know our prime concerns, to understand the most important issues in our lives and to focus on the people that are the most present. I hope that if we do this we can say, no’ to what is on the periphery… and it is this periphery that creates all the confusion and noise in our lives. We need to live by our timetable, not that of others. Our schedules are just that, ours and how often we push ourselves to fit into the commitments of others. It seems so obvious that we should run to our own time frame, but think on it. How often are you trying to work around another person’s schedule even when it is incompatible with your own? We do this because we don’t wish to disappoint and say, ‘no’. Simply we should say, ‘no’ when it removes us from our prime concerns, our objectives and when the timing will negatively impact on all that we have on our plates.


Teaching ourselves to say ‘no’ is a practical game and all games require practice.

Saying, ‘no’ requires confidence. Saying, ‘no’ requires a firm resolve but a gentle delivery. We need to know that we won’t be thought of badly for saying, ‘no. Our friends, our families our co-workers are understanding, we need to give them credit.



It is for us to learn that ‘no’ is a positive not a negative. xv

 

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72 Comments

Andie

This rings all too true!
My husband teases me with the line from the Pink Panther movie, “When you say no, don’t you really men yes?” For, Istart out saying no then, lo and behold! I amin the midst of doing the very job/favor that I said I would not do!

xo

Andie

Reply
Katherine

I think as women we are more inclined to say yes and accommodate the needs/wants of others. I’m not being sexist – it’s just that we are the ones to ‘DO’ for our partners and family.
I admit that there have been a few times over the recent year that I was dragged into something I should have said NO to. Maybe it’s because people know you are the go-to person and they take advantage of that. I gently backed away, expressed my regret but said NO.

It’s taken me many years but I’m learning to say YES to myself. So if you have trouble saying NO – decide to say YES to yourself.

Reply
Vicki

A great reversal technique Katherine.. The ‘no’ becomes ‘yes’… a good way of dealing with this..

Reply
francoise coadou-porter

so true catherine,
learn to say “yes” to ourself first
learn to get rid of guilt next
learn to prioritise tasks and demand
and the “no’ sorry with a smile will follow…
i did it!!! after a major breakdown, learnt the hard way…
good luck to all, let’s practise!…

Reply
Rena

I know how hard it is to say NO. It’s a life lasting self training and when you are not born as a NONO you start too late to practice it.
Just be a bit brave and when your first NO in a friendly but definite manner brought yourself to say it, it’s a relief. All further NO’s appear as easy. Good luck for your first NONO.

Reply
Vicki

Taking the plunge is always the hardest… :) I think ‘self-training’… that is definitely teh way…

Reply
Francine gardner

I do indeed have trouble saying NO, and it has gotten me in unpleasant situations. In business, however, i have learned very quickly to say no but with soft nuance to delude the harshness of these two letters.

Reply
Vicki

I agree, it is imperative in business to have the courage of your convictions… and… saying, ‘no’ is all in the delivery…

Reply
Pamela

Dear Vicki

It really can be a problem.

I had to learn to say no in my previous work life. Always far more work than enough hours to do it. At times working till midnight for several nights in a row, and on weekends. Eventually I learned to say no. The key thing was to prioritise: do everything you decide to do as well as you possibly can and work smart, but first identify the important things for the important people in your work and life. Assess approximately how long tasks take and what is required. Some of my work requests would have meant an inappropropriate use of time and my employers’ money. Survival for me meant learning to say no. I can still do it, and without guilt. It’s something we all need to learn – and how to do it with grace.
Saying no can be less irritating or harmful than allowing people to think you’ve agreed because you’ve been too hesitant to make your position clear – they are then likely to feel disappointed or let down.
Yet at the same time I value kindness, loyalty, honesty and grace – and especially a sense of humour.
With best wishes, Pamela

Reply
pve

Yes, I am getting much better at saying No and just last week, I had someone say NO to me and it was an excellent lesson for me. They made it look so easy and in the end, we really do have to say YES to what it is we want and value. Why waste time saying Yes when you mean NO?
Don’t ask me to volunteer~ I will say NO!
Another fantastic post!
pve

Reply
Gina

I am getting better and better in my old age to say “no” ..but I need to learn to say it to myself too…”NO more cookies!”

Reply
Vicki

That’s a different question altogether… i need to learn ‘no’ when it comes to chocolate… :)

Reply
hopflower

Well, the word was invented for a reason. No; I have no trouble saying no when it is warranted.

