Tag Archives: saying no

No Is a Complete Sentence

One of my first posts on this blog was about saying no . As I learned emotional intelligence and began applying it to my life, I started to understand how imprisoned I’d been by my inability to say no.

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In the interests of full disclosure, let me tell you that saying no in the context of long-term relationships in which I’ve never said it before has resulted in unforeseen heartache and grief. I rejoice in reclaiming my power and authenticity, but some of my nearest and dearest are not celebrating my growth and healing, and connections I thought were unbreakable have, in fact, broken.

These days, I immediately exit any relationship in which my no is consistently ignored. At this point in my life I’m not interested in connection, intimate, workplace or social, in which no is not an acceptable answer.

In my experience, people who refuse to accept the answer no fall into two camps. The first camp is the controllers. Their goal is power. They view anyone with the ability to say no as an insult and a threat, and immediately react in the form of intimidation, emotional meltdowns, rage, manipulation and constant pressure to change the no to a yes.

The second camp is those who can’t say no themselves and are infuriated by those who can. Their goal is to undermine the power of others so they can feel better about their own disempowered state. They’ve stored up years of resentment around all the times they said yes when they wanted to say no, resentment which they vomit up at once if someone says no to them. They throw around words like “duty,” “responsibility,” “loyalty” and “obligation.” No is a personal rejection, an abandonment and a cruel betrayal. They frequently have all kinds of expectations of others. They use the weapon of shame.

These camps can and do overlap, but there’s no mistaking the resistance to no.

I confess that it still stuns me that long-term primary relationships have fallen down and died right in front of me because I said no. I’ve even checked out my perception, disbelieving my own experience and the words I was hearing.

“So, from your point of view, me saying no is unforgiveable?”

“Yes, it’s unforgiveable.”

So far, I am still unforgiven, because I stood by my no.

Unbelievable.

I ask myself if it’s possible I’ve never said no in the context of these relationships before. It seems unlikely. Perhaps I’ve just never said it about anything that mattered to the other party? I resolved to mindfully practice saying no, and also to observe carefully the effects of such a response.

I immediately discovered that the effects of saying no on me included panic attacks, anxiety, PTSD and extreme stress. All my life interactions with others has consisted of “reading” them in order to please. Any question they might ask was answered in whatever way I thought they most wanted to hear.

Effectively, every question was a test. If I passed the test, my reward was knowing I had pleased and was temporarily safe and tolerated. If I failed, which usually meant I had forgotten myself and answered honestly, the consequence was displeasure, abuse, guilt and shame and/or (worst of all) some kind of a scene.

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Learning to say yes or no based on my own desires meant finding and reclaiming myself, my needs, my authenticity and my power, and trying to ignore what I knew others wanted from me. Saying yes or no became a test of my own courage and honesty, as well as a test of faith and trust in those close to me.

I could hear no from them. Could they hear it from me?

This has been some of the hardest work I’ve ever done.

I’ve been reading an important book: The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. Every woman in the world would benefit from reading this lifesaving and validating book. Here, too, is a discussion of the universally important red flag of refusing to accept no.

We are shaped by our culture, and in this culture women are taught to be cooperative and accommodating. Men are taught to be persistent. These behaviors are deeply embedded and reinforced in our media, entertainment and arts.

Women are not taught to say a simple, assertive, direct no and stick to it. We weaken our no with explanation, justification, mistrust of our own instincts and the desire to not make a scene, be unkind or hurt or embarrass anyone.

The instant a woman allows her no to be negotiated, she has handed her power over and sent a clear message that she’s prepared to be a victim. Strangers, family members, friends and colleagues who decline to hear no are either seeking control or refusing to give it up.

Sadly, the willingness to say no will not protect us. We may still be murdered, raped and otherwise abused, but the ability to recognize a danger signal like not accepting no for an answer is an important survival skill that can help us avoid violence before the worst happens.

Ultimately, no is about boundaries.  No matter how cherished a relationship may be, it’s not healthy if we’re not free to honestly say yes or no. Those who consistently violate our boundaries or punish us for having them in the first place are those who have benefitted the most from us having none in the past.

I value my power to say yes or no far more than any object, possession, sum of money or relationship. The complete sentences of yes or no allow me to maintain my integrity and authenticity, support appropriate boundaries and contribute everything I am.

Saying no. My daily crime.

Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash

The Yes and the No

I had some feedback on last week’s post that indicated I’m not the only people pleaser around!  Here’s what some other people are saying about learning to say no: http://lifehacker.com/5875337/how-to-say-no-without-being-an-asshole

http://zenhabits.net/say-yes/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201311/the-power-no

People pleasing is connected to several other pieces of interpersonal functioning, like boundaries, power, authenticity and integrity.

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The inability to say yes is as problematic as the inability to say no.  If you can’t say yes, your no is meaningless.  If you can’t say no, your yes is meaningless.  This damages relationships with others, sure, but I think the more significant damage occurs in our relationships with ourselves.  How can we trust ourselves if we don’t take responsibility for making and communicating honest choices?

It doesn’t matter if the relationship we look at is professional, family, peer or romantic.  If we’re too cowed to give an honest yes or no, how healthy is that relationship?  Why is someone trying to take away our power and, more importantly, why are we letting them?

I know.  Love.  Obligation.  Even fear.  But wait.

Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash

Do you feel loved when you can’t speak an honest yes or no without receiving indifference, withdrawal, scorn, drama, rage, sarcasm, a physical blow, tears or an emotional outburst?  Maybe your intention is to love and be loved, but is that really happening?  How can you be loved if you’re not showing up honestly?  If you’re loved for your compliance, your compliance is what’s getting loved, not you.

Do we have an obligation and a duty to be connected to people who don’t respect our yes and no?  Do we owe that to someone because they’re family, or someone we have history with, or our boss, or someone we want to love or be loved by?  Who says?  Did you sign a contract at some point?

