Why is it so hard to say no?
If we say no we risk being misunderstood and losing the reciprocal support we have in our relationships. For some of us our feelings of self-worth are based on helping others. When we say yes the love and approval we get feels so good.
What if we lived in a world in which authenticity, freedom of choice and a desire to know the truth were our primary values? In that world everyone would want to know the truth.
In my life as an artist I often work on interesting projects with others in my community. I once accepted an invitation to collaborate on a project with a talented artist friend. Within a week I started feeling worried as I noticed that her style was a dynamic flurry of inspirational download. I am a slow incubator, often it takes me months of reflecting and capturing clues for my ideas to become clear. I shared what was going on and we talked about it. It became clear that it’s the process of generating ideas together that really excites me about collaborating. How would we do that when our styles are so different? That would involve a process of discovery together. We realized that to have the kind of collaboration we both wanted would require more time. This open conversation helped us both get clarity. I changed my agreement and said no. I felt disappointment, sadness and relief all at once.
I also felt inspired! I connected to my needs and took care of myself. My friend was willing to meet me and explore this honestly, so we discovered the truth together and learned about each other. We changed our agreement with a high level of respect, understanding and care for each other. We agreed that in the future we’d like to work together, and next time allow lots of time for the project to unfold at a pace that accommodates both our styles.
Whenever we say no, we are saying yes to something else. In saying no to this project I said yes to respecting my creative style and timing. Saying no was also saying yes to caring for my friend’s time and energy. Connecting to our needs gives us the clarity to move forward and discover solutions that work for everyone.
Here is a short version of the process of connecting to our needs:
1. Fully feel our feelings. Our feelings tell us if our needs are being met or not met in a situation. Feeling worried? Breathe into the sensation… be with it ….. This red-flag feeling is designed to grab our attention so we’ll pay attention.
2. Move your attention to guessing your needs. The needs list offered by the Center for Nonviolent Communication is a great help- download it here.
3. Try on the needs you identified for size. “Am I wanting choice, spaciousness, respect……..? This is life moving through you. Receive it fully.
4. Once you find a need that resonates, you might feel a relaxation- some relief as you connect to the way life is showing up in you with this beautiful need. Just be with it- allow the quality and energy of the need to permeate you.
We humans are conduits for all the varieties of ideas, preferences, gifts and styles that life offers. It’s up to each of us to connect to the pulse of life, as it shows up in us, and follow it. Doing things because we think we should, because it’s our duty or to please others is costly.
When our choices reflect our authentic inner reality, we live with more joy and wholeheartedness.