Recently I bumped into someone I had to say no to a couple of months ago. I was taken aback when I received quite a chilly response. We were walking in town, and as soon as I saw her I excitedly said hello and she very coldly said hello back and kept on walking.
This was not a very close relationship but we were in a business group together which met once a month for a period off about 8 or 9 months, so we were not strangers and way past acquaintances.
Unfortunately at some point the group disbanded and some people tried to get it together again, but I personally did not have the energy or the level of commitment this group required and so I graciously backed out. It was very important for me not to say yes to be nice, to not hurt feelings. The group was not serving my needs at the time and I really needed to honor that and so I let them know I could not participate at this time.
At some point this same person asked that I come and speak to a group of parents at her program. I very kindly let her know that I was not doing any public speaking at the time and it was also not an audience I felt comfortable with. Parenting/Moms just isn’t my audience. On a side note, I was really struggling with some major shit at the time and the last thing I wanted to do was stand and speak in front of an audience.
Owning Your NO
Today I just have to own my no. In the past I may have let this bother me for days. I may have replayed it in my mind over and over. I may have internalized it and blamed myself and maybe even got down on myself for “doing it wrong”.
Yes, it bothers me that she was cold toward me, but I just can’t own that. I thought about it briefly, checked to see if there was anything I did, perhaps the wording I used that could warrant her acting pretty much like she barely knew me. I can’t find anything. I said no and it appears this may have affected her in some way that I am not aware of. Perhaps she made it mean something about her, perhaps it triggered her.
I must remind myself, it is not mine.
As a child I was not allowed to say no. I didn’t have the right to my body and to whatever happened to it. I was not taught boundaries and how loving and important they are. I was not taught about self care and how sometimes saying no, is often an act of self care and self love.
And so, I am realizing, it is of utmost importance that I feel safe to say no in my relationships. It is important that I am not afraid of people leaving, or being angry because I say no. If I feel intimidated and afraid in my relationships, they will not be as intimate as I would like them to be, they will not last long, and they will never get to the level of comfort I feel I need in order to feel safe.
I am realizing, I need to honor that in myself.
How many times do we say yes, when we really mean no or say no and then feel horribly about it and either backtrack or try to make up for it. Somehow we find ourselves feeling like we owe the person something because we said no and the cycle continues. And so if the act of saying no, was to take care of ourselves, to conserve our energy, to put our focus on something that takes priority, now we are expending the energy we were trying to preserve, on the person anyway. We are still dishonoring ourselves and honoring the other person’s needs above our own.
It is important to really allow ourselves to say no when we need to and let go of the other person’s reaction. They may be hurt, they may be angry and that is theirs. You can compassionately listen, and even understand and empathize with how they feel, and the answer can still be no.
If saying yes is going to make you feel resentful, angry at yourself and otherwise make you feel like you have dishonored yourself, the answer needs to remain a no. Often we dishonor ourselves in order to make someone else feel better and to prevent them from “being mad at us”.
Accepting the NO of others
On the flip side of this, how many times do people tell us no and we find ourselves having a strong reaction to this.
I myself have been guilty of this.
Sometimes we feel slighted, ignored, even abandoned, when someone close to us says no. We may feel as if the other person doesn’t care or may even be saying no out of spite. Often this person is doing the best they can for themselves. Something in this deal is not working for them and we need to respect that.
I have been on this end as well and have felt all of the above. In the past I have felt very hurt when someone close to me says no. Especially if it is someone I had “done things for”. It turns into the story of not being appreciated. And although I do not give to get, or am I conscious of doing this, I guess there is a part of me that expects people who I am there for, to be there for me. And there is also a part of me that resents being told no, because “I never really ask for anything.”
So those are my jangly bit around this.
The truth of how I feel but not necessarily the absolute truth of things. In retrospect, I really don’t want anyone doing anything for me out of pressure, manipulation or because they feel badly. I want them to say yes out of love and respect. I want their yes to be a true yes. If it isn’t, then it leaves funky business between us and that is no good for the relationship.
In the grand scheme of things, perhaps they are saying no because I need to do this on my own. Perhaps they are saying no and taking very good care of themselves and it has nothing to do with me…and I should really honor that and celebrate that.
Maybe, this is an opportunity to be creative and see what other options are available and how else I might support myself in getting what I need/want. More than likely it is not personal at all.
And surely I need to honor their no, as I would like them to honor mine.