Gina Behm, MA, LCPC
Just Do It! (Say "No" That Is)
This morning I sat down to write the caption for my most recent Social Media post. You see, sometimes I create my posts on a whim, but most of the time, I have them created weeks in advance. What that means, is that sometimes I forget what I’ve created and what’s coming up next… this week’s posts were one of those times.
It just so happened that earlier this week I had reposted someone else’s content on my story citing how we should normalize saying “no” when we don’t feel like doing something. A couple of days later, my archive showed me the content I posted the same day last year: “just say yes”, with “yes” crossed out, and “whatever feels right to you” in its place. Today, I wake up, pull up Instagram and stop. Next in line to be posted (I kid you not!), “stop saying ‘yes’ because you feel bad saying ‘no’”. Okay… well this is just too much of a coincidence!
I began writing my content for the day, including how I received quite a bit of feedback over the past few days about this topic, so I wanted it to have more of a permanent home on my page. And then I stopped again. CLEARLY this topic is important enough to have a permanent home on my page, but maybe it is also SO important that it needs more than a 2,200 character count limit in discussion. So here we are… the motivation I needed to write my first blog post since mid-May!
We are a society of “yes”; not only “yes”, but “YES!”. We are surrounded by phrases like “Just Do It”, “fake it ‘til you make it”, and “you miss 100% of the chances you don’t take”. Wow… how stressful!!!! So much pressure in that last phrase particularly. Entrepreneurs we know and love have spoken tons on this topic… people like Rachel Hollis who are go getters and “hustlers”. Here’s the thing though y’all… no matter what you are doing, every time you say yes to one thing, you are saying no to something else.
Let’s review that again:
Every time you say YES to one thing, you are saying NO to something else.
It doesn’t matter if they are clearly related or not, you can’t have the best of both worlds. When I say yes to picking you up at the airport at 1 a.m., I am saying no to my full, 8 hours of sleep. When I say yes to meeting you for coffee on a Monday morning, I am saying no to a client who may fill that spot. When I say yes to hosting a bridal shower at my house, I am ALSO saying YES to weeks work of planning, days worth of cleaning and at the same time, I am saying no to my husband being in his own home for that day. You can’t do everything y’all! You can’t be in two places at once, and you sure as hell cannot take care of yourself while you are taking care of someone else. So why do we do it? Why do we keep saying yes?? The way I see it, other than our toxic societal assumptions that Hustle and Grind make you the best… there are two other issues that stand clear while discussing this topic. First, when we say no to someone or something, we tend to feel BAD… like, really bad. Second, the person we say no to often reacts… well, less than ideally to say the least. Let’s look at these two factors in a little more depth.
1. When we say no to someone or something, we tend to feel BAD.
Guilt, worry, anxiety, shame, fear. Those are some of the emotions I tend to feel before and after I say no. WHY do I feel these things, I ask myself? I worry I have hurt their feelings, I feel guilt and shame because (I think) saying no makes me a bad friend, and I feel anxious and fearful as I await a response confirming if they are angry, or okay. Does this sound familiar to anyone? I highly doubt I am alone in this...
2. The person we say no to often reacts less than ideally.
How do you react when someone says no to you? Typically I respond with something along the lines of “no worries!”, while on the inside, depending on the topic, I actually feel hurt, angry, disappointed, panicked to find someone else to say yes. Sometimes, if I am not in the best of moods, I may even nix the “no worries!” entirely, and throw in a sarcastic comment or not respond at all. However, even when I do manage to muster up a semi-positive response, I still let it shift our relationship slightly. I fall into mind-reading, future-tripping & catastrophizing. I have thoughts such as “I would have done it for them”, “They would have done it for xyz”, or “Make a mental note not to ask them next time”.
