"No" is a dirty word. People hate to hear the word no and even more than hating to hear it many people hate to say it. Many of us believe that if we tell people no they will cease liking or respecting us. However, that fear is not totally unfounded. Many people become personally offended when, after a request is made (no matter how seemingly ridiculous) they are told no.
Last night on our walk Aaron said people only like other people because they are doing what they want them to do. I resisted this at first because it sounded unnecessarily cynical but on second thought, I think she's right on a fundamental level. I think what she's really speaking to is the fact that when we enter into relationships with others (on whatever level that relationship is forged) we are really entering into a contract of roles.
We are ever only interacting with a projection or expectation of the person, and when somebody breaks that contract we become uncomfortable, angry, or confused. This is what is meant when spiritual teachers say things like "nobody really knows anybody else" because we're all interacting with a projection of who we think they are.
For many women, saying no can be quite difficult and seems to be even more taboo than when a man says it. This is largely in part due to the cultural expectation that women will be receptive, giving, kind and nurturing, which many people mistakingly believe means saying yes to everything (or most things) even when you don't want to. Many women believe that if they say no then people will think they are mean, unkind or selfish. Women who easily say "no" may be labeled any number of things, very few of which are kind.
Women are also expected to meet expectations and fill needs, and many women can become uncomfortable when, at a certain point in their lives they are no longer expected to meet others' expectations which results in feeling lost, confused, depressed or anxious. When the culture you live in tells you a large part of your value comes from your ability and desire to fill everybody else's needs but your own, it can be difficult to deprogram those messages.
Saying yes when we mean no is an act of self-delusion and does nothing to further our relationship with the other person, and in fact, only seeks to perpetuate a lie. When we say yes and we mean no, we are engaging in a subtle act of violence (against ourselves and the other person) because we are violating the truth, and it always hurts when we don't honor our truth.
When we say yes and we mean no, we enter into the dance of resentment. Some are better able to dance that dance longer than others, but eventually we all become angry. Funnily enough we are often angry at the wrong person. We say, " _______ shouldn't have asked me to do that! How inconsiderate of them! Why aren't they thinking of what I want or what I have to do?!!" We need to turn all of those statements back onto ourselves.
The person that asked you to do what they asked was being true to themselves because they wanted something and they asked for it. It doesn't get more honest than that. We may not like what they asked for, or how they asked for it, or it may not even be feasible or appropriate, but they did their part.
They have just as much right to ask as we do to say no. It's our job to be considerate to both them and ourselves and say what we want. We have a right to voice our opinions and desires too. We should be thinking of what we need and want and need to do. We get into trouble when we expect others to take care of our time, energy, resources, money, self-esteem and sense of self.
There are some situations in which saying no is not the preferable choice due to the potential consequences. If we are asked to perform a task at work that we don't like and we say no, we could get fired. This is a very real fact for some people. However, remember we always have a choice.
If we say yes and perform a duty or function that we didn't particularly care to do, we still had a choice and must take responsibility for that choice. Was it more intelligent to do the task asked of us so we don't get fired? Maybe so, but we made a decision and must own that. No one held a gun to your head and made you perform the task. If it's more important to keep your job then to say no to a request, then that's still a yes for you because you weighed your choice based on your preferences.
There are times at work, if something is really a resounding no for us intuitively, where we can say something like, "I respect you, and I'm willing to help solve this problem but that's a no for me". I'm not suggesting that your boss will like it, but at least that's more true for you. Same goes for the loved one who asks us for a loan that we don't really want to give. Just say the truth, which in this case may sound something like, "I really love you, but no."
Saying yes when we mean no is the quickest way to build resentment. However, sometimes we have to look at why we are saying no, and it could be that we are operating from anxiety, anger, or some other emotion that is influencing our position. This doesn't mean we don't still say no, but then we must decide if we are honoring our true selves, or reinforcing anger, resentment and anxiety.
When we are true to our deepest selves even when we say no, it's still a yes. This is because when we say no from our highest selves it will intuitively feel right. If you ask me for my car and I don't want to give it, it's more kind for me to tell you no, than to give it with the energy of resentment.
Eckhart Tolle calls this a "high-quality no" because it comes from a deeper realization of what we do and don't want. The high-quality no cannot be anything else but yes for us, and leaves us with a sense of peace and contentment and has very little (if any) ego surrounding it. Whereas the low-quality no is filled with anger, avarice, or fear and is often stuffed with judgments, shoulds and resentment. With the low-quality no there is always a story, a violation to the ego and a sense of being outraged or insulted at the request.
We feel guilty when we say no because we don't like to hear it ourselves. We think we're being kind and generous when we say yes, but when you mean no, you're filling the request with negative energy. Some people may not care on a surface level because they're getting what they want, but they will in some way feel the effect of the resentment, hurt and frustration in your actions.
Some people in our lives may resist when we practice the high-quality no. They try to push, plead, manipulate, coerce, and intimidate you back into your old behavior. That's exactly what they should be doing. What better way to allow you to work on maintaining your boundaries?
Practicing a high-quality no means we must be really clear about our preferences, desires and expectations and not begrudge those who are clear enough to state what they want. On some level we become angry at the requests of others not because they asked it of us, but because we feel like we can't ask the same thing.
Wouldn't it be easier if everyone just asked for what they wanted, said no when they meant it and yes when they meant it? Wouldn't it be easier if people were clear about their boundaries, limitations and feelings? Well it starts with you. And if you don't want to do it, I'm fine with you telling me no. ; )