Have you ever felt like being nice to other people made you do things you didn’t actually want? Have you ever felt scared when you had to say no to somebody? Afraid of being rejected?
If that’s the case, you may want to read this ! I’m going through the same path too, and it could be great to share some advice!
Say no. What?!
It took me years to realize that, well, I have a problem. I can’t say no. Friends or colleagues ask me a favor? Of course I’ll help ! People ask me to do things I absolutely don’t want to do for the sake of me? Here I am anyways!
But hey, either I’d force myself into it, or I’d find an incredible excuse to justify my no. And then I’d feel guilty for hours, or sometimes days.
I became so good at this, I hadn’t even realized I would actually convince myself into changing my mind and believing that the other person’s option was a better one. I would just forget whatever reason it was for which I didn’t want to comply in the first place.
It took me some deep reflection to understand what I was doing, and why.
I was forgetting my own needs. Just did not listen to them anymore. As if they were not important, as important as the one of the other person. I would sacrifice myself without knowing why, and WHAT I was sacrificing.
My thoughts were, “I can handle this”, “I can make it without my own desires or wishes”. Let’s do what the other person asks for.
Moreover, would I feel the colleague or friend was disrespectful in some ways? I would not speak. I would justify him, act as if nothing were, and hold my disappointment inside. At least until the next time.
What I now believe was especially wrong, was that my “yes” was an automatic response, not a choice I would make. I would then feel nervous, my stomach would ache, my shoulders would become all tense.
My unease would show off, later on. But I wouldn’t listen.
It was a very long process, ending up understanding that I am always so afraid of not being liked and loved, that I would do anything not to disappoint others. Anything to be accepted.
(Even now, it’s not become easier to say no, but at least Hey! I know what’s happening ! Big accomplishment 🙂 ).
When it became a problem
I would just panic for small little things, like getting a sudden invitation to a friend’s house, when I had planned to do something else.
I can’t say no, we have to go! and at the same time :
Oh, I really wanted to have that picnic we’ve planned.. Whatever the choice, I would feel that my day was ruined, either by guilt or by regret. I would torture myself (and husband, ah!) for the entire day.
Assertiveness and Say no issue. Yes, it’s theory again
OK. It sounds as if I’m crazy, right??? Doesn’t this happen to any of you? If so, I so want to hear your story and how you handle this !
But hey, let’s stay serious (not too much, I promise). There is a whole bunch of literature and theory about this stuff. It’s called ASSERTIVENESS.
If you’ve never heard of it, as it was my case until a couple of years ago, this is defined as a skill or behavior. When you are assertive, you are able to state your point of view, or affirm your rights, without endangering the other person’s position (i.e. her rights or her point of view).
So ok this is a general definition of a communication capability o quality. But, to me, say no is just one aspect of this ability. When you are able to position yourself at the same level as the person you’re talking to, you are also able to defend your no as an answer. Without feeling threatened. Nor without threatening the other of course.
I know, it sounds easier on the paper, it requires training on real life…
Let’s get back to the story, and how in the world I ever worried about my no-issue!
A baby changes everything
One beautiful morning, my first child was born. A beautiful, strong-headed, willful girl.
Even as a baby, she wanted to have it her way NO MATTER WHAT. (Which of course I thought was normal until I had my second, easy-going boy).
A gentle no, or stop!, were often not even heard. And it was soon clear that what was obeyed when her father asked, was not obeyed when it was me asking. Too gentle, so to speak. I was too afraid of my no.
That got me questioning. Because an 18-month toddler cannot do what she wants; I would just ruin her life if I didn’t give her some rules and boundaries one must respect sooner or later in life.
I also want to show her that crying, and whining, and complaining, as soon as some remote wish enters her head, is not a desirable behavior. AND that I am not her personal maid, I am a person with needs too; and she also needs to acknowledge this. Without this endangering our relationship nor our love.
The plain truth
Wow. It is hard for sacrificing-all-the-time-me.
It is hard because we both have needs that need to be acknowledged. On the same time, I am an adult, with a full-formed brain and capabilities; Whereas she is a baby. Where is the right balance??!
No honey, you cannot have dinner on my lap, because I need to eat too. Now you must sit in your chair, and when I’m finished, we can cuddle.
You could have had some ice cream, if you had asked properly. Sorry, you yelled at me and screamed for twenty minutes; this is NOT an appropriate way of asking something you’d like.”
Non exhaustive list of exemples of course. It takes a lot of patience to endure the upcoming screaming, and deciding upfront how to handle it : ignoring it, giving myself a time-out, more talking to explain, etc.
I’m getting a little better now at noticing when I’m letting my child being disrespectful to me, talking to me as she shouldn’t.
And I’m also doing some efforts in communicating when my feelings are hurt. Well.. let’s say I’m also on my way to learn what my feelings are in the first place.
It takes a lot of practice and time, I find it a very difficult journey that I owe, if not to me, to my children. I guess, it’s a way of accepting myself as I am..
Let’s use some tips!
If you want to give this crazy journey a try, here some practical tips I’ve been starting with:
make a pause before answering.
Figure out a couple of ready sentences to drop in whenever somebody starts asking “would you please…?”
It could be
let me think about this, or
I’ll answer in a few minutes, any excuse will work.
Then, breathe. And listen to what the inner You says, before evaluating your answer.
So that our
yes may become choices we make.
Have you tried? Let us know how it went in the comments section below!
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