Saying No

Ah, the power of “no” — that tiny two-letter word that can set you free, or set you up for a guilt trip that never ends. Here, we offer counsel on saying no with confidence, so you can say “yes!” when it matters most.

This week on The Living Experiment, we’re talking about Saying No, that magical word that can set you free – or feel like a one-way ticket to a guilt trip that will never end.

Whether it’s declining a request or rejecting an offer, the discomfort we feel in saying no — or feeling that we can’t — is an immense source of stress for a great many of us. It’s also a necessity that none of us can avoid.

So how can we get better at managing our authentic “nos” more consciously, and saying them with more clarity and conviction? How can we manage our desire to say “yes!” to life with our responsibility to set healthy boundaries that help us create a life we enjoy?

We get into all of that, and we offer you some experiments to help you say “no” with confidence, so you can say “yes!” when it matters most.

“Saying No” Episode Highlights

  • The anxiety inherent in many “yes” and “no” situations in a culture where the onslaught of offers and opportunities can be overwhelming
  • The difference between the saying an enthusiastic “yes” to life (embracing the exciting things that might scare us or pull us out of our comfort zone) vs. saying yes because we feel obligated or afraid of the outcome of declining
  • The value of authenticity and the betrayal of self that comes from projecting a “yes” you’re not feeling
  • “No, thank you.” How to turn down a request graciously (without undermining your answer by over-apologizing, lying, or qualifying the response)
  • The vulnerability inherent in asking, and the possibility that a “no” might not be taken well by the recipient
  • The costs of saying “yes” when we really want or need to say “no”
  • The particularly challenging implications that “no” can have for women (who are socially trained to be “nice” and accommodating)
  • How codependence shows up in our resistance to clearly stating what we want/mean/need
  • Differing social expectations for how men and women communicate, and why women may be socially punished for being straightforward
  • Pilar’s biofeedback tip: Your body will tell you whether something is a “yes” or a “no.” Listen to your body’s response to a request or invitation and feel for the lifting lightness of “yes!” or the sinking heaviness of “no”
  • Consider the decision formula: If it’s not a yes (or “heck yes!”), it’s a no
  • The value of practicing direct, succinct “no, thank yous” — and when it’s worthwhile to soften the blow by articulating the reasons (and/or just being kind about it)
  • A Lafayette Morehouse tip: Look behind a “no” (your own and others) to discern the “fears of loss” that are precipitating it

Plan an empowered “no” in advance.

  • Scan your schedule for something (an existing obligation, or a potential request) that you might want to bow out of in the next week, and decide in advance how you will go about declining or renegotiating it.
  • Consider practicing your response — perhaps while looking in a mirror. Refusals are generally better received when they come from a confident, positive place, and using the mirror can help you refine your delivery.

Practice saying “no” without apologizing for, or qualifying, the answer.

  • Just say a polite, clear “No, thank you” — and stop there. Start with a small or trivial request or invitation, and build up your “no” muscle over time.
  • For a more significant or personal request, consider replying “no” and offering an alternative “yes/and.” For example, when turning down a romantic date with someone you’d like to keep as a friend, you might offer: “No, thank you — and I’m getting a group of friends together for dinner next week if you’d like to join us.”

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