Learn to Say No

In our society, the default answer to nearly every question is “Yes”. Advertising is all geared towards getting us to say “Yes – I need that”. We phrase our inquiries looking for yes: “would you like more coffee?”, “would you be interested in joining me for dinner?”, “would you help me move next week?”, “would you mind if I asked you a personal question?”, “do you love me?” With such a powerful default answer ingrained in us, it can be very difficult to say anything else – often leaving us feeling trapped, guilty, or frustrated as a result.

With such an expected and requested default answer, “No” becomes one of the most powerful words we can use – if we can manage it! With all the pressure though, overcoming this momentum for “Yes” can be incredibly difficult sometimes.

While it is still very important to make sure we are clear about what we want to say yes to, it is equally important (if not more so) to be clear when to say No. Specifically, the issue here is to be clear about what is important to us. Yes and No are equally viable and relevant answers in the appropriate circumstances – but may yield dramatically different results.

Saying Yes when we really mean No, can lead to resentment, frustration, confusion, and dissatisfaction, or even worse. So, if understanding and applying the right answer is so important, how do we figure it out?

The most important step in figuring out which answer is right is to start off by understanding what is important to us.

This can quite simply be done with a simple reflection process. Take a moment to slow down and sink into your body. Allow yourself to notice sensations in your body without seeking to change them. Relax and connect with your inner voice of knowledge. Now ask yourself a few simple questions about issues in your life. Notice how your body reacts. Is it energised? Does your body feel drained or depleted? One of those reactions will occur with Yes, and the other with No, in response to the question. Typically the response that energises us the most is the answer that is most relevant and thus most important to us. All you need to do is notice the response and thus the answer.

So, now that we have our Yes/No list of life – how do we apply it? That seems easier said than done sometimes. The reality is, it all boils down to the simple issue of honesty. Are you ready, willing, and able to be honest first with yourself, and then with others? This can be the hardest step; yet it is the most liberating.

Try out the No answer on something small at first. Maybe something as simple as “Would you like more coffee?” or some such similar question. Notice the contentment and satisfaction you feel in giving the honest answer, or even just using the word! See where you can begin to apply that answer in ways that feel comfortable and empowering. Notice how your body reacts and feels more alive. Experiment with new questions and new opportunities.

Once you get comfortable with these easier answers, comes the hard part – how do you say No to something we already said Yes to? While perhaps a bit more uncomfortable, it is still the same technique of honesty. When speaking with honesty, it is also important to speak with patience, compassion, and understanding. Remember that what we are essentially doing is changing the message we have previously communicated. Do not allow guilt or shame to colour the communication. Speak clearly about your decision and the realisation to change the answer. With openness and honesty, we can all speak clearly from our hearts about what is truly Yes and truly No.

Over time, it gets easier and we have to correct ourselves less and less.

Thank you ottawagraphics for the background image https://pixabay.com/photos/teenager-hoodie-hand-no-gesture-5842706/

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