From time to time I mention the power of saying no. Knowing when to say, “No” in a healthy way has many benefits. It helps you:
- Stick to your values
- Maintain healthy boundaries
- Avoid toxic relationships
- Fight busyness and over-scheduling
- Be an authentic you instead of a people-pleasing chameleon
Learning to say, “No” to things that are not in line with your priorities and values enables you to say, “Yes” to people and activities that are.
But there’s another side to saying no—Letting other people say, “No” to you.
If we want others to respect our choice to say, “No”, we must in return respect theirs. Which isn’t always easy.
We don’t like to hear others say, “No” to our requests for their time or resources. However, we should resist wheedling, pleading, or otherwise trying to manipulate them into changing their mind.
I’m not saying we always take another’s no as the final word and give up asking them for help. I am saying we should give them the same right to control their limited time and resources as we want for ourselves.
But there is another kind of no that is even more difficult. The no that feels like rejection. I will use my cat to illustrate.
I am a cat person. Others in my extended family are not. They find cats aloof and disloyal, especially in contrast to their dogs, who shower them with affection at any and all times.
I see it differently. Cat are not disloyal, they merely reserve the right to say, “No” to humans when they don’t feel like snuggling or playing.
Some humans take this as rejection and become offended. Others accept it as normal cat behavior and instead of focusing on the no moments, they feel delighted when their cat chooses to say, “Yes” instead. Because the yes is not guaranteed, it feels all the more special.
We should view our loved ones in a similar light. We must give them the right to say, “No” to us when we offer affection or interaction.
I am talking about a healthy “No thank you,” or “not right now” kind of no. A no motivated by anger or a desire to inflict hurt is not healthy. (Dealing with that kind of no is not the topic of this blog and probably requires wiser counsel than I can give.)
When we allow our loved ones to say a simple and healthy no, even when it hurts, we are helping them develop the ability to say, “No” in more significant situations.
Do you have the grace to accept no for an answer? If not, maybe it’s time to start practicing.