Can you easily and honestly, without feeling any constriction in your body, say “no?” Or, do you say “maybe” when you really want to say “no?” Or, worse yet, do you say “yes” when you mean “no” and have no intention of fulfilling the promise you just made?
What we are really discussing here is how well you honor your feelings. There are consequences for being dishonest—to your relationships and to your sense of self. You have the right to say “no,” period. Of course, loving other people and being in relationships means doing things you may not want to do at times, but only because it is important to the other person. Consciously making that sacrifice is your choice.
There are lots of messy styles of not being able to embrace the “no” and being unable to simply say, “I don’t want to do that; this does not work for me,” without long-winded justifications but with the expectation that the other person can accept the boundary you have drawn.
The next question after considering how well you honor your desire to say “no” is: How well do you receive “no?”
What does it mean to you when someone says “no” to your request? Do you write a whole script about how they must not love or value you enough? Can you create space for the people in your life to be separate from you even though you are in a relationship? Again, this is not to say that a compromise cannot be reached, but a real compromise can only be reached if each person has the space to be honest.
There are many dysfunctional family systems in which “no” is considered disloyal and is simply not allowed. According to theorist Murray Bowen, these families have undifferentiated systems. Family differentiation refers to the degree to which differences and individuality is tolerated. In systems where saying “no” is a crime, family members’ individuality is viewed as disloyal and threatening to the family’s stability. If you come from an undifferentiated family that was emotionally stuck together, meaning the fears, anxieties, stresses or joys of one family member were felt intensely and personally by all family members, than saying no and asserting your true desires in your current relationships may feel too threatening. But remember, now is not then.
Being able to honor yourself and draw boundaries by saying “no” is essential for your mental health. It is basically the difference between living authentically and living a lie. You can start by taking baby steps. Before you give an answer to anyone about anything, take a moment to think. Give yourself time by saying you will get back to them. People’s respect for your boundaries might shock you. In order to create relationships that are fulfilling, you must know, love and honor your true self. Being able to say “no” is an important piece of that puzzle.
Did this tip resonate with you? Please share. What’s your relationship to “no?”
I hope you have an amazing week and, as always, take care of you.
Love Love Love
Update about My Big Sister Tammi…
Your responses have been so touching. My whole family, especially Tammi, is beyond grateful for your words, thoughts, prayers, and donations. The road to transplant is tough-requiring lots of patience and perseverance, but Tammi is moving along, everyday a little closer!
To learn more and to send a cyber-hug, please head to Tammi’s Liver Club (TLC) website. She had a fundraiser in her hometown in North Carolina on Friday night that raised nearly $2,000!
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Terri Cole, founder and CEO of Live Fearless and Free, is a licensed psychotherapist, transformation coach, and an expert at turning fear into freedom. For almost two decades, Terri has empowered companies, celebrities, professional athletes and individuals to Live Fearless and Free. Recently, Terri released her first CD Meditation Transformation. Follow Terri on Twitter @terri_cole.