Are you the sort of person who always says yes? I’ve come to learn that it is very important to learn how to say NO!! It’s okay. People will like you. They may even respect you more for your authenticity.
I’m not talking about saying ‘no’ to someone who really needs your help. I’m talking about turning down that meeting that you do not want to attend or that birthday party that you don’t want to attend because it’s the same weekend as another important thing.
Think for a moment how you feel when you say ‘yes’ to something that you really didn’t want to do. If you’re like I once was, you can’t sleep at night, and you think about it way too much. It weighs on your mind. You try to find ways out. You start thinking: “Oh, it’s not so bad, it will make him/her happy”. “Maybe I’ll have fun”. “Maybe I won’t be bored”. Whatever it is that you’re saying to yourself, if you really wanted to go, you wouldn’t have all of these thoughts.
So, why not just say NO from the beginning? Guilt?
I am here to tell you that you have to leave guilt in the past. The past is not meant to be part of the present.
From my experience of mothering, and I’m pretty sure many parents would agree, the most common parenting word seems to be ‘NO’. According to experts, the average toddler hears “no” an astonishing 400 times a day. That’s a whole lot of ‘NO’.
Last week my husband and I looked after my two granddaughters while our daughter and son-in-law spent five days in New Zealand for a family wedding. It was a delight to be with the girls again, and to be introduced to the new addition to the family, ‘Stevie’, the very delightful, energetic puppy, who took to my husband straight away (like any faithful dog does when they identify the chief dog walker and feeder).
I’ve had several dogs over the years, and have assumed a pretty rigid successful training stance. Unfortunately, Stevie disregarded any stern looks or hand signals from me (them being completely alien to her) and managed to completely do everything I told her not to do, bringing me to a blabbering mess of shouts of ‘NO’. This was humiliating, and my pride took a hit! The challenge was on!
I knew that it would only be a matter of time before both Stevie and I had a mutual understanding that ‘NO’ meant just that. ‘No, you don’t jump up’. ‘No, you don’t dig holes in the lawn’. ‘No, you don’t chew anything plastic (from toys to my son-in-law’s hose timer!), and ‘No, the screen door is there for a purpose: to keep you out.
Whether dealing with children, animals, family, workmates and or anything else, ‘No’ means ‘No’, and if you say it and then cave at the first protest, your ‘no’ will never be taken seriously. That said, I’m quick to acknowledge that saying no can be tiring and sometimes depressing. And when pressure comes from those asking, it takes courage to stand and be firm.
I know because as mother, wife, friend, work colleague and grandmother, requests on my time, participation and skills are always there. I am learning that to stay productive and minimise stress in my life I have to learn the gentle art of saying ‘No’. It’s an art that many people have problems with.
What’s hard about saying no?
Well, to begin, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to and that’s not usually a fun task.
Second, if you hope to have a relationship with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue with that relationship in a loving way, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardise that.
Maybe you feel like your children won’t love you anymore if you don’t give them everything they ask. If you don’t give them the sleepover, the second ice-cream, the car to pick up their friends for a night out; even though they know the ground rules of the family and home but are just testing the boundaries.
Or maybe you feel like your family won’t communicate with you as much if you don’t listen to their unfair moaning and groaning, about the same thing, over and over again. Or maybe you feel as if your parents or siblings won’t love you as much if you don’t do everything for them that they ask or attend every occasion.
If you’re overwhelmed by mismanaged expectations, then you leave no space for you. No time to think, pray, live, or work on other things worth caring about. No time to say “yes” to the right things, and no time to be able to help or support the things that brought people to you in the first place.
If these people are your true friends, family members, or a good boss, they will like or love you the same no matter what. People treat you the way you teach them to, and if you’re someone who always says yes then that’s what they’re expecting. It took me many years to learn to say ‘no’, and if I’m honest there still is a twinge of anxiety when I do even now.
I have learned to be brave and do what is right for me. I have learned to be authentic. If I don’t like a certain kind of music, I won’t go to that type of concert. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I don’t compromise. If someone does something I like, then I would reciprocate. Sometimes relationships need compromise. I’m just saying I don’t say yes to everything. I have learnt not to do everything out of obligation, and it’s okay.
There have been some turbulent times in my walk with God – conflicting doctrines and influences have made that walk more difficult that it had to be. There is a distinct and firm line that God wishes us all to do. To take a stand and be firm in that decision.
Above all things, my brothers and sisters, do not take an oath on anything in heaven or on earth. Do not take any oath. If you mean ‘yes’, say ‘yes’. If you mean ‘no’, say ‘no’. Do this so that you won’t be condemned.
No one ever said it was easy, but the penalty for saying yes when we should have said no will create even tougher circumstances to deal with. It takes courage to say no, but being firm when being pulled to go against your principles is a long run plan! It can keep you out of trouble in the short term, and build inner character that will last a lifetime.
Difficult decisions and persistent effort are required when seeking to do God’s will. To grow in faithful living, we need to say NO to the things that choke the fullness of life that God intends for us, and be conscientious, supportive in relationships and self-disciplined. We must learn to say ‘no’ to anything that crowds out God and his peace to say ‘Yes’ to a way of life that keeps us in His Grace.
I have felt and seen the whole gamut of reactions from saying ‘no’: anger, disbelief, pouting, more pressure, or laying on the guilt.
I am more confident now that I am no longer motivated by the emotions and demands of others but can define the needs and act appropriately. I am enough.
Steve Job said: “Focusing is about saying NO.”
I am daily focusing on the things that God has for me and wants me to do. I have learned you can say NO!