It seems like lately I’ve been around a lot of people who have trouble saying no. People who are focused on being nice, trying hard, and carrying the responsibility for others.
These are people I spend a lot of time with and love dearly, so, of course, after I read Boundaries, by Dr. Henry Cloud, I told them they needed to set some boundaries and get their life under control.
The freedom that comes from setting boundaries is transformational. An empowering feeling takes hold when we are free to be honest with others, set limits, and give ourselves permission to say NO.
Dr Cloud notes in his post on Maria Shrivers blog that the pressure to justify our reasons for saying no shows that we have given the other person some form of authority over us……
“But in relationships, there supposedly is no “judge,” but only people who freely give love, time and energy to each other. So how is it that a simple “no, thank you, but I am going to miss that dinner,” can immediately internally marshal a lot of emotional and other resources to “look for a good reason,” to make it a “right” decision? Why do you have to “justify” your “no?” No is a complete sentence in its own right.”
One of my very dear friends has had a lot of trouble saying no to certain family members and friends. As a result, the stories she has shared about people taking advantage of her and her hospitality absolutely infuriate me. My friend is also the sweetest person and a people pleaser. She’s always trying to accommodate everyone else. But I could see that resentment, bitterness, and anger had built a home in her heart toward people who treat her like a doormat. I began encouraging her to say “no” and told her, “Just because boundaries make others mad doesn’t make you bad.” It’s the narcissistic nature of some people to just assume others will cater to their needs at the drop of a hat.
Especially family members.
I’ve seen this in my own life when family members have asked for money. The guilt trip a relative can lay on a person for not giving them what they want is nothing short of rude. It’s also a sign that they lack more than money–they lack boundaries.
My experience in separating the relationship from the situation gave me the knowledge to tell my friend, “Just say no.” And if you say, “yes” too often, because your “no” muscle is broken or weak, then you aren’t going to be able to focus on things that are important to you.
“No” protects how your time and energy are spent.
Here are 12 things Henry Cloud says NO does for you:
- Shapes your focus.
- Determines the reality of your mortality.
- Determines how you use your time.
- Determines how much people are able to control you.
- Determines what others can do to you.
- Determines what you allow others to do around you or in your organization.
- Determines what people can get from you.
- Determines what people can get you to do.
- Protects your resources, including your financial resources.
- Protects you from self-destructive behavior.
- As a leader, determines your ability to keep people going in a direction.
- As a leader, determines your ability to stay on mission.
The next time I saw my friend she had a big grin on her face. She told me about two situations where she was able to say “no” to a family member and an acquaintance. She was full of strength and confidence and she felt great! She was not controlled by her mother’s guilt, and her energy was protected from over-committing to something for which she had absolutely no time.
On the flip side, those that constantly say “no” to everything and are in no way ever going to say “yes” if it involves any form of self-sacrifice, are selfish. And selfishness is ugly.
The key here is balance. A balance that involves give and take, no judgements and freedom to be yourself in the relationship. That is what my friend experienced.
And you know what?
“No” looked great on her!