• Sarah Lyall-Neal PsyD

Just Say No! Really, It's Okay

Updated: Nov 11, 2020

Today we are going to talk about a little word that can cause big anxiety…and alleviate it too. Our first experience of the word no was probably one of our first experiences. As a child we are told no mainly to keep us safe (no you can’t eat dirt, no you can’t hit your sibling, etc.). Overtime we come to associate no with negativity. This doesn’t have to be the case.

The Case for NO

A couple weeks ago on the blog, we looked at your Why (Check that post out here). Essentially, your why is the reason you do the things you do. For example, I go to work each day because I like helping people and my income contributes to meeting the needs of my family. Maybe your why is something different, maybe you are an artist and you do what you do to bring color and vibrancy to the world. The bottom line is that all of us have a different why.

Our why is based on our values (the things that are important to us). When we are asked to deviate from our why, things can start to go awry. Here me out…have you ever been asked to do something and automatically felt your body tense up? Has the thought, “oh my goodness, one more thing,” ever rolled around in your mind. Sure, it has, we are all over taxed mentally, physically, and emotionally these days.

Example: A friend has an MLM business and asks you to have a party or do an online sale for them (this isn’t a personal example, just one I’ve heard people talk about). You love your friend and you want to support their business endeavors, but selling isn’t your thing and the thought of asking friends and family to buy products they don’t need makes you feel a bit queasy.

In the above example you are being asked to engage in a time-consuming activity that falls well outside your why. You are at a crossroad, do you say no and risk upsetting your friend or do you suck it up, put on your game face, and engage in an activity that is going to suck the life out of you?

I’m going to make a case for saying no. Let’s face it we have a finite amount of time in our days and what we do with this time makes up our lives. Saying no at times ensures that our focus remains on things that provide value to our lives.

Softening the Blow

Saying no can be anxiety provoking. People don’t want to hear the word no and there may be some pushback. That’s ok, remember everyone is working toward their own why. Saying no doesn’t have to be the end response. Saying no, then offering an alternative is completely acceptable.

Example: Selling isn’t really my thing, but I would be happy to help you organize inventory or bake some cupcakes the next time you host a party at your home.

In this example, you have removed yourself from the part of the situation that made you uncomfortable yet you have offered valuable assistance to your friend. She may miss the no in this statement altogether.

Everything in Life is a Trade Off

In the previous section we talked about softening the blow of the word no for others, but saying the word no can be stressful as well. We all like to be thought of as dependable, likeable, and caring. Saying no could interfere with others seeing us this way. Maybe the person hearing the word no will start to look at us negatively. Maybe not. Many times, we tend to fear that others will respond in a far more negative way than they actually will.

The best way to handle the task of saying no, is to say it in a firm, non-negotiable way.

If we look at the example above, the person being asked to have an MLM party firmly said no, but provided a couple alternative options. The person didn’t beat around the bush with statements like, “I’m not sure if I’ll have time,” or “I’ll have to check my calendar.” These place holder statements would have accomplished nothing more than putting off the inevitable.

When we make a decision about any type of endeavor, we are ultimately deciding whether or not that activity is worth our valuable time investment. If an activity falls outside the bounds of our why and thus does not coincide with our values, engaging in that activity is a sacrifice that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Saying Yes Can Be Harmful

While saying yes feels good, its side effects can feel very bad. When we agree to a non-values-based activity we suffer on multiple levels (think stress, time, money, etc.)

Example: You hate selling things, but agree to have a Mary Kay party for your friend (Mary Kay was just the first MLM I thought of). You spend time marketing the party on Facebook and Instagram. You send some emails to your friends whom you think might be interested. You go to the mall and buy yourself a new outfit because you are going to be the center of attention. You go to the grocery store and buy party foods. You clean up your house for guests. You get my drift.

In the case of this example, you have spent hours and a lot of money preparing to engage in an activity that adds zero value to your life. Think of all the things you could have used that time and money for. Beyond time and money, lets take a second to focus on what engaging in non-values-based activities does to your mental health. Let’s revisit the example for a moment:

You type and retype Facebook and Instagram posts, trying to get the perfect wording without sounding pushy. You stress that you haven’t emailed your friends in months and here you are trying to sell them something. At the mall you try on several dresses trying to find one that isn’t too over the top or expensive. You spend time Googling recipes for party foods and shopping for the right ingredients. You don’t have a lot of time so you pay someone to clean your home. All these things are happening after work as you have a full-time job.

Did you feel your blood pressure going up just reading this example? Mine did. Look at all the added stress. Would you be as effective at work or as engaged with your family while doing all these things…I know I wouldn’t be.

What Does The Bible Say?

In 2 Timothy 1:7 the bible says, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control.”

God doesn’t want us to feel fearful. He doesn’t want us to feel like we have to conform and go with the flow. He wants us to feel empowered and in control of ourselves and our decisions. He wants us to say no when something doesn’t feel right.

When we turn from the temptation to engage in activities that aren’t inline with our values, we are able to exercise our God given power and self-control (pretty amazing right).

Is there a place in your life where you are saying yes when you should be saying no?

By the way, no offense to MLM (Multi-level Marketing) supporters, it was just an example :0)

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