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What do you think when you hear the word “No”?

For me there are some negative associations. If I’m honest, “Yes” seems like the cooler of the pair. “Yes” to me, means progress, possibilities and agreement. “No” can mean barriers, difficulty and dead-ends. These are not my fully considered reactions, but just the first things that come to mind when I think of these two words. What are your reactions?

Exercise
Write down (or think about) three words you associate with “Yes” and “No”. Try and be honest and write down the first words that come into your head.

Making friends with “No”
I’ve had an interesting relationship with “no”. I have found “No” difficult to use at times. Not always. Some situations, I find easier than others. As I mentioned in last week’s post, I am a recovering “people pleaser”. There was a time in my life, where I would find it really difficult to say “No” when someone would ask me to do something, even if it didn’t fit in with my life. The consequence of this, that was that I ended up being overloaded, busy all the time and not in control of my life. Ultimately I didn’t end up helping anyone as I was spreading myself so thinly.

Why is “No” the hardest word?
Why is “No” so difficult for some of us to say? I know for me, the honest reaction is that I worried that people wouldn’t like me if I didn’t help them. On a level, I made saying “No”, mean that I was mean, unhelpful, selfish. Around the time I mentioned above, I realized this really isn’t a helpful way to be. Ultimately it wasn’t authentic, it was all about gaining approval, and heck, why was I even doing that? What was so wrong with me, that I had to gain peoples approval this way? After some soul searching, I realised: actually nothing! I’m pretty cool ;) I just needed to start realising that myself and stop looking to others for approval!

The Power of “No”
Guess what? People still like you when you say “No”. Actually, what I have found is that if you are straight forward and honest, saying “No” to a request is really not an issue. I think most sane people, realise that when they ask something of someone, there are basically two possible answers and one of them might be “No”. Sure, sometimes, if people say “No” to you, it can be disappointing but ultimately I know I respect people who have clear boundaries and are able to say “No” as well as “Yes”. Others respect your boundaries, when you respect your boundaries. Sometimes when people say “Yes” to everything that is asked of them, it can leave you wondering if they really want to do what you are asking of them, or if they just feel obligated or unable to say “No” which is never a good place to be!

Helpful tools
I still find it difficult sometimes, but I find that using “No” is like doing exercise. It used to be very hard, and sometimes I would have the thought to say “No” and it just seemed too difficult to do! Gradually, I am building my “No” muscle and learning to trust myself, and if my gut says “No”, to learn to listen to that message. If you sometimes find this difficult and end up saying “Yes” to something when you mean “No”, it’s not the end of the world. Go back and find that person and explain you made a mistake and that you actually can’t help on this occasion. I know for me, sometimes I find it difficult to say “No” on the spot, but another thing I have found useful, is if you hear a request coming your way, give yourself some time to consider it. Let the person know you are considering it, but need to check your schedule, and that you will get back to them. This gives you the time to see if what is being asked of you, works for you too.

You are the architect of your experience
Life is too short to be doing things because we think we “should” be doing them. I am really not talking about being selfish, or not helping other people. That is not what this is about at all. But this is YOUR life, and if you want your life to be the way you want it, you need some boundaries and the ability to decline experiences, as well as accept them. The more we get in touch with who we really are and our mission here on this planet, the clearer what we do and don’t want to do, becomes. Ultimately there are only so many hours in the day and the ability to say “No” helps us to be the architect of our experience and leaves room to say “Yes” to more of the things we want to do and experience.

What are your experiences with “No?”

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