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  • Resilient Practice

Saying No

Updated: Jun 20, 2021

“Until you learn how to confidently say NO to so many things, you shall always say YES to so many things. The real summary of a regretful life is a life that failed to balance YES and NO.”

Ernest Agyemang Yeboah

In last week’s article we discussed making apologies. We talked about standing in our own truth and apologising only when we are truly sorry for something, for which we are responsible. Apologising for any reason other than this causes our words to be not in alignment with our true intentions. Heather Ash Amara refers to this as a ‘contaminated message.’

For many of us, similar contamination is created when we are asked to do something that we do not want to do.

We have heard the act of saying “yes” to something when we would really rather say “no,” described as a ‘trauma response.’

We understand this to be because, here, the fear of losing something that is important to us supersedes the need to speak the truth.

We might do this because we fear being disliked. As we have said before, we are hardwired in childhood to crave acceptance, and this follows most of us into adulthood linking to our self-worth.

We might also say “yes” when we mean “no” because we need to be seen as helpful, capable, kind, compassionate, dedicated, hard working and so on. These positive attributes might be labels that we have accepted or even awarded ourselves and that have come to define us. Losing them would threaten the ‘accepted’ model of Self that we present to the world and damage a good reputation that we have worked hard to build.

Saying “yes” through guilt, obligation and duty is also connected to self-worth. We feel that we must do what is seen to be the right thing otherwise we are not a good enough colleague/son/daughter/parent/friend.

As we have said many times, ’I am not good enough’ is a negative core belief common to all of us. Another is ‘I am broken/not whole.’ Feeling unable or incapable of doing the task but agreeing to it anyway is driven by this second common negative core belief.

When we first begin to challenge our habits of agreeing to everything, we will usually decorate our “no” with an elaborate apology. As we have said, if we are not actually sorry for declining to do the task, the message is contaminated.

Additionally, along with our apology, we often feel driven to explain ourselves and give a reason. Perhaps we are saying ’I am not a bad person, see? I have a really good reason for saying no.’

Again, this is connected to self-worth.

We need to know that we are still liked and/or respected even though we have chosen ourselves over doing for someone else.

When we behave like this, we are showing others how uncomfortable we are in asserting our worth. We are teaching people how to treat us. They learn that those levels of discomfort can be exploited, so we may well be the first one to be asked.

Additionally, when we give reasons as to why we are unable to do something for somebody, we open up a discussion and invite them to help us to remove those obstacles. They can make it easier for us to do them a favour!

To learn how to say "No" and more see ‘How to Rise – A Complete Resilience Manual’ from Sheldon Press. It takes you on a journey of self-discovery sharing over 60 tools and techniques, including meditations with purpose, visualisation exercises and practical tools to help improve your mental wellbeing and reduce anxiety. 'How to Rise' allows you to take control of your life.

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