Reply
Cathy

It is tricky to say “no” in a way that one will continue to at least be asked to do/give/be something again by the asker, because there will inevitably be a time when “yes” is appropriate and even a desirable. Honesty, sincerity and confidence appear to be key.

Reply
Vicki

Truthfulness is always a winner in my book… and then I think it’s acceptable to say ‘no’…

Reply
Janet

I was a person that said “yes” too much but I have learned my lesson. But sometimes I do have to remind myself of the saying, “We are Human beings NOT human doings!”

Reply
BARNALI GUHA

I am trying to get better at it especially with kids and work and all the things we end up doing at holiday season, its a wreck in motion sometimes. Thanks for the reminder post. I need to print it and put it on my office wall.

Reply
Victoria

YES! No pun intended, but I can only agree to all you say. I am getting better at saying NO, without hesitations or remorse.
And then pick the YES carefully and with full attention.
Thank you for another excellent post, Vicky!

Reply
Jeanne McKay Hartmann

Vicki, I have a terrible time saying no – partly because I want to do it all, partly because I don’t want to let people down, an honestly partly because I worry about what people will think of me. The desire to please is strong. My theory is that the best in us can also be the worst in us… my inability to say no is the perfect example. Trying to think of one thing to say no to this week…

Reply
Vicki

We all desire to please… I guess that is the root of the dilemma… but sometimes we must please ourselves… :)

Reply
Teresa @ Splendid Sass

I had a difficult time saying no, and continue to at times. After my daughter graduated from high school, I decided that I had to do for myself, and that required a “no” from time to time.
Great post, Vicki.
Happy Monday.
Teresa
xoxo

Reply
Vicki

When our children ‘leave the nest’ it is so easy to fill our days with things that we don’t really want to do… as a way of dealing with the changes their absence brings… Perhaps being over active and doing what you don’t really want to do is a coping mechanism.. Once we get used to being independent again… then we can learn to say ‘no’… Re-focus and re-prioritise…

Reply
Suzanne de Cornelia

After I experienced a truly consequential accident (when I thought ‘this is IT’)…followed by the deaths of my brother and parents–it created a stark demarcation line of ‘before’ and ‘after’ in my life.

Today, I think in terms of ‘higher quality’ choices that are simpatico with my goals and dreams–and what I wish my eternal soul to be. I guard and value my time. It’s amazing all that used to be so important that I let fall away and won’t even consider today.

Reply
Vicki

Sometimes it takes a tragedy to really make us focus on what is important in our lives… I wish it didn’t… I am sorry that your wisdom was found in such a hard way Suzanne…

Reply
Vicki

Why is it that we feel the need to be ‘pleasers’… as Mary-Jill said… the ‘disease to please’…? I think the lder we get the more we understand what we are doing and the easier it is to say ‘no’… At least I hope so:)

Reply
Carol

I start out with a YES, then MAYBE, then NO! It depends on the situation and what is being asked of me. If I can turn around and so NO then I will.

Reply
Vicki

The softly/softly approach… :)
I do think there are ways of saying ‘no’ that let everyone ‘off the hook’…

Reply
Mary-Jill

Hello Vicki

I started to take notice of my FEELINGS … I learnt to ask myself … how do I FEEL when I say ‘yes’, but I really want to say ‘no’? Not surprisingly the answer every time was something like ‘… I feel annoyed with myself or unhappy’ …that I had, yet again, made a choice which was not in my own best interests.

Then I asked … well, WHY am I saying ‘yes’ when it doesn’t make me FEEL good? And the answer is generally … ‘because I feel guilty saying no’… and why is that? … because I’ve been brought up with the ‘disease to please’ … the belief that nice girls put the needs of others first (the rule book omitted to add the words … at the expense of their own).

Then I learnt to say … well, that way of thinking worked for me then … but it no longer works for me now, so let’s change it and do what works for me now. It doesn’t matter why … no explanations needed … it just is. Believe it or not, this is such a simple concept but so difficult to put into practice!

NOW, I want to FEEL GOOD because I have realised that it’s my responsibility alone to do so, no one else can do it for me, and I deserve it. So I ditched that limiting belief about feeling guilty and focused instead on how I now FEEL when I say a polite but firm ‘no’.

So how DO I now feel when I say ‘no’? … immensely relieved, happy, pleased that I am finally speaking my truth out into the world instead of hiding behind some of the values that shaped my experiences as I was growing up, but that are no longer appropriate in my current circumstances as I’ve matured.

