This morning I received a call from a friend grappling with the consequences of failing to say, “No” to another friend’s request. Instead of honoring her true desire to decline the request, my friend went soft and weakly resisted. The situation spiraled into a discussion, followed by an argument and finally resulted in a complete breakdown of communication. Granted, questions arise regarding the substance and quality of the relationship, but my focus here is our pandemic resistance to telling others “No” when we really want to.
Most often, when we receive a request we instantly know whether we want to fulfill it. Within seconds our bodies give us a feeling encouraging us forward or signaling us to take a different direction. We are hardwired to know what is good for us. Our emotions and mind join the body and our inner desire to say, “No” is made clear to us. Yet so many of us override our knowing and say “Yes” anyway.
I am not a psychiatrist and I am less concerned with the source of our need to please than I am with redirecting that need toward pleasing ourselves. Our primary obligation to life and the world is to create our best self. To be our best, we must be safe, happy and protected. It is our responsibility to ensure that we are. I view myself as my own loving parent. When faced with a situation, I step outside of myself and ask, “What would I counsel my beloved child to do?” In every instance, were my child to come to me expressing a temptation to betray her desires for those of another, I would strongly counsel her against it.
How to say “No”
The easiest and most effective way to say “No.” is to start the sentence with the word “No,” limit or eliminate any explanation to a few words and then be quiet. Be nice, polite and firm.
“Um, well, I think I have something else going– Is it really important? I mean are there any other people who can help?. . . I really don’t think I can . . . well let me look at my calendar and call you back.”
“No, I have other plans. I hope you find someone who can help.”
Whether you have other plans is irrelevant; your plan is to honor yourself. Amazingly, even if the person asking is miffed at your no nonsense refusal, they’ll respect you and most will secretly admire you.
Make the commitment to honor your truth and say “No” quickly and effectively.