I've just had a very pleasant couple of hours visiting with my daughter. She is the Deputy Head of a local comprehensive school with a head count of approximately 1500 pupils. She's a confident, capable woman who is very popular with staff & students. I guess I'd put this down to her being able to empathise, to be honest in what I'd call an appropriate way (see previous blog on communication) & knowing her stuff. I think it's fair to say she has had to learn to say NO on occasion & get rid of the guilt around doing just that. I was showing her my new blog. I guess looking for a little praise & approval. I don't contact her much during the working week - we're both busy & we know we can if it's important. On a personal note I have a horror of becoming a Mum who is visited out of duty but, I do want to be important in her relationship hierachy. Anway we were catching up on the weeks events when the subject of her being stretched came up & we started chatting about how we both have a tendency to make arrangements & then when the time comes we wish we hadn't and how if we'd thought about it in the first place we may have said NO. Remember this is a conversation between two professional women who have the hang of what we need to do at work but in our personal lives well? This started me thinking about what makes NO so problematic.
Ironically NO is one of the easiest words to spell & one of the most difficult words to say? Saying yes seems to slip easily off the tongue even when we want to say NO. If we think about it, it's one of the first words children say when they are learning to speak - it's a hard sound & it's easy to enunciate & initially we are really amused at our little mites using what eventually becomes the forbidden word. It doesn't take long, however, before we become frustrated at what we see as defiance & we start to show our children we don't like it when they say NO. Of course commensensically we want to keep our children safe & in attempt to do that we seek their compliance with our view of the world & what safe means. My intention in introducing NO in this way is not to promote a socialogical debate but to highlight one way that we (as children) soon learn that to be loved we need to say yes & not NO! If we then carry that learning into adulthood then my friends we are in trouble!
Being able to say NO is invaluable it keeps us safe & it keeps us sane. It's one of the basic tenets of being assertive & having good self esteem. If you are in relationship with people who don't want you to say NO then there's a problem? As a rider I would like to mention that you need to be able to allow others to say NO to you without them feeling unloved and disrespected in some way. The reasons why we find it difficult to say NO and how to say NO has been the subject of inumerable books over the years. I read a really good one about 10 years ago by @corinnesweet aptly named How To Say No. As I say there's lots out there if you want to read more on the subject and there's an Amazon search button at the bottom of my blog page to make it easy. For the cynics reading this there's nothing in it for me?
As an exercise you could write down when you find it difficult to say NO and perhaps what makes it difficult. Does your perceived inability to say NO permeate all areas of your life or just some? My own difficulty is around friends asking me to share jollies with them. I do feel lucky that they want me to be with or involved with them but I only have so much energy & funds available. I regularly find myself on the horns of a dilemma. On the one hand I want to say yes and on the other I need to say NO. As I intimated I do find myself saying yes in my eagerness to be loved, involved & wanted when NO would have been more useful or sensible. However, I have learned that it's ok to reappraise & recant. If you don't make it a habit. If you say it in a way that it can be heard. If you end on a compliment and perhaps make another arrangement your friend realises it's about you and not them.
As a society we have this belief that we should be accessible and we should say yes but it's a belief that sometimes isn't useful. I think this poem Angela's Word sum's it up for me.