The Art of Saying "No"
As a faith-based life coach, one thing I have found consistently with my clients is the difficulty they have in saying “no”. Do you ever find yourself saying “yes” when you really want to say “no”? I certainly have. I’ve said yes to favors that I didn’t want to do. Yes, to food I didn’t want to eat. Yes, to hanging out with people I didn’t really like. Yes, volunteering for church events I had no interest in. Yes, to overtime that I didn’t want to work. The list could be endless. How about you? Uh huh, just as I thought! Friend, you are not alone.
It seems that women have a harder time saying “no” than men do. Caitlyn Collins, a professor of sociology at Washington University in St. Louis, who studies gender inequality at work and at home had this to say according to USA Today. "In dating, in marriage, in friendships, in their hobbies, in the way they parent their kids, the way they operate in the world of paid work – this idea that what it means to be a good woman is to subsume your own needs for the sake of others around you is a hallmark of femininity in the United States. And this, of course, has disastrous consequences for women."
In women’s coaching I find that saying “yes” all the time can erode how we value and feel about ourselves. It has the potential to eat away our self-esteem. It can cause us to spiral into depression and often will lead us into passive-aggressive behaviors. Passive aggressive behaviors can make us feel like we’ve evened the score, winning for a moment, but ultimately can poison relationships at home and work. Passive aggressive behavior is a way of expressing negative feelings, such as anger or annoyance, indirectly instead of directly, according to Psychology Today.
Passive aggression can be characterized by ghosting (disappearing, not honoring the commitment), procrastination, backhand compliments, sarcasm, complaining, and silence. Passive aggressive people communicate their frustration and resentment in ways that seem innocent on the surface, but it often masks their harmful motives. At its core, passive aggression is an expression of hostility.
Saying “yes” to everything can complicate your health. The stress of trying to do it all can produce physical symptoms and illness according to the Cleveland Clinic. It can cause muscle and joint pain, tightness of chest and heart palpitations, and exacerbate eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis. Being a “yes” person can also create anxiety, stress, the sense of being constantly overwhelmed.
If that’s not enough, deep down we know that some situations demand assertiveness, but speaking up can be tricky, especially for women and especially if we must speak up to a male. Research for the University of Texas show that women find it much more difficult to speak up for themselves but are more effective and comfortable when speaking up for others.
I’m sure there are many reasons why women say “yes”. I want to share three reason I believe are important and three ways that you can learn to say “no”.
Three Reasons Women Say Yes
Firstly, we are socialized that way. From the time we were little girls we received messages (conscious and unconscious) that we should be nice, and likable, and concerned with the feelings of others. This idea of niceness spills into every area of our lives. So much so, that we often put the needs of others before our own.
Secondly, women don’t want to be viewed as aggressive, bossy or b*tchy. While men are perceived to be leaders and in control when they exhibit these behaviors, women are more likely to receive harsh criticism. There is a pressure to be perceived as nice. We often hesitate to set boundaries for fear that it will have a negative impact on us and others.
Thirdly, we are simply not taught to say “no” and not affirmed when we do. Setting boundaries and saying “no” is a skill. We often think it is built into someone’s personality or temperament, but it can be learned. As women we often want to avoid the discomfort of conflict and disagreement which means we agree to do many things that we do not want to do.
Three Ways You Can Learn to Say No
First, as a women’s empowerment coach, I can tell you to practice, practice, practice. Practice in the mirror. Practice different ways of saying “no” with different scenarios. In time, you’ll be a natural.
Second, notice when your “yes” is frustrating or creates anxiety. Those are the places that you probably need to set boundaries. It could be in your place of worship, your workplace, or even among your friends and family.
Third, think about how your “yes” affects you. Every “yes” to something means saying “no” to something else. Every “yes” costs you something. Time with family or friends. Time spent on a hobby you love or just time doing exactly what you want to do and it’s all right if that’s nothing!
There are some great benefits to say, “no”. Women who say “no” are respected. It means that you know the value of your time. Saying “no” can take you from good to excellent. If you don’t learn to say “no”, the quality of all you do will suffer and ultimately you will burn out. By saying “no”, you will empower the women around you to say “no”, as well. We spend too much time worrying about what others will say or think, but others are not thinking about us as much as we believe. Do what you need to do. Others will adjust or understand. Also remember saying “no” is a double-edged sword – be gracious to those who say “no” to you.