So now when I hang up the phone after saying ‘no’ to someone … I no longer feel guilty, I simply put it out of my mind and move on. AND I no longer feel the need to provide some story of explanation (true or false) … wasn’t it Disraeli who said ‘never explain’?!

And learning to take this approach of taking your power back can free you from the simplest of tasks, to moving toxic people – even some long term friendships who I could no longer please no matter how hard I tried – onto their own path and gently out of your life.

It all takes commitment to wanting to FEEL GOOD, believing that you can, then practice. That’s all!

Mary-Jill xo

Reply
Vicki

Thank you for your wisdom Mary-Jill… You are so right, we need to shake the ‘disease to please’… and loose those feelings of guilt… and take on the responsibility for our own feelings… So true… Well said…

Reply
Anita Rivera

Good morning Vicki!

I am actually good at saying NO!!! I AM! As a teacher, I learned early on how to say NO on a professional level due to being inundated with so many responsibilities. Now that I am working as an artist, I am learning the benefits of making decisions and refusing offers that seem to be good for my career, but in reality are just BUSY WORK, and not focused opportunities to help me get to where I need to be. Mind you, I KNOW that I need to work hard and pay my dues, but like anything else, working smarter and not necessarily HARDER is the way we must all choose to operate in this busy world that could suck our energy from us. I think that if our work SHOWS our character and abilities, those people who we have to refuse for a time will understand. I guess it all depends on what WE WANT TO ACHIEVE.

GREAT DISCUSSION!!! Anita

Reply
Vicki

Work smarter… not necessarily harder.. that surely is the upside of learning to say ‘no’…

Reply
Amy Kortuem

It IS hard, and I appreciaate this post so much – it’s like you’ve given me your blessing and permission to do everything I posted about yesterday! Like prioritizing, only getting done what NEEDS-needs to be done and taking care of myself so I can take care of everything else.

Thanks, Vicki.

Reply
Vicki

If we don’t look after ourselves… nothing will ever get done….Think about it that way Amy… :)

Reply
Linda

Dear Vicki and all,

What a wonderful conversation! I already had been writing in my journal this morning about limits I try to give myself about what I take on–in this case, I was thinking how careful I am these days to not delve too much into “news”, which is so often bad… This said, I am sending my prayers to people in the NE USA, who are experiencing the wrath and aftermath of the huge storm Sandy.

I have learned sometimes to say no, though I admit to the “disease to please”. . . but professionally, this is so very hard for me. I am a teacher, working in a Waldorf school for any who know that that is. It means that I have tremendous freedom AND responsibility to create everything for my students; it is highly creative work to be a Waldorf class teacher, on every level. Part of the Waldorf model is also that the faculty runs the school, so that is another whole set of responsibilities. I have willingly taken on all of this–it is beyond work, a calling, really, a whole life. I have said yes to it, over and over, though part of me longs to say no sometimes, because I have not found a way to do it without working way more than is healthy, and this I always wrestle with.

I will be pondering this today, in the Tucson sunshine, in odd moments (maybe when I am on playground duty!)

xo,
Linda

Reply
Vicki

I know that old habits die hard.. that si why saying ‘no ‘ is so difficult… but every time we try that is a step forward… and in your case ‘yes’ is so wonderful for those around you..:)

Reply
Garden, Home and Party

Vicki,
Saying “no”, for me, has gotten easier since I’ve returned to work full time. But even with that, saying know always makes me feel guilty. I believe many of us are hardwired for wanting to please everyone and to stretching ourselves to do more than we are able without feeling overwhelmed. A vicious cycle. Great post, good food for thought, thank you.
Karen

Reply
Vicki

Yes it is a difficult cycle to break… and working does make it easier… but sometimes the pressure can come from the workplace also… Anyway I hope at least, this week, we will all consider our options and that we have a choice to say ‘no’ if it is best path for us…

Reply
Laurel H

… a very important topic for women. “No” always seems to carry a lot of baggage, doesn’t it? We sift and sort and calibrate and usually end up with a middling “yes” or a very soft “no” because we’ve lost sight of what matters to us. Our “yesses” seem to spill out of our mouths unassisted for all the reasons you’ve explored. I’d like to offer a piece of advice I received that, when remembered, serves as a tonic when faced with a “no”. My teacher reminded me … when I was running off at the mouth far too long for excusing myself from something … that “NO is a complete sentence.” This “simple” reality has proved strengthening in so many unanticipated ways: a two-letter pair of big girl pants, for sure!

