From a young age, for many people, the word no has negative connotations. Your parents yelled “No!” when you were about to do something dangerous. They said “No” when you wanted to stay up later, eat more candy, or go on an unsupervised date. No either meant that you’d done something bad, or that you couldn’t have something you wanted. You can probably still remember the sound of your parents’ voices saying “No” when you were little, and you probably still get a little chill up your spine when you do.
Perhaps this is the reason we’re all so uncomfortable saying no as adults. Whether it’s saying no to a second date with someone we just don’t like, saying no to a social invitation for something that doesn’t interest us, or saying no to doing someone a favor, we’ll look for any way to say it other than, well, “No.”
Saying no, however, is just a form of creating a boundary. Unfortunately, since so many people are uncomfortable with saying it, they can often fail to create or enforce boundaries where boundaries need to exist. If you can’t say “No,” you’ll quickly find yourself leading a life that you don’t really enjoy, and that’s because it will be controlled by others. So we chatted with Dr. Catherine Jackson, licensed psychologist and certified neuro therapist at Optimal Neuroholistic Services about when to say “No,” and how to do so in a way that leaves both parties feeling respected.
Questions to ask yourself, before responding
- We asked Dr. Jackson what questions people should ask themselves before responding to a request. Whether it’s doing someone a favor like helping them move or going to a friend’s house late at night to console her after a breakup. She said:
- Do I really want to do this?
- What is my intuition saying?
- If I say yes, do I have the time and resources to do it?
- How will I feel about doing this? Will it leave me feeling resentful or upset?
- Does doing this align with my values?
- How will this benefit them AND me? What do we each get out of it? (NOTE: benefits for you can be as simple as feeling good about helping someone else.)
- Am I in a space mentally, physically, and emotionally to comply with this request?
- How much time and energy will this require? Is there a likelihood that the time will be extended?
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