“No” Is a Complete Sentence?
Do you have trouble saying “no?” How many invitations do you answer “yes” to because you are afraid to say “no”? Afterward, do you use the word “should” to justify your response? “I should stop by that cocktail party for twenty minutes.” Why didn’t you give a clean “no”?
I heard in an Al-Anon meeting years ago that the word “no” is a complete sentence. It was a breakthrough moment for me, and all the times early on in my sobriety when my AA sponsor said that I over-explained and gave away my power came rushing back. The woman speaking added that you could even say, “…thank you”afterward if “no” alone sounded too sparse. “No” does not need to be followed up by an excuse or dressed in elaborate details. Fear and guilt do not need to accompany a “no”.
As I have grown, so has my relationship with “no”. After years of saying “No thank you” without further explanation, I added another line when I was responding to people or organizations that matter to me. I now create an opening for a “yes” to exist. For example, when invited to a cocktail party (I don’t drink, and dislike standing around and small talking), I say “no thank you” to that invitation and suggest a walk in the park instead.
Tim Ferris has a great podcast about various ways to say “no”:
Listen to How to Say No from The Tim Ferriss Show in Podcasts. https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-tim-ferriss-show/id863897795?mt=2&i=1000395251247
I have noticed that women have more trouble with “no” than men do. Does it reflect our societal views on femininity and the proper way for a woman to behave? Does a clear, female “no” transmit a vibration of conflict or disruption because of its rarity? Or do women intrinsically care more about being accepted and loved? “No” definitely threatens our need to belong.
I said “no” the other day, and it took two hours for the conversation that followed to exit my brain. It was surprising to me because I had gone through phases when “no” was as easy as “yes”. I was asked to participate on a committee at one of my children’s schools. It was a time-consuming endeavor that held zero appeal. I re-read the email three times and played out various scenarios. I was flattered by the kind reasons they gave in asking me to perform the role, but I knew that was not a reason to say “yes”. Saying “yes” to potentially boost my child’s standing or curry favor in the school community equally inauthentic motivations. Both of those reasons tie back to my ego and need for significance. The only way to arrive at a “yes” in this scenario is if volunteering at the school occurred to me as an act of love.
There was a cc list on the email, and I debated whether to hit “reply” or “reply all”. Would the committee discuss my “no” and create a narrative about me? Would I become a bitch or become difficult to deal with, or just be regarded as plain old selfish? The good news is that people already have set opinions of us and it takes a lot more than one volunteer role to alter the way someone sees us long-term.
Too many small and seemingly benign “yesses” separate us from self, from our WHY. I love the Derek Sivers philosophy—it’s either “Hell yeah” or “No”.
There is no middle ground. Being aligned with self-gives us access to power. After doing work to identify my values clearly, decision-making became a breeze. I will write a post about a process I went through to determine my values soon.
Another waste of time is rehashing a “yes” response. If you think carefully about your reasons for a “yes” or ”no” in advance, then once you say it, the internal conversation must be over. The amount of mental space I used to spend questioning my ”yes” and “no” decisions wasted more time than actually showing up at something for a few hours.
Take notice of your first response to a yes-or-no question. The yes or no is always present in our body before our brain starts computing all the reasons why or why not. Whenever we talk to ourselves using “should”, we are in “no” territory. If the cellular response is “no”, stay present to the way your mind handles the “no”. Look through all the smart reasons it produces to change the “no” into a “yes”: it’s just this one time and if I don’t say “yes” I may not be invited again. What will a “no” cost you? Get in touch with that fear and see where else it dictates your life.
“Nos” open up the space to fill your life with “yes” experiences. If you are feeling blah or lukewarm, take a look at your “yesses.” Too many seemingly benign “yesses” will lead us to an internal dead zone. The “Hell yeah” trail always leads to exhilaration and growth.