Such a small word.
Such a difficult word to say.
Why is it so difficult to say “no”?
As social animals we want to belong and be loved and the thought of being rejected is just super scary!
So we create many stories to protect ourselves and prevent us from saying “no”:
- I don’t want to disappoint them
- I don’t want them to think that I can’t
- I don’t like conflicts
- I’m afraid of his reaction
- If I say no it will hurt her
- If I say no he won’t love me
- I don’t want to be selfish
- I’m a nice person, I care about others
- I don’t want be the fussy one
Of course, these are stories. We have no idea what will happen if we say no.
But the fear is there and we rather say yes.
We believe that this yes will protect us from the rejection of others.
It probably does for a while… but in the process, what we do is actually ignore our values, our needs, our limits and reject ourselves… More frightening, right?
Do I actually know where to draw my limits?
It can be very difficult for some of us to say no because we just don’t know our limits …
We may feel that something is not working for us, but we don’t really know what.
So how can we say no if it’s not clear to us in the first place?
There is an introspection to be made.
There is most likely a need or a value behind this feeling that is not being met and that is why we feel uncomfortable.
Here are some questions that can put you on the path to discovering your needs and values;
- What do you like to do?
- What annoys you?
- What brings you joy?
- What is draining your energy?
- If you could choose to live 5 different lives, what would they be?
It is also useful in this exploration to analyse the situations where you are asked to take a position:
- Listen to yourself; do you feel comfortable saying yes or do you feel obliged. If you’re not sure whether to say yes or no, ask for some time and allow yourself to think about it.
- Try to separate what you really feel (your intuition, your guts, your emotions, …) and what you are thinking. Often we tend to dismiss our feelings and rationalize with thoughts such as “I should”, “I must”, “I have to”, “This is how things are done”, …
- Listen to the advice you give to others, very often it is a reflection of your own needs and values!
How can I say “no” constructively?
When you are clearer about the limits you want to put in place, you also need to know how to actually get the message across without hurting or feeling guilty afterwards.
Here are some recommendations:
- First of all, change your mindset; you are not a bad person when you say no! To say no is to respect yourself and others. You are constructive and trustworthy in your relationships.
- Remember, people are not in your head. If you don’t communicate what’s best for you, they can’t know. Opening your heart and letting them know where you draw the line is showing them that you trust them to understand and it will strengthen your relationships. And it doesn’t, so that definitely tells you more about this relationship …
- Prepare the discussion. A useful tool is the Non-violent Communication Framework. This helps us better understand why we want to say no but also helps us frame the discussion.
- Observation: what is the situation?
- Feeling: what am I feeling?
- Needs: what do I need?
- Request: what do you want to propose?
- It is never black or white. Opening the discussion can open up perspectives and you might actually end up with different alternatives to meet your needs and the other person’s needs.
I hope this short article is useful for you.
If you want more information on the framework of non-violent communication, I invite you to download the flyer I made on this subject. You will not only receive more explanations on the framework of non-violent communication but also 4 additional emails with online tools to help you explore your needs, values, emotions, … Very useful content to start daring draw your limits!