Saying no. Let’s practice it.
No that doesn’t work for me. No I don’t want to. No I am already committed. No thank you I don’t need it. No I already have one (a husband, wife, hamster collection). No I don’t feel a spark.
Was that scary? Or are you good at it? Does it come easy to you? Are you great saying no in business but terrible in love, or vice versa?
Do you feel no deep in your bones but struggle to get it out of your mouth.
Do you find yourself on a date or a relationship you know isn’t going anywhere because you don’t know how or when to say it?
Or do you find yourself on the receiving end of well intentioned love interests or associates or friends that just keep you hangin’?
Why can it be so difficult for us sometimes to JUST SAY NO?
Well I have a bit of an idea…
Saying no is defined as an act of refusal, which makes many of us feel somewhere on the spectrum of unkind to awful when we do it. It can be extremely hard to find ourselves in the position to refuse someone else, a living breathing person who just like us wakes up in the morning and tries hard and has hard things happen and bad days and now wants something from US —a little time, a date, the rest of our lives. No biggie. Which means that today we got up and thought we just had to do all the regular things required on our list but now we have to be Kings and Queens of who gets to be happy and who gets to be sad. If I don’t want to give it and I say yes, well I am sad. And if you want it and I say no, you’re sad. Who wants to pay $15 for a movie that’s just gonna make us cry at the end, thanks a LOT, Nicholas Sparks.
But we sure as hell don’t want to be the other kind of asshole who is saying yes then not showing up, literally or metaphorically when we are trying so hard just to make everyone happy for Pete’s sake. Pete doesn’t even want that.
Well guess what?!!! I also have an idea of how we can make saying no a lot less painful for both of us. I am just full of ideas today.
Some handy dandy suggestions:
Know yourself. So much indecision energy comes from confusion as to what we want which leads to fear of giving something up which may land somewhere in the ballpark of that want, but isn’t a home run. Just like that I am a baseball wiz. Understanding what we really want makes it easier to say no to what we don’t. If we want a family, going out on a date with someone who plans to fly solo may answer a temporary need for connection but doesn’t serve our overall happiness. It’s important to keep top of mind that we are not saying no to the good stuff, we are saying no to the complication and confusion. We are saying YES to our more important need. When we make time and space to check in with what we want in romance and life it is naturally easier to steer toward it, and to be less tempted by the short term fix.
Know the ASK. The flip side of knowing ourselves is to consider the ask. What does this person truly want and need; why are they asking? It’s a lot easier to respond I want you to have the commitment you are asking for but I am not in that place, or I don’t feel in the same place you are, or something is missing for me, than a straight up No I won’t marry you, date you, Shark Tank “I’m out”. On the other hand, if your asker is someone who struggles to respect boundaries, less engagement is more and a simple “I wish you well but that doesn’t work for me” will save you negotiations.
Trust. Formally saying no is a refusal, but a refusal is always a choice. Choices require risk and risks require trust. We need trust in ourselves to make the choice. Trust in a higher power or higher vision to align with us or support us. Trust in an outcome. It’s easier to take risks and to trust if we are making loving decisions and if we are kind and compassionate with ourselves as a practice. Quit damning yourself every time the outcome is less than perfect and you’ll start making more confident decisions.
Refuse the BS not the person. Say no to a night of awkward silence and obligation. Say no to diluting energy you need for important areas of your life. Say no to “so so”. Say no to giving scraps of your attention to someone. Say no to dynamics and energy drains and emotional clutter, and think of it as a no for you AND the lovely human receiving your no, rather than a refusal OF them. We don’t want this outcome, rather than something is inherently unworthy in you. I am lovingly protecting emotional energy is a completely different message than you’re not good enough for me or I don’t care about you or your needs.
Respect emotional autonomy. It can feel very hard for some of us not to rescue, save, please and take full responsibility for another grown up’s feelings and needs, often for complicated reasons from our pasts like emotional survival. But healthy adults don’t want this. They want to manage their own feelings and needs, and don’t want to be treated like they will fall apart if you don’t run laps to avoid causing them discomfort. And they don’t want someone saying yes to a date or a project out of obligation or fear. Assume that someone is autonomous and loves themselves enough to accept your no graciously. If you don’t approach them with apology energy THEY will feel a lot more comfortable and at ease.
Use accepting language. Collaborative language generally feels much better than unilateral denial. Affirm the person’s value or the worth of their ask, motivation or cause. Thank them for their interest, effort, time, inclusion. Frame it as a we, wherever possible.
Unsubscribe your vibe. It can be very helpful to regularly unsubscribe from people and situations that don’t feel like healthy energy investments for you. Think of your inbox. Rather than 20 deletes every morning unsubscribe to those you always find yourself deleting, or never saying yes to.
Let them off the hook. Be super clear with your ask if it’s urgent. I really need this can you come through for me? If it’s not, set them up for a comfortable refusal. I would love if it this could work, but I completely get it if it’s not a fit. Your relaxed energy will encourage the healthiest most sincere response.
Rejection in general (like romantic attraction) gets a whole lot easier when we stop seeing it as a judgment of someone else’s worth, or the worthiness of their request and instead ask whether it gets everyone where they want to go.
Which is OBVIOUSLY a seaside villa in Italy where the wine is flowing and the waves are crashing and statues of angels are strewn about the gardens.
Are you free next weekend ‘cause I’m looking for a date. And I won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.
P.S. 2021 I am bringing on the love. I’ll be featured in a podcast all about better loving, from healing your broken heart to intentional dating to creating a relationship that thrives, and I’ll be launching a sister site for all of you relationship and love enthusiasts, with all kinds of insights and offerings. Stay tuned!
P.P.S. One of the kindest things you can do for me is to share my writing. If you enjoyed today’s Monday Musing and know someone else who would please forward it to a friend.