Why saying NO can feel wrong
If you are a ‘yes’ person, like me, you will want to say ‘yes’ as much as you possibly can. It feels brilliant to say ‘yes’ and be able to deliver. You may be so much of a ‘yes’ person that you will say ‘yes’ to the detriment of other things. To please others.
When you are someone who likes to please people and help them, you will find a way.
You may not even know how you will meet the ask, but you will say ‘yes’ and work out how to do it later. You may have half an idea or know someone who may be able to help, which gives you a bit more confidence to commit.
To someone who is a ‘yes’ person, who likes to please, and can thrive on challenges like this, saying ‘no’ can feel defeatist. Like you can’t be bothered to even try. Like the person asking is not someone you want to, or are willing to, help.
Saying ‘no’ is like shutting the door in someone’s face, turning your back, disrespecting them.
Saying ‘no’, when you are such a ‘yes’ person, creates the risk that you won’t be asked to help again in the future. You will be seen as less supportive. Less open to help.
You would rather try and fail than say ‘no’ in the first place.
What can happen when you DO say NO
To say ‘no’ to demands from children is easy when you are teaching them right from wrong. To prevent bad habits, to demonstrate the better path. Saying ‘no’ in other circumstances can also be permitted for safety and protection reasons. In these situations, saying ‘no’ is a given. It is acceptable and you feel there is permission to use it, so you are confident to do so.
Saying ‘no’ in other circumstances, when you are usually a ‘yes’ person can fill you with fear and dread. I know for sure I have spent a long time worrying about how me saying ‘no’ will affect the other party. I have stressed about the effect on the other person or their acceptance of me saying ‘no’ for a long time ahead of actually having to say ‘no’. I have also put off replying to an email or text until I have worked out how I can say ‘no’ and not upset the other party.
Wording my reply or response carefully, I have been known to avoid saying ‘no’ to soften the blow. It has usually been delivered with a reason why I am essentially saying ‘no’ in the best way I can or an alternative offer. When I am saying ‘no’, I have always felt I need to give a reason why I am doing so.
More times than not, I have responded in a way that has meant the reaction of the other party has been one of understanding and acceptance. And the worry and stress I put myself through has been unnecessary.
Saying ‘no’ can often be met with a different reaction to that which you expect. Some will simply accept it and move on, particularly if they are more comfortable with saying ‘no’ themselves, others may try to negotiate, which can make a ‘yes’ person happier if they can compromise on a result that is more acceptable to all. BUT it can also feel like you are then under more pressure to say ‘yes’ and that your original response has been discarded / undermined.
The Power of NO
‘No’ is one of the shortest words in our vocabulary. As a determinator, it means ‘not any’. That there is no excuse. As an exclamation it delivers a negative response.
To me it is one of the most powerful words in the English language. When delivered with feeling, it can act like a full stop. The end. Nothing more. No negotiation.
When ‘no’ is deployed, as we have already mentioned, it can be for a lot of good reasons. Some are more critical than others.
In a work situation, it may be that ‘no’ is used as you have no time to complete the task or no training that would enable a successful outcome.
Starting a sentence with ‘no’ can alert the other party that they are believed to be incorrect in what they have said and forewarn them that a correction or counter proposal is coming.
Saying ‘no’ can also protect you in other ways. And I will share one example of this next.
What happened when I said NO
In December 2018, I had been in a new role for 3 months. It was almost my last day of the year. I didn’t have to work over Christmas and had planned the last few days’ work to wind down and leave things in a good place. I would be checking things while I was away, but there was a lot less pressure to be at a desk.
Two days ahead of my last day before the break, I was contacted asking me for some work to be done to support some system testing. Having only been in the role for 3 months, I was not up to speed with how to do the work, everyone was flat out working to get done for Christmas AND they literally asked me with no lead time at all to schedule the work. I had never met the person asking me for the work and they had known about it for months.
So….me being a ‘yes’ person, but also someone who had planned ahead, suddenly realised I could and should say ‘no’. And I actually said ‘no’. I did tell my boss that I had said ‘no’ and why and to my absolute joy, he backed me up. He totally agreed that I was within my rights to say ‘no’ and was proud of me for doing so!
Learning to calmly reply that their ‘emergency’ was not my emergency and that their lack of planning/communication had left me no choice, actually felt empowering. I had never tried it before, but it worked! The fact that it was such a certain circumstance that I was within my rights to say ‘no’ really added to my confidence to do it.
It taught me the Power of ‘No’, in this instance, as it gave me the power to protect my own stress levels, to ensure I wasn’t squeezing in things I wasn’t capable of doing AND that I could stand my ground with righteous conviction! I loved it! And I have learned to use that form of logic and grounding when faced by such challenges again.
It has also enabled me to accept when others say ‘no’ and made me think beyond my own needs to the situations others are in and that them saying ‘no’ could well be for similar reasons to that which I now say ‘no’ more regularly.
If you are feeling like you need better control over when and how you say ‘no’, through situation assessments and third person thinking, why not get in touch, get the benefit of my experience. We can work together to build a strategy that suits you. Allow me to help fast track you to this strong self-preserving place, where things feel under control and you feel empowered to say ‘no’ more often.
For further reading on tis topic, why not check out James Altucher’s book, ‘The Power of No: Because One Little Word Can Bring Health, Abundance And Happiness‘.