Following on from my boundary posts on Facebook, a lot of people commented that they found it difficult to say no. So this is for you.
Have you ever ignored emails that ask you to do something and you just don’t want to? Have you ever felt crushing anxiety, totally immobilised and sweaty when you want or need to say no, but feel like you can’t?
It is just one little word isn’t it, just two little letters. But for some of us it can be the scariest thing to utter. For some of us saying no brings a fear that the person will get angry, will stop talking to us, will see us as a bad person or even stop loving us. We may think we will hurt their feelings and that could bring those feelings of shame and guilt.
But is ignoring conflict really that good for us? I don’t think it is. Conflict is part of life and to say no when we mean no is being congruent to ourselves, respecting ourselves and being honest with ourselves. Avoiding conflict doesn’t reduce anxiety, in fact it raises it. The problem becomes bigger and the resentment grows. We eventually feel powerless to solve our own problems.
As children we are taught not to go against authority. Our upbringing may have been ‘my way or the highway’. Our views, opinions, wants or needs may not have been acknowledged and as children we may never have been given choices. If we did have the courage to voice what we want it may have been met with punishment. But this is conditional love. Love and acceptance are given to us by others for what we do, not for who we are as unique human beings.
The desire to please, to belong, to be loved is carried with us into adulthood. And so is the fear of saying no. Maslow talks about our sense of belonging and how we need to belong to progress to the next stage. But as adults and in that moment where we feel like we need to say no, we are back as children. Back standing in front of whoever dished out the orders, back feeling small.
And now as adults we realise we have probably spent a lot of the time putting others needs first before our own. We have probably lost sight of what matters to us and of course we need to know what matters to us so that we can say yes or no!
So what can we do?
Firstly saying no takes courage! The first time may feel like you are climbing a mountain. It does get easier!
Trust your gut! Notice the feelings when you are in particular situations.
Don’t explain why you are saying no, this could make your anxiety worse.
Consider what it says about the other person if they get angry or try to pressure you into saying yes.
You are allowed to change your mind!
How bad will the fallout actually be if you said no?
And lastly, when you are out and about try saying no in small situations. For example, at the shops! That assistant that comes up and says would you like any help? You can say no. You can say no with a smile doesn’t have to be delivered in anger!
And if you need a little help, you know where to find me!
Take care for now.