In my day job as a coach I have met many intelligent, articulate people, possessed of a powerful grasp of the English language, who have no difficulty expressing themselves in eloquent terms and yet find themselves unable to utter a tiny, two letter word.
Their inability (or unwillingness) to use this little word frequently brings a great deal of stress and anxiety into their lives and yet, despite knowing unequivocally that saying this word would eliminate all of that stress, cannot bring themselves to say it.
If you haven’t guessed, the word I’m referring to is “No!”
I recall reading an article many years ago that suggested that folks who struggle to use that word run the risk of bringing inordinate amounts of discomfort into their lives which potentially leads to long-term, stress-related illnesses.
So why is it so difficult for some people to use that little word?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question however there is an overarching theme that seems present in all those who are plagued by this affliction.
When you talk to these folks, and ask why it is so difficult for them to say no, they will tend to use words like “guilt” or “sense of duty” or “keep the peace” to validate to themselves their reasons for never saying no.
Those words all have strong, powerful emotional attachments and it is easy to conclude that it is their feelings of guilt, sense of duty or keeping the peace that drive their need to please others without giving much thought to the consequence their actions are having on their own psyche.
The Habit of Saying No is not one of selfishness but rather one of selflessness. It goes a long way in staving off the unpleasant and deleterious effects that always saying yes have on our mental and physical health.
There is a handy solution for those who suffer from this affliction. It is to accept as fact that they own each and every emotion they feel and that when feelings of guilt compel them to say yes when they would rather say no, they need simply perform an “emotions check” and substitute those guilt feelings for others more feasible.
A small amount of practice makes this eminently possible and the rewards will be immense.
The challenge with never saying no is that it brings truth to the old saying that “what gets rewarded gets repeated.”
When a request or stated expectation is always followed by the word yes then the person hearing that word is more likely to make future requests. This means that each time we say yes we are training others to keep asking for more.
Those who never say no have, ironically, also mastered the habit of saying no, for each time they say yes when they want to say no then they are saying no to themselves, thus denying themselves the lives they want for themselves.
There is high potential that over time always saying yes leads to deep feelings of resentment that will do little to reduce the requests from others while doing much to eat away at your very core.
The Habit of Saying No is the first step to saying yes to yourself and by so doing you are freeing yourself from the damage that “guilt, sense of duty and keeping the peace” wreak on us all.
And the better we feel about ourselves the easier it becomes to base our yes or no decisions for the right reasons as opposed to obligatory ones.
And that’s not a bad way to live.
Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.