My heartfelt thanks to Deborah Forrest, an insightful, skillful, compassionate and dedicated hypnotherapist, for this laugh-until-you-snort take on the mysteries of “I can’t say ‘no’.” I’m paraphrasing, and If I’m getting it wrong, I ought to be ashamed! From here on, I’m using myself as the example, and the bits about consequences for not saying “no,” time management and kaizen are my contribution.
Do I claim I can’t say “no”? Hand me a great big bowl of calamari and see how fast that changes. And I’ve tasted it, so I’m allowed my “NO.” NO. NO. NO. Deborah can say “NO” to a bowl of Brussels Sprouts faster than I can say “NO” to calamari. I just don’t like calamari. Cruciferous vegetables don’t like Deborah.
Her point: “Yes, you can say ‘no.'” You just may not understand how – you weren’t taught constructive ways to say it. Or you don’t believe you’re allowed to say “no” – saying “no” is “selfish.” Or you’re weak or incapable if you say “no” – I don’t need to say “no,” I can do anything. Or you’re afraid of conflict – “My ‘no’ may start a fight.”
Here’s the awful truth though – not saying “no” has consequences too. Take on another project when you were already feeling overwhelmed at work? You’re going to resent the extra burden, and if the job doesn’t get done, you are NOT going to be popular with your office mates. Promise those cupcakes to your little person’s school play fundraiser and forget because you were also planning the neighborhood BBQ? GUILT. DEEP DEEP GUILT. Promise to go to your youngster’s sports event and arrive late because you also offered a ride to the airport for a friend and had to detour? Not OK.
So what to do? Yup, the obvious. Learn how to say “no.” Start slow, small. No to the Brussels Sprouts and calamari. “No” to “Oooooo, could you just please….” directed at you in that grating, ingratiating, wheedling tone of voice we all instinctly recognize as “RUN.” Time management techniques help, because they let you clearly identify whether you have time enough or not to take on “just one more thing…” So get that calendar habit, start glancing at your watch ALOT, set alarms to remind yourself what’s coming next.
Another way to introduce “no” to your life might be through One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way by Robert Maurer, Ph.D. Dr. Maurer explains a technique for acclimating yourself to new habits by taking extremely small actions towards the new habit: Dr. Maurer talks about beginning to exercise by marching in front of the TV for a minute a night!
Reducing your anxiety around “no” may also be supportive, using relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation. Deborah’s guidance, if your reluctance to say “no” has its roots in trauma, may be priceless.
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