Since I was a young girl; perhaps it has to do with being a middle child- as long as I can remember I have been a “yes girl.” If my older are younger sister would not do something, I would take up the slack as a way to keep the peace. Being a “yes girl” has carried over into my adulthood. Although, I can honestly say that I am getting better at saying “no”, something still feels wrong about it. I have been enrolled in my own personal “just say no course, 101.” I have seen gradual progression with occasional relapse, especially when it comes to my family. Here is a list regarding the Power of NO by Judith Sills Ph.D.
As a general guideline, five situations benefit from increasing strength to say No.
When it keeps you true to your principles and values.
It’s a beautiful thing—emotionally, spiritually, and even professionally—to be generous, to be supportive. If a family and/or friend is doing something such as adultery and they confide in you. You should give them the opportunity to come clean on their own and if not you should explain how you will not be keeping their secret.
When it protects you from cheerful exploitation by others.
It’s remarkable how much some people will ask of you, even demand from you, things for which you yourself wouldn’t dream of asking. Protect yourself best from the many who feel entitled to ask by being strong enough to say a firm, clear, calm No. This is the one I have the most trouble with.
Take a classic school and office scenario: A happy, popular, slacker colleague asks again to borrow his worker bee teammate’s careful notes. Mr. Worker Bee resents being used, but can’t think of a good reason to refuse. So he acquiesces. Gets asked again. Resents more. Can’t think of a good reason to say No, so he gives in. And so the cycle goes.
Finally, paying attention to his own feeling of being taken advantage of—instead of focusing on finding a reason acceptable to the cheerful exploiter—Worker Bee turns Mr. Popular down. Scraping up his backbone, Mr. Worker Bee simply says, “No, I’m not comfortable with that.”
His No earns him a chilly reception in the company cafeteria for a week or two. It isn’t a pleasant time, but it passes. In its wake, Mr. Worker Bee will find a new safety. No is a necessary life shield against the charming users who sniff out softies. It turns out nice guys can say No.
When it keeps you focused on your own goals.
When her boss criticized her for the second time as a “Chatty Cathy” whose work was late because she wasted too much time talking, Amy felt hurt and unfairly evaluated. Was it her fault that people loved to stop by her cubicle? How was she supposed to turn away Marsha, whose aging mother presented so many problems, or Jim, who wanted her thoughts on the best way to proceed with their clients? Her colleagues needed her support; cutting them short would hurt their feelings and her relationships.
Amy clearly needs the power of No. Why? Because, loving and being interested in them as she is, Amy is losing sight of her own responsibilities, her own agenda. No is a necessary tool to keep your goals in mind. Frankly, meeting your own goals is what you are being paid for and what will pay off. We all need No to do our job instead of someone else’s.
When it protects you from abuse by others.
Sadly, our most important relationships often invite our ugliest communications. In part that’s because the people closest to us arouse our strongest emotions, and in part it’s because they are the people we fear losing the most. Fear can sap the strength we need to say No, just when we need that power most.
A mean adult daughter is a case in point. Isabelle would insist that she loves her mother, but she also finds her irritating, offering the grandchildren too many snacks, giving Isabelle useless, anxiety-driven advice about health, bad weather, or spending. When Isabelle gets irritated, she snaps. She’s rude (“Shut up!”), insulting (“Trying to make my kids fat like you, Mom?”), or just downright mean (derisive and contemptuous dismissal). Her frequent assaults hurt Mom deeply, and Mom complains bitterly and often to other family members about Isabelle’s treatment.
Despite the support of her family, Mom never draws a line with Isabelle herself. She has yet to pull herself up and say, “Do not speak to me like that.” She feels unable to because, quite simply, “This is my daughter. If I tell her she’s not allowed to speak a certain way, she is quite capable of not speaking to me at all. I just can’t risk it.” Stripped of the power of No, we leave ourselves vulnerable to verbal assault.
When you need the strength to change course.
The invitations are in the mail, but the impending marriage is a mistake. The job looks good to the rest of the world, but it’s making you sick in the morning. Your family has sacrificed to pay the tuition, but law school feels like a poor fit. When you find yourself going down the wrong road, No is the power necessary to turn yourself around.
The obstacles to this potent No are twofold: First, of course, you have to be able to tolerate acknowledging, if only to yourself, that you made a mistake. So many of us would rather be right than happy. We will continue blindly down the wrong path because we simply can’t bring ourselves to read the road signs. Most of the time, though, we know when we need to draw the line.
The problem is getting ourselves to do it. Accessing your own power requires overcoming one huge obstacle: the cost of dishing out No.
So what do you think about the POWER of NO?