Reply
Jillayne

I’m sure many are saying the same as thing as I am but you could have written this just for me… I suppose that only confirms much of what you said in that it is quite common for women to have this difficulty.
The words that truly spoke to me, and that I will write out to save are these ” How often do your great ideas… your fabulous plans… become mediocre because there is not enough time to concentrate on them all?” This is me, in spades.
It is getting easier at work to say “no” to all the extras… there I keep reminding my self that although I have a responsibility and obligation to do my job well, this business is their dream, not mine. My job, their dream…. over and over in my head and lately I have been following that reminder with “what is my dream?” and it gets easier still.
I read a different quote once that has also helped me and the gist of it is that if you don’t fill your days with what you want to do the world will fill them for you; each morning I ask myself how I want to fill this day?
Another beautiful post Vicky.

Reply
Vicki

A great way to start the day… I think we women, wherever we live, have the same thoughts, the same dreams and the same problems… It is great knowing that we are together and that we can speak about these topics with each other…

Reply
Dormilona

“Non, mercy” is softer and slips so much more easily off the tongue than “No.”

Reply
Vicki

I know what you meant… I am always sending ridiculous messages from my iphone because of the predictive text… especially when I try and write in French… not my strong suit… hard enough in English… :)

Reply
peggy braswell

Adore this post + comments. Knowing what “I don’t want” gives me the courage to know “what I do” want + that is a good thing. Saying the word “no” can be very hard. Just wish it was easier for me to say when it is warranted. xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

Reply
Kristen

I wrote a post about this very subject. Until I got comfortable saying no, my son encouraged me to say “let me think about it”. These simple words buy you time. Half the time people won’t bother asking again. If they do, you have had the time to evaluate and give it some thoughtful care before you answer. Remember that it is ok to say no and the world won’t come to an end. I changed my ways a few years ago. I still love to help out and often say yes, but I never get bullied into saying yes when my heart says no. I am happier, and it may be my imagination, but I think my friends, family and co workers respect me more that I’m not such a pushover. I certainly respect me more. Anyway, the whole subject is so complicated, thanks for bringing it up!

Reply
Vicki

Very complicated.. :)
Why should we feel guilty by the requests of others? Some people are better at asking… more persistent than others… but bullies, well that’s a whole other subject for another day…

Reply
La Contessa

Still is a VERY hard word for me to say………….I’m learning slowly!Why do we feel so guilty after saying it??It kind of hangs over me saying “you bad girl”.But I just donot have the strength or energy I had once to do it all and I too have found out I need to say NO once in a while!Just like this Christmas tree sitting here I have said YES to for ten years………a womans luncheon raffle that needs to be done this week!NEXT YEAR A NO!!!!!!!!!!Im not motivated yet and the creativity is just not coming this early.I want to enjoy Halloween!

Reply
Vicki

Sometimes the guilt is wore than not doing the job… but it is all a question of balance… Your tree will be wonderful and when in doubt stay simple… do lots of the same thing… that always looks good… Don’t stress over it and an idea will come.. :)

Reply
Virginia

Oh I”m one of those, “It seemed like a good idea at the time” kinda girls. I enthusiastically raise my hand and then when the time comes I find myself, as you said V, panicky that I have over committed. I’ve learned to say no more, but have a ways to go. Good post.
V

Reply
Millie

I’m hopeless at getting my lips to form the NO word. It comes out as ‘Ummm, ummm, ummm, ummm……….yes.’
Millie xx

Reply
Trish

I think that a lot of us “women of a certain age” are inclined to say Yes because that is the way we were brought up – to be nice and to be obliging. If we continue down that path for too long (always saying Yes) we create a false impression of who we really are, because when we do end up saying ‘No’ (or ‘that is not really me’) people are surprised. One refreshing thing about being “older” is that it is much easier to say No, in the nicest possible way, of course. :-)

Reply
Kathy

Thank you for talking about this issue Vicki! I have struggled with “no” for as long as I can remember! Time to change that. I just need to put the thought process into action starting today!
Cheers, Kathy

Reply
Clare

Great post, Vicki. This is something I’ve been learning to do lately, but need a little more practice ;-) I’m getting better though!!

~ Clare x

Reply
Debbie

I think it’s hard to say no when we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. I like the “I’ll have to think about it”
A really extreme case was a girl that I worked with years ago, who would actually go out with guys she really did not want to go out with. She didn’t want to hurt their feelings. Saying no later to them would have been much worse than saying no in the first place.

Reply

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