So here is my question… if we have all had to say no before, and we all know how bad it makes us feel, how come when we get told no, we react so poorly? Why can’t we hold perspective for that person and what they are going through? Why can’t we respect their choice to pick themselves? Lucky for you, I have an idea of an answer to my own question on this one :)
The thing about humans is, we are all only in our own heads. Which means we only have our own experiences to go off of, and we first and foremost can only see our own perspective; it’s a habit, it’s natural. When we get told no, it takes EFFORT to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes. We have to first experience our own perspective and reaction, and then we have to actively choose to challenge those initial assumptions. Which means we have to take some time, and we have to put in some brain power. But maybe the extra 30 seconds to a minute it takes to make that effort would be well worth it…
Here are two scenarios that happened to me literally within the last 24 hours:
Being Told No: I have been dying to go to the drive-in here in town. Movie theatres are one of Ryan and I’s favorite ways to spend down time together, and since COVID has put a screeching halt to that, I was ecstatic when my friend informed me of a cute little spot not even 15 min from our home to watch movies from the safety and comfort of your own vehicle! I invited a few of my friends who seemed open to the idea, and I was excited for a “night out together”, which we haven’t been able to do for a long time! As the day went on, one friend bailed, and then the other. See the first friend is getting married next weekend, and she said they wanted to stay in to relax. My second friend is pregnant and didn’t think she would be able to stay awake for the film since it doesn’t start until 9 p.m. when the sun is fully down. BOTH of these reasons are VERY valid reasons! Both of these reasons, had they been my own, probably would have resulted in me saying no also. But they weren’t my reasons, and remember, we can only have our own experience - My experience in this moment was “they don’t want to hang out with me”, so I felt hurt and sad… until I remembered that post I shared on my story earlier this week. I even recognized in my friends’ no’s that they were feeling bad… saying things like “I’m sorry we are being lame” and so forth. In that moment, I chose to take that extra 30 seconds to see their perspective, and you guys, I felt a literal physical shift in my body; I went from tense, assuming and angry to relaxed, calm and reminding myself the drive-in isn’t going anywhere. I was able to respond with kindness and compassion to them rather than making a sarcastic statement, and now next time I see them again I won’t act any differently around them!
Having to Say No: Okay, you remember my friend who is getting married, yeah? Well, we have a set of friends coming in town for that wedding, and they had asked to use our guest room for the weekend. I checked with my husband, who said it was okay, so I confirmed this couple could stay with us. Today, on our way home from the gym, I mentioned to Ryan that I had to say no to dog-sitting (double whammy on this one!), since we had friends in town and I was only going to be here half the weekend. My husband looked at me and said “Wait what? Jess & Dan are staying with us for the wedding? I told Matt & Mona they could stay with us!” and you guysssss did I EVER get mad at him! Why did I get so angry? BECAUSE I STARTED FEELING ALL THOSE ICKY FEELINGS! I avoided the situation entirely and told Ryan he had to tell Matt or Dan that they couldn’t stay. Ryan said he would figure it out, but I badgered him until there was a solution… “Did you text matt?”, “What did Dan say?”, “Are they upset?”, “Gosh they are not gonna let us live this down…”. Ryan swears to me Dan took it well and things would be fine, but until I sat down to write this example, I can honestly say I was still anxious about it! I’m afraid Jess & Dan will feel like we chose someone else over them, I’m worried they won’t find a place to stay, I feel shame and embarrassment that Ryan and I weren’t on the same page and guilt that I didn’t just put it on the calendar. I think I hit all of those emotions I mentioned earlier, yes? Well, writing this out is helping me take those extra moments to challenge myself. Dan & Jess have many other friends in KC to stay with, they are capable of staying ina hotel, AND we also have a couch if the need becomes dire. Am I sad that I don’t get to spend a little extra time with them since I rarely see them? Absolutely. Does having to change these plans mean that I have to act uncomfortable around them during the precious hours I will get to see them? NO! What a waste that would be!
So, as you can see, taking that extra time, whether it be 30 seconds in my first example, or an hour & a blog post in my second, can really help save some of your relationships from experiencing unnecessary stress, and help your emotions ebb quicker. That seems like a win-win to me!
I leave you today with this:
When you need to say no, whether it is for a logical reason like time or space, or it is for an emotional reason like you need rest, JUST DO IT… JUST SAY NO! You are the most important person in your life whether you believe it or not. If you are stretched too thin, you can’t show up well for anyone or anything. Lets just take that possibility out of the equation and realize how important it is for us to choose ourselves Every. Single. Day. Also, while I’m on this topic, please start saying no with GUSTO. You don’t need to be sorry, you don’t need to have a reason, you don’t need to explain yourself or call yourself a name and you definitely do not need to say “maybe next time” if it’s something you really know you won’t want to do next time either. That just opens a whole other can of worms - and by can of worms I mean another no cycle at a later date!
When you get told no, please stop shaming the other person! This is a two part message. First, we need to normalize that being told no is not a personal attack on our character and it sure as hell does not define our worth as a human being. Secondly, we NEED to work on taking the appropriate amount of time to let our emotions come and go, and once they have passed, challenging our own personal perspective to see that of others. I truly believe if this became the norm, the world would be a much lighter, more joyful place, and many relationships may still be intact that are not today.
So I hope you have stuck with me through this post and enjoyed the extra 9,088 characters that I would not have been able to fit into my Instagram comment! As usual, if you have any comments or additions to this, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments or on my Instagram page! Happy Sunday, and challenge yourself to say NO this week!