The little word “no” can be one of the toughest words to get out. And I’ve started thinking about why.
Is it about avoiding conflict? Or maybe it’s all about timing, or not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings? Or could an inability to say “No” be tied to underlying fears or insecurities?
5 reasons we might have trouble saying no:
1. We have been trained.
Remember that 2-year old whose first words included Dada, Doodoo, and… No? Oh dear, that wasn’t acceptable! We train our children to stop saying no, and heaven forbid they say it to a teacher. We have been trained to be compliant, and that makes speaking up for ourselves and our needs a little difficult.
2. We want to be liked.
It feels BAD to disappoint someone. To see their face drop, or to get a sad-face emoticon response. We want people to like us, and we often internalize their disappointment into messages of our own worth and likability. That makes it hard to say no.
3. We want to be “good.”
This goes along with the compliant learning, but I think there is something in us that often tells us that “good” people are always helpful and always social. We don’t stop to think about how always being that way would make a person burn out or become resentful (uh – opposite of good).
4. We feel rushed.
Because of our ingrained training, we often don’t take time to think about our answer, and the automatic “Sure!” comes right on out. In our instant gratification society, taking a little time to think about an answer can be frowned upon (and that takes us back to #2 – no frowns desired).
5. We fear rejection.
I think this is the bottom line. When we tell someone “no,” they have the opportunity to dislike us, form an unflattering opinion of us, or dismiss us completely. We fear isolation, disconnection, and disapproval.
These desires and fears are real. They are powerful. And fear can keep us in a really unhappy place if we let it.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
It is possible to say No to others and still be liked, still be good, AND take care of yourself too. We’ve had a lot of practice at being compliant – now it’s time to incorporate a little self-care into the our lives, and stop saying yes when we really mean no.
It will be OK if you do.
Christine Morgan is a Professional Life Coach, Counselor, and Teacher. She began her career empowering others through Social Work and Education, yet her personal journey is a muddier road than any resumé implies. She knows the effort it takes to cope, to believe in yourself, and to let go of what other people think or expect. If you are tired of feeling stuck or overwhelmed, and would like new skills and support on your journey, contact her today!