Just Can’t Say No
“So what do you think? Are you interested in working with me?” “Yes, I am and I wonder what your rates are.” “Well, I have a standard rate and then if you buy a package, you save 15% off my standard rate. How does that sound to you?” “Well, I really need a bigger discount, more like 50% because my partner says we have to save money and I really, really want to work with you.” “Okay, I can do that for you.” “Great, it’s a deal.” Except that this solopreneur made a commitment to herself that she would no longer price her services so low. She did it again. She just couldn’t say no to this person. She feels compelled to help this person so she ran a stop sign and broke her commitment to herself.
Do You Let Yourself Say No?
The woman above ran a stop sign inside herself. How many times have you done this with a client or in some other situation where someone wants something from you or just has a different opinion than you? It might be in your personal life when you and your partner decide to buy a house and they fall in a love with a property that you can’t stand and you suck it up and agree to it anyway. It might be with an adult child who has moved back home, doesn’t have a job, isn’t paying rent and watches movies all day while leaving the house a mess. What’s going on here that you just can’t say no when you can feel in your gut that you are crossing a line inside yourself? Then on top of that you beat yourself up for staying silent and giving in.
What if “I can’t say no” is really “I don’t let myself say no”? You are aware that in some situations no is what’s true for you but the words stay trapped in your throat or swallowed so that they never escape your lips. You literally don’t let yourself express your true feelings. I know this place. Sometimes I literally feel a tension in my throat as I choke back the no.
Why might this be? Here are a few possibilities. Many of us were taught as kids that saying no is somehow rude or weak. Good girls don’t say no. They just endure whatever is happening in order to win their parents’ love and approval rather than risk rejection. “Don’t talk back” is what I was told as a child when I dared to protest something I didn’t like. For some of us saying no was dangerous, resulting in a slap or worse.
Some of us associate saying no with creating conflict. “She just doesn’t like it when I stand up for myself. She always puts me down, and walks away and I’m afraid she will leave for good.” Additionally, if when we were growing up, we frequently witnessed conflict escalating into abuse and violence, of course we would learn to avoid conflict at all costs. Instead we would learn to just suck it up at the expense of our own needs and desires. The need for safety and connection was greater. Peacekeeping came first.
What’s The Price We Pay?
Okay, so we learned to be conflict-avoidant for good reasons. But what’s the price we pay for this now? We often lack awareness of what matters most to us and what we want to create for ourselves. We continue giving up our own dreams, and we reject ourselves in order to avoid rejection from others. We live disconnected from our hearts’ desire. Ouch. What a dilemma.
When we do this over the long haul, we wake up one day and realize that our lives have become something very different from what we truly want. A load of little inauthentic yeses pile up to a life that for many of us is a big no. It’s like death by a thousand pin pricks. No individual prick is fatal but together they add up to a life not authentically lived. Life feels very gray and dull instead of vibrant and alive.
But compromise is part of adulthood, right? There’s compromise and then there’s chronic, unconscious giving in. Ask yourself if you are out of balance in this department. Sometimes this is a sign we feel stuck just like we did as kids. Kids don’t know they are good people in tough situations and they are usually stuck. As adults we are not stuck. We have choices.
Cultivating deep self-awareness helps us really know our limits and stand by them. Addressing the leftovers from a challenging childhood helps us feel solid and safe in our authentic self rather than living from our survival self. Can you imagine living your life beyond simply surviving?
Here’s a place to start. Take the time to differentiate what’s actually a threat in the here and now versus what is left over from the past. Will your partner really leave you if you begin to stand up for yourself? Will you really have no clients when you craft your work life in a way that feeds you rather than depletes you? Sometimes, when we get real about this stuff, we recognize we need to make a big, difficult change in our lives. Ask yourself if the pain of making the change is greater or less than the pain of not being true to yourself for the rest of your life.
As I addressed my struggles with saying no, I realized that as I began to say no to certain people and situations, I was really saying yes to myself. I began to say yes to what I want with more passion, commitment and joy. With both my yes and no online, I feel more alive and connected to myself and others than ever before. I feel less anxious and much more at ease. How appealing is that? Feeling more inclined to let yourself say no? It’s worth a try.