22 Days Of Doing Better: Day 9
Trying to live your best life in 2018 — or at least a better one? We’re here to help with #DoBetter2018, a 22-day series of how-to articles to help you achieve some of the most common New Year’s resolutions and personal growth goals.
For today’s installment in the #DoBetter2018 series, we spoke with Self-Care Coach Aisha Moore about the importance of saying no, why saying yes when you don’t want to is a form of code-switching and how saying no at the right times can improve your life.
Women have a harder time saying no because we’re expected to be nurturers and helpers. It’s an idea that we’ve “caught” because we’re not explicitly taught to be this way. I don’t think anyone’s mom is like, ‘Don’t you ever say no to anyone!’ You just kind of catch that by watching the way society treats us, watching the way the people around us act. It gets pretty embedded early on.
But there’s this underlying issue that people just want to be liked. The people who never say no are often the people who are liked but they’re also the people who are overwhelmed. And for Black women, in particular, we’re definitely afraid of not being liked in the workplace. It’s really a form of code-switching for a lot of us. We have to say yes to things that we don’t want to because we have to fit in, we don’t want to be the “angry Black woman,” we don’t want to be standoffish.
Why is learning to say no important?
Really, the truth is we’re already pretty good at saying no. But we say no to ourselves. We say no to joy. We say no to our own priorities. We say no to healthy relationships. We say no to financial peace. So more specifically we need to learn how to say no to overwhelmed, chaos, co-signing on people’s cars. That’s what we need to learn how to say no to. When you learn how to say no, it gives you more control over your own destiny. Learn how to hone my internal compass on making decisions.
You have to ask yourself:
‘What am I about to agree to?’
‘Is it going to move me toward my goals and visions or is it going to move me away from them?’
‘How will I feel after making my decision?’
Am I immediately resentful of the person?
Am I going to be depleted if I say yes to this?
We have to take that moment to pause to think about that. It helps you stay on your own path instead of letting others lead you places you didn’t even intend on going in the first place.
We’ve all heard, ‘No is a complete sentence.’ Can you explain why that’s helpful?
As soon as we say no to something, especially something we’re not sure we want to say no to or was difficult, our brain starts to put that doubt and fear into the equation. And if you keep talking, you’re going to undermine yourself and whoever you’re trying to be firm with, they’ve got your number now.
And not that people do this maliciously, but they can see how to manipulate the situation. When you believe you have to justify your no to another person, you’re assuming that they care about what you care about. You’re assuming that they have the same rubric. So you give them your reason because it’s a good reason to you but it might not matter to them. Your reason only needs to matter to you. It’s got to be based on your values, not the values that you caught, not the values that you were taught.
The other person doesn’t have the complete picture of your life. They can’t make decisions for you. They don’t know how busy you are, how committed you are. They don’t know what’s on your plate. You have all the information you need to make the decision for yourself.
What are the benefits of saying no at the right times?
I’m super big on integrity. And that integrity includes honoring your own values and being fair to yourself. Sometimes we can let our ego get the best of us. We let ourselves believe or we’re told that we’re the only person who can help solve this problem or people are always coming to you. But that’s only part of the story. They come to you because they know you’re the one who will say yes without hesitation. They’re taking the easiest road to get to where they want to go and they know you value self-sacrifice.
The benefits are about your own self-preservation. You cannot give what you don’t have. Because when you give what you don’t have, no one benefits. So back to the cosigning on the car. Someone needed a cosign because there was a financial issue. So you cosign and you know they’re not going to pay that car note. So they were already in financial ruin and you are too because you were not able to stand firm on your no when you already knew, before you said yes, that both of y’all were going to be in financial ruin. But in the moment, you wanted to be well-liked.
The question was about saying no at the right times and I think that’s important. This is not about saying no to everything but it is about the right time. Maybe it’s something you do want to do but you don’t have time to do it with ease and grace, it’s going to wear you out. Or maybe you don’t have time today, you have time tomorrow or next week. Maybe there’s a financial risk involved, so you’re not saying no to that person, you’re saying no to risking yourself financially. And back to my earlier point, I learned this from Oprah, “Are you doing this just to be liked?”
For those of us who have a hard time saying no, what are some strategies we can employ to make saying no, at the right times, easier?
For some people it might be a baby step because you can’t go from being a “yes, yes, yes” person to overnight saying no. So what I recommend is:
Delay your yes.
Think about it and then either come back with either your no or an alternative proposal. You might be able to propose an alternative that works for you and works for them, then everybody’s happy.
Make sure you know what you’re getting into. Sometimes you didn’t even know that you needed to say no because you didn’t ask enough questions. You didn’t get the full picture.
When you’re saying no to someone else, what are you saying yes to in your own life?
Ask yourself, again, what impact is this having on my life. Is this is moving you toward or away from your vision? And then if I’m going to feel overwhelmed about this, in the end, is this something I really want to do? So you do the thing but then you have to deal with your own emotional health as the consequence of these decisions.
Aisha Moore is a self-care coach who has earned a Masters of Public Health from University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, focusing on Health Behavior and Health Education. She has designed several courses, including “Ditch The Guilt: The Confident Woman’s Guide to Asking For Help and Setting Boundaries.” You can learn more about her work on SelfCarebyAisha and follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.