And then there’s fear.

At this point in my life I’m not as concerned as I once was about making the wrong choice, whatever that means.  I’m more interested in being clear about the choices I am making and why.

So, just to be clear, I’m choosing to stay in relationship with (fill in the blank), even though I’m not allowed to say yes or no honestly without (fill in the blank).  I’m doing that because I hope one day they’ll love me, or because I owe it to them, or because I’m afraid of them.  I’m doing it, in short, because they have something I think I need.

Now, pay attention.

They have something I need.

Do they really?  Are we sure?  Is the job or relationship or inheritance or influence more important than our ability to live authentically and fully in our own power?

If your answer to that is yes, I understand.  I was in an abusive marriage for a time because I had two young children, no job, no car, no money, no childcare and no hope.  I deliberately chose that relationship because I didn’t know how to survive without the financial support my husband provided.  My children and I paid a heavy price, but he did help keep us afloat during a critical time.  The marriage didn’t last, of course.  Even now, on a summer morning more than twenty years later, I don’t know what else I might have done.  I don’t know what might have happened to us if I hadn’t made the choice I made.  Maybe something much healthier.  Maybe a homeless shelter.

This, my friends, is the ancient and powerful archetype of prostitution, and we all participate in it in some way at some point in our lives.  It’s part of being human and is much larger than the specifics of gender and sex.  More on archetypes later.

When you look at your relationships through this filter of making and communicating honest choices, what do you see?  What’s your role in this dynamic?  Are you the one who can’t say yes or no, or are you the one who can’t hear them?  Why are you engaged in this dynamic?  How is it working for you?  Are you happy with yourself, and with your connections?  Are you interested in learning how to do things differently?

Check out the page in this blog called ‘The Hanged Man.’  Here I’ll share excerpts from my book, soon to be published.  Not surprisingly, much of the material in this blog is also embedded in the book.

All content on this site ©2016
Jennifer Rose
except where otherwise noted

Letter of Resignation

This blog is my resignation from a job I’ve held my whole life.

Photo by Anna Dziubinska on Unsplash

It’s a big world with a lot of people in it, all living their lives, thinking their thoughts, trying to find a place to stand, trying to survive, trying to get loved.  I’m just like that.  I’m not rich or famous, especially intelligent or beautiful or talented.  I don’t do social media.  I’m not a special success or failure.

I’ve done all the average things most every American does.  Grew up, got a decent education, worked, got married, had a couple of kids, got divorced, moved, got older, watched the kids grow up and fly away, worried about money, tried to do my best, made a lot of mistakes.

But all that was incidental to my real job.

My real job has been to please people.

I wonder how many of you read that last line and felt sick.  I know I’m not alone.  I know you’re out there, as invisible and tired as I am.

I now intend to Fail to Please Others.

That’s not to say I refuse to ever please anyone again.  No.  That would only be another kind of jail.  What I mean is now my choices are not based on what he/she wants me to do, say or be.  Now my choices are based on The Right Thing To Do–for me.

I nearly always know what people want from me.  I nearly always can identify The Right Thing To Do for myself.  The problem is they’re rarely the same choice and I always, infallibly, reliably, boringly, sickeningly choose to please.

Why do I do this?  Oh, that’s easy.

I believe I won’t be loved if I don’t do it.

Now think about that.  Think about a life empty of people who love you.  No one.  No parent, no family member, no child, friend, lover.  Think about believing, all the way to the soles of your feet, that if you Fail to Please, people around you will withdraw or withhold their love and/or leave.  Forever.  As in permanently.

I assure you I understand, as all People Pleasers do, that pleasing others to get loved doesn’t really work.  Oh, in the moment you might get rewarded for it, but it never ends, the pleasing.  Once isn’t enough.  100,000 times isn’t enough.  Also, some people are impossible to please.  Someone like that probably taught us this dreadful belief in the first place.

Well, life has just given me exactly what I needed to finally decide to make a change.  Something happened, and I said no.

I never say no—at least not when I know the answer wanted is yes.

The answer wanted this time was yes, and I said no, because that was the true answer, the honest answer, the Right Thing To Do for myself answer.  I said it repeatedly to the two people whom I love best in all the world.  There was upset, and outrage, and fury.  There was a scene, not a violent smash-the-dishes-scene but a verbal scene, the kind I’ve spent my whole life trying desperately to avoid, the kind of scene that makes me want to run out the door and throw up somewhere.  The word “betrayal” was used.  But something about the whole situation woke up a deep streak of stubbornness in my nature and I just kept saying no.

I laid awake all night crying, telling myself now I was truly alone, as these two who heard “no” from me are the center of my heart.

But the next day I asked one of them if he still loved me, even though I said no.

And he said yes.

Now, bear with me while I explain what all this has to do with this blog.

I’m a writer.  I’ve got a finished manuscript, another started, and am exploring the hair-raising process of getting published.  I’ve always been a writer, since I was a child, but I’ve always tried to stifle it, hide it, ignore it and otherwise amputate the desire to do it from my life.

Why?

Because I find I can’t write anything but the truth.

My truth is unacceptable.

It Fails To Please.

The digital age has swept over us and people blog.  I read lots of blogs.  I’ve wanted to blog myself for a long time.

But I haven’t.

Why?

Because everything I want to blog about will Fail To Please—someone.

This is my first blog post.  I’m still building the site.  Feel free to explore and watch for new additions.  Check back for weekly blogs.  Please leave a comment. Let’s have a conversation.  If you’re hateful or disrespectful or a spammer I will block you without apology.

Please accept my resignation from the role of People Pleaser, effective immediately.

Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

 

All content on this site ©2016
Jennifer Rose
except where otherwise noted