Sometimes it can be hard for people to say no. If you can, and you are willing, why is it so wrong to say yes? Being a yes man can get a person taken advantage of from time to time. Greedy people assume that the kind-hearted are also weak-minded. For me, I felt that learning to say no would turn me into a hard-hearted person. I should be able to say yes and help others without getting taken advantage of, right? Well, it just doesn't seem to work that way.
I have seen many different types of yes people. The two I feel are most common are:
It is usually pretty obvious why the first one is bad. It drains you! You are out here trying to save the world one favor at a time! Your true friends and family really appreciate your dependability, but they usually are not the problem. It is the people that prey on your selflessness. Most of the time these people aren't even in need. They just ask you because they know you’ll do it. They also know everybody else will tell them no. In most cases, we don't mind saying yes. We just hate the scenarios where we regret saying yes. We don't mind helping those in need. It is helping the people that are always in "want" disguised as a need that drains us. Try thinking about it this way. If you stopped letting those people drain you, imagine how much more you could give to the people that really appreciate you.
Now, the million-dollar question, what's wrong with the second type of yes person? Shouldn't you say yes to the people closest to you? You can easily put your foot down to co-workers and the PTA board, so what is wrong with doing for your auntie and your siblings no matter what? Well, what tends to happen is your expectations of those people are raised. You now feel that because you have saved your resources to help the few most important people in your lives you should get the same from them. WRONG! They may not feel the same way you do. Just because you canceled your nail appointment to drive them to the airport does not mean they will do the same. They don't want to miss their nail appointment and now you feel taken for granted. It's ok to say yes to everything for that select few if you so choose but know that it may not be reciprocated, and you have to be ok with that too.
Remember that relationships do not have to be reciprocal to be healthy. What they should be is symbiotic or have some sort of synergy that improves both parties. For the sake of simplicity let's take a married couple. Both parties have careers and have the same salary. Let's say that both parties agree to split all household bills 50/50. This is a reciprocal financial relationship. Both parties are contributing the exact same thing to the household. Mortgage, utilities, cable, etc., is split down the middle and paid equally. A symbiotic relationship could be found in a marriage where one partner is a stay-at-home spouse and the other has a career. The financial responsibilities of the home are maintained by the career spouse. The stay-at-home spouse handles cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, etc. They do not contribute that same exact thing to the household, but their contributions complement each other in a way that makes the household run the way they desire. No, the career spouse probably does not do a lot of cooking, and the stay-at-home spouse does not have an income, but what they do contribute makes a very happy home and a very healthy relationship.
Now, if you're not getting the reciprocity nor the synergy that you need to feel you are in a healthy relationship with the people you just can't say no to, how can you change that? Practice! Practice saying no. I absolutely understand that this is easier said than done. Here are some ways to help get started.
I'm not sure if I can commit yet. Can I get back to you?
I personally started out using this one and it really helped to get the ball rolling. You haven't said no yet, officially. That helps to make it a little easier to start practicing with this one. It gives you a little time to think about what you want your decision to be. Can you do it? Should you do it? The person may decide to try something else after you are not readily available and you're off the hook without even saying no. Maybe it gives you time to get the courage to say you cannot do it. Either way, this one could be a great way to start out for beginners.
I'm not going to be able to commit right now, but if something changes I'll let you know.
Congratulations! For this one, you did actually say no. You did give yourself an opportunity to still help if something changes or you just change your mind, but you did say no. With this scenario, you don't even have to get back to the person with a definite answer. Your answer is no and if you come back the answer is yes. You can feel confident that you have stood your ground, but comfortable that you were not insensitive about it.
No, I can't do that, but I can…
This one is taking yet another step. You said no and your no is firm. You made it clear that you cannot do what they are asking. There is no wiggle room and you will not be getting back to them with a possible yes later. However, you can offer something that may still assist them. You are able to help them without it being a total inconvenience or disruption to what you may have had going on already. This is a great step because you are still helping, but you have gotten comfortable with putting yourself first.
I'm not able to commit to that.
It's a tough place to get to but this is a no. I can't do it. I can't commit to it. I'm not going to do it. If you ask later the answer will be the same. This is you putting yourself, your needs, and your family first. You did not even need to think it over, offer an alternative, or give an excuse. It is not mean, and it does not make you a selfish person. What is selfish is if someone demands that you compromise yourself so he or she can have. There is nothing that says you have to deplete yourself in order to love and care for others.
I'm so sorry but I'm not able to do that/commit to that.
There are those occasions where you really want to help someone. You know that you are not being taken you for granted. You know they legitimately could use your help. You are not insensitive to their need. However, helping them would put you in a bind that makes you uncomfortable. You actually hate saying no to them, but for your own sake, you have to say it. It's ok to say no and still feel compassion towards that person and the situation. You are letting them know that you would absolutely help if you could. You are letting them know that you still care, and you want to be there for them, but you are also letting them know that you cannot do it and the answer is still no. This person typically understands. You feel bad about not helping them because you know they deserve your help and would never take you for granted. It does not make your no less firm or your heart less soft.
It is important to know that saying yes to everyone doesn't make you kind and selfless, just like saying no doesn't make you mean and heartless. They are both necessary parts of self-care and maintaining your sanity. We have all heard the expression you can't pour from an empty cup. Get comfortable with putting yourself first. Saying no should feel just as comfortable as saying yes.
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After spending a year in grief counseling, I started to see that my life needed a major overhaul. Yes, my boyfriend died making me the single mom of our infant twins, but I was still grieving my loss of innocence from decades of abuse. I decided to turn my pain into a new purpose and to share this journey with others that may need some motivation.