Many of us have a difficult time saying "no" to people's requests - yet want to.
Does that sound like you? In the years that I did trainings for companies and taught at colleges, the number one thing that people wished they could do differently, was to have the ability to say "no" without guilt.
They shared many reasons why it was so difficult for them:
They felt like a bad person.
They didn't want to let someone down.
They feared what the other person, or people, would think of them.
They felt the task would ultimately be finished quicker, with better quality, if they just did it themselves.
In a work situation, they felt the request may fit under "other duties as assigned."
In a family situation, they wondered if it should be part of "unconditional love."
They were frustrated that people weren't pulling their weight, and were losing respect for them.
They were past the point of being frustrated and now becoming passive aggressive to others.
They found themselves preoccupied with being angry for being taken advantage of by another.
They didn't want to deal with the known or perceived consequences for saying "no."
Do any of these statements strike a chord with you? Do you find yourself feeling resentful or frustrated that there have been many situations - or a current one - where you wanted to say "no"?
So how do you reframe the idea that saying "yes" to an unwelcome request is a requirement of being a good person? And what words could you use instead, if "no" sounds too harsh? First, remember that you have a choice with what you say and do.
One gauge in the reframing process is to ask yourself if you would make the same request of another person. Note that I'm not suggesting to say "yes" always is wrong, as people do need help. I'm simply focusing on the times we want to say no, and seem to lose our voice.
Yet some people will try to trip your emotional triggers by how they ask - and often our internal thinking tells us it's just easier to say yes. But then the resentment can set in on various levels.
Note that if you've been doing this your entire life, it will take practice and self-permission to accomplish. Know that the payoff will be a sense of great relief.
I'm here to validate that some people can be manipulative, even abusive, with their constant expectation of you doing their work - or agreeing to their requests, while others honestly are clueless at using their social filters.
Both types will be surprised to hear you stop saying "yes", and start saying something like "thank you for the opportunity yet I'll not be able to take on that commitment."
There are ways to say "no" without sounding defensive or arrogant. Again, it takes practice.
It has been said we teach people how to treat us.
I can see some truth in that statement. On the flip side, there always will be individuals who feel entitled to treat people however they want. Listen to your inner voice to know the difference. Another way of learning to say "no" is recognizing when we're enabling someone or even a group (e.g. family, workplace or team).
If we keep doing something for someone, than they may never learn how to be independent and self-reliant.
The next point is to recognize when you are limiting your own life (e.g. time, money or opportunity) by constantly feeling like you won't be a good person if you don't say yes. And the resentment that builds up is going to come out somewhere, or stay within as anxiety.
At one time, I too had a problem with saying "no."
I wanted to be the good girl, the one people could count on, the one no one was disappointed in, until I learned I was causing my own resentment. In most cases, I learned that people often would move on to the next person to ask for help. Where someone became more forceful and tried to make me feel bad, I recognized that was the other person's persona in solving their problem.
Try answering this question: "What should someone else's expectations be of you with their specific request?" Each person who asks you is a uniquely different relationship - so there is no across-the-board answer.
My point with today's column is to see if the topic resonates with you. If so, what will you choose to say and do - plus not say or not do?
For many, this has been a lifelong frustration. Life can change today - with your self-permission.
May you find that your inner voice is free (and fair) to come out, and become more authentic to yourself. May you reduce your guilt and sense of being a "bad" person, knowing you have no negative intentions. May you consider looking for new relationships, or even a job, if you are losing your true self through this process. May you find peace, instead of fear, in living your life.
Langley may be reached at life@ sungazette.com. Her column is published on the first Sunday of each month.