You know what? Most people don’t like hearing no, but “no” is a great gift. Think about it. There are a lot of people who can’t say no. They do things they don’t want to do. Some agree with things that they don’t sincerely support. They can feel burned out and taken advantage of because they don’t set firm boundaries. Many can send confusing messages when they say they will do something and then don’t end up actually following through. They give the impression that they are things that they are not. None of those are very great things. So why do people do it?
Most people say that they don’t like saying no because they are afraid of making someone mad or hurting their feelings. This is a legitimate consideration. The other person could get upset. His feelings could be hurt. But what about your feelings? What about your plans, resources, and time that are impacted by doing what you don’t want to do? Aren’t those valuable too? When you say no, you make more space in your life for you. You allow your resources to be used in a way that you’d prefer. Your life becomes a more accurate representation of your thoughts, beliefs, and values.
When someone says no to you, they set limits. It’s a way of saying, “This is who I am. I am strong enough to show you the real me. Can you accept me as I am?” Whoa! What is more powerful than that? If you want to have this person in your life, you get a realistic idea of where you stand, what they are willing to do and not do, what they like, and who they are. This frees both of you from guessing and game playing. It frees you from obligation and debts. It sets the stage for healthy relationships.
It’s not your responsibility to make sure that your friends, family, and loved ones are never hurt or angry. Emotions are a part of life. We all have them. Learning how to deal with upsetting ones is called maturity. Allowing others to have this experience is a sign of healthy boundaries.
So here is a suggestion. If you are on the receiving end of a no that you don’t particularly like, take a moment to pause. Remember the benefits that come with no, then say, “Thank you.” That thank you is an acknowledgement for the other person’s honesty and healthy boundaries. It’s gratitude for the ability to have an honest, respectful relationship. That could not exist without boundaries.
If you are considering a request that you really don’t want to agree to, ask yourself what do you have to lose by saying yes. What do you have to gain by saying no. Which outcome is better for the longterm, big picture? A client once observed, “I’ve noticed that people who have no problem saying no are happier.” Hm. Maybe this is why.