It can be very difficult for people who value harmony — those of us who like to get along — to say no, whether it’s to our loved ones, friends or co-workers.
In this podcast, I give some tips and strategies to help you know how to say no when you need to — to your kids, your boss, all the tough ones. Because we don’t want to be doormats. And if we’re not willing to say no in the right times, our integrity, our self-respect and the respect of others go out the window. What do you value above getting along? Let’s find out.
To begin, draw a square on your paper, or print this notes page. At the bottom of the square, write the words, Peace/Harmony/Getting Along. This is our values box. Be thinking about what you value above peace, or harmony, or getting along.
Here’s an example: If you have a child, or have ever taken care of a child, I am willing to bet that you value their health and safety more than you value peace. I know this, because you’ve been willing to buckle them into a car seat! Just about all children dislike being in a car seat, and will argue to try and get out of being strapped into one.
But no! We value their safety more than we value peace, so we’ll argue and wrestle with them until they’re safely buckled in.
What else do you value more than peace and harmony? Maybe it’s sufficient alone time. Maybe it’s being truly known. Your integrity. Be thinking about that, and write it down in the values box, above Peace/Harmony/Getting Along.
The Short Game – Reacting from Emotion
The short game is when we react out of emotion instead of responding out of intention. When we want a quick fix — we want to feel better immediately.
In the podcast, here I give an example from my life of when I played the short game and LOST. I didn’t have the courage to say NO when I needed to, and later regretted it, very much. In the heat of that moment, I pressured myself into choosing harmony over doing what I knew was right.
Think about your own life, and on your paper write “My Short Game Examples”. Under that heading, write about some times when you should have said no, but instead you took the quick way out, the easy way out, went along to get along, and later regretted it.
I hope over the next few days and weeks, I hope you’ll continue to collect these memories, because acknowledging them will help you in the future. Look back at your notes, and think on these memories when you need the courage and inspiration to do what you know is right.
The Long Game – Responding with Intention
What we want to be working toward is playing the long game, that’s being willing to say no, with everyone watching. It’s being willing to ruffle a few feathers, but responding with intention, and with our eye on the future and the eventual outcome of our decision.
Here is give an example of when I played the long game. It was hard! But I’m still glad I stuck to my guns. Think about your own examples.
Take some time to write to yourself about both — when you’ve given in to pressure, just to get out of feeling bad, and then suffered the consequences down the line, and then when you’ve played the long game, when you had the courage to say NO, and felt like you responded with intention, and with consideration for the future.
Saying No – Power Points
Your Values Box
I hope you’ve been keeping track of your values, writing them down as you listen and think through the podcast. What do you value more than just getting along?
In my earlier “long game” example above, I valued my health more than getting along, more than playing it cool. Maybe in your examples, you realize you value your alone time, or your education, or your children’s educations more highly than keeping the peace. What do you care about and are willing to protect above and beyond just getting along?
My hope is that you’ll develop this list, and refine it until you get a list that really matters to you. So that you can visualize it and commit to it, especially when you are going to a family reunion, or getting together with people who have specific expectations of you. This can be a very difficult time to say no, and to keep promises to ourselves.
Keeping Promises to Yourself
This is the basis of healthy self-esteem — the ability to follow through on something you know you need.
Let’s say you’ve decided to quit smoking, but you come from a family of smokers. And you all get together for July 4th, and you’re out by the lake, and everyone lights up. They know you’re a smoker — you always have been — how do you say no to just one cigarette?
One of the easiest ways to say no is to remember that you and your health, and your commitments to yourself matter. You matter. And just as we want to keep our promises and honor our commitments to other people, the ones you make to yourself matter too.
I think writing out these promises can help you take them more seriously — especially if you’re about to head out to that family reunion, knowing what your intentions are from the outset is going to help you stay strong. Your list might look like this:
I commit to only having three alcoholic beverages this week
I commit to only consuming (you fill in the blank) calories in this day
I will exercise (?) times this week
I commit to myself and my family that I’ll only work until 6pm every day this week