Last week we introduced the importance of being able to say No. For the purpose of our discussion this week we are talking about people with equal status in the relationship. This does not include parent-child, teacher-student, or employer-employee. These relationships have different guidelines for dignity. The relationships we are talking about are people out in the world negotiating life. People chatting on the Internet, attending school, in social situations, in family relationships other than parent-child need to include the ability to say No in their quest for dignity. If you are afraid to say No in an equal status relationship, it is time to re-evaluate. Do not say No if you fear physical violence. If you were raised with abuse, addictions, or extreme dysfunction it may not have been safe to say No. If you are out of those situations it is time to learn how to say No.
It is important to say No without a story or excuse. If you think about the excuses you use, they almost always make you a victim. Illness is an overused story for not wanting to do something. “I don’t feel well, I’m tired, I didn’t sleep well, I’m too busy etc.” are some other excuses. Even if any of these are true, learn to say No with dignity not with excuses. “No I can’t do that, thanks for asking, I hope you’ll ask me again.”
One symptom that you are saying yes when you mean No is resentment. If you get angry with the people who make requests of you, it is also a sign that you probably have difficulty saying No. If you avoid relationships, run away or disappear in relationships you probably have the “yes” disease. It doesn’t have to be that difficult. Who wants all those people around you who only like you because you say yes?
For many people saying No or having someone say No to you is rejection. You feel rejected if someone says No to you or you will hurt someone’s feelings if you say No to them. This interpretation is simply inaccurate. If I ask you to give me a ride and you say No, I interpret that as a decline. You simply are not in a position to give me a ride. It has nothing to do with me or whether you like me. I should feel open to make other requests of you and you can answer me with yes I can, no I can’t, or you can make me a counter-offer (maybe next time). These answers are not a reflection of your emotions; they are just an answer to my question.
In the world today it is important to have the backbone to say No. The informant who alerted police to the terrorist plot planned for Heathrow Airport in London, England had the backbone to say No. In the East coast community where I worked some time ago, when drug dealers moved into the Projects all the mothers banned together to report the dealers who were then kicked out and/or arrested. They had the courage to say NO! During this time when all of us are being asked to be aware, to be human intelligence, and to have the backbone to take a stand, how do you think you will act? Do you have the courage and competence required to act with dignity and integrity?
You are on the road to living with dignity, honoring your authentic self and ending codependency.
© 2019 Dr. Anne Brown; Psychotherapist, Speaker, and Author of Backbone Power The Science of Saying No. Permission needed for any form of reproduction.
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