Learning how to say no is a life-changing skill (and one that so many of us struggle with).
Quite often saying ‘yes’ feels like a much easier choice in the moment. So, we go for it, over and over again, without even realizing how far-reaching consequences it has.
Saying yes, even though you want to say no might feel like it’s not a big deal. After all, it’s usually all about a few hours of your time, an extra chore to do, a choice that makes you a bit uncomfortable – but nothing that you couldn’t cope with.
But there is more to it than you might realize. Let me share with you what are the deadly consequences of making ‘saying yes’ into a habit. Once you understand the price you pay for making this ‘easier’ choice you will want to learn how to say ‘no’ as soon as possible.
1. Each time you say yes to something, you say no to something else.
The first and most important thing to realize is that each time you say ‘yes’ you say’ ‘no’ at the same time. And often you say ‘no’ to more than you are aware of.
If your boss is asking you to stay an extra hour at work and you chose to say yes to them, you say no to whatever you wanted to do with that hour before they asked you.
If you look forward to a nice, relaxing evening at home but you feel like you have to say ‘yes’ to your friend’s invitation for a night out or a dinner at your mother-in-law’s – you say ‘no’ to relaxation and rest you were hoping to get at home.
That’s is obvious. But unfortunately, that’s not all that happens. Situations like that always have a second bottom.
Each time you say ‘yes’ when you mean ‘no’ you put another person’s needs, wants, preferences before your own.
And while you say ‘yes’ to them, you say ‘no’ to yourself.
It’s the same as if you said:
No, my needs are not important.
No, my wants are not important.
No, my feelings are not important.
No, my opinions and preferences are not important.
I am not important.
And this is pretty bad.
Because each time you say yes instead of no you reinforce the same negative pattern over and over again.
I know you have probably learnt this very early in life. It’s not your fault. You developed this habit because of factors far beyond your control.
But it is your responsibility and your choice whether you keep repeating it or whether you stop and learn how to say no.
All these seemingly small and irrelevant little choices sum up and if you keep treating yourself as if you were not important, there is a high price to pay.
It always ends up with you feeling l like you are not seen, not heard, and ultimately not loved.
And that is a sad and lonely way to live your life.
2.Saying ‘yes’ when you mean ‘no’ wrecks havoc on your relationships
Contrary to our intentions, saying yes too much always wreaks havoc on our relationships.
Why do we do it in the first place? Mostly because our relationships with other people are important to us. Because we care about other people. And because we want and need to belong.
Belonging it is one of our most essential needs.
And it has very deep roots, of course. Not that long ago, being cast out of the tribe/ community – was a death sentence. We wouldn’t be able to survive on our own. So, this need is deeply engrained in our nervous system even at the biological level.
It is the same in terms of our personal history. When we were little, we were totally dependent on the adults around us. And unfortunately, we often learnt that love (care, acceptance, approval) was conditional. That we had to be a certain way to deserve it, and if we weren’t, it could be withdrawn. We tend to carry this learning into our adult lives.
As a result, we are often willing to go a long way just to make other people love and accept us.
We say yes because we believe that if we keep pleasing others we will get the love, acceptance, approval we so desperately long for. And then…we will feel like we belong.
But unfortunately, this seldom works.
First of all, because it takes a lot of effort and plenty of small and big sacrifices to become the person we believe we have to become for others to accept and love us.
And the more effort and sacrifice it takes, the more frustration, disappointment, anger and bitterness it triggers within us. Not a great recipe for thriving relationships.
And do we feel like we belong? No really.
No close and authentic connection is possible if we are not showing up in our truth.
No close and authentic connection is possible if we have to pretend to be someone else just to please another person.
No close and authentic connection is possible if we have to hide our true feelings.
The result is – yes, you have people around, and they might be even pleased with you but you never feel seen, heard and loved because they don’t even know who you truly are.
3. The first and most important step to learn how to say no when you mean no
There is just one thing we need to master if we want to learn to say no with ease. It is how to be comfortable with the discomfort.
Learning how to be ok with the discomfort is the most important skill we will ever learn. Because it is our fear of discomfort that stands in the way of us living the life we truly want to live.
So often I hear my clients saying “I wish things were different’. But when it comes to making them different, taking action to make them different or going out of their comfort zone – there is always discomfort standing their way.
If we want to learn how to say no we need to learn how to be ok with another person not being happy about our ‘no’. It’s uncomfortable, right? We need to learn how to be ok with feelings of guilt that might be coming to the surface, especially at the start. It’s uncomfortable, isn’t it?
Our brain is programmed to avoid pain and seek pleasure. It is a very strong biological drive, that always focuses on pain or pleasure in the moment. It makes us avoid pain in the moment or seek pleasure in the moment but it does not take any long term consequences into account.
That’s why we are so driven to avoid the discomfort here and now, even if it creates much more discomfort in the long term.
Just to give you an example. Let’s say you started to reach out for a chocolate bar every time you get overwhelmed or anxious. Your brain learns very quickly that the moment these uncomfortable feelings arise- biting into something sweet and sugary will trigger a pleasant wave of relief running through your whole body. So it craves chocolate! Little does it care what the long term consequences of having 5 chocolate bars a day are.
It is on you to learn how to be wiser this instinctual drive.
Learning a new skill is awkward. Always. Remember how you were learning to ride a bike? You can’t do it without a few bruises and a scratched knee.
There is no magic solution or secret quick fix to learning how to say no. You need to do the work. It’s a process. IT requires time and practice.
But there is something that can make all the difference.
What you need most when you choose to learn how to say no (or any other new skill)
When you are learning to ride a bike there is always a moment when you fall down. And when you’re lying there on the ground, with your knees bleeding, for a moment it feels like you’ll never get it. And you want to give up. This is the moment when you need someone to say:
It’s ok. I know it’s hard, but I know you can do it. Let’s get up. Let’s try again. One more try and you’ll be flying.
Having someone there, really getting what you’re going through, ready to help you get up and encourage you to try again is priceless. This is what makes all the difference.
Self-love Incubator Inner Circle is all about that. A space and a community where you will feel seen and heard and accepted for who or truly are. A space where you will be able to gradually, at your own pace, in your own way rediscover and reconnect to YOU. And finally, fall back in love with yourself while getting all the cutting-edge tools, support and inspiration you need on the way.
The waitlist is open! The enrollment will start soon, so make sure to sign up HERE to secure your spot (and the best price!)
Because all you have ever wanted from life starts with SELF-LOVE!