Recently, a friend of mine was wrestling with a dilemma. She had agreed to do a favor for someone without really knowing the logistics of what they needed. When she realized what they wanted, it was well above and beyond any sense of normalcy; but she felt stuck. She couldn’t say no, could she?
I was shocked by the request and tried to coach her to see that she most certainly could say no.
“But it’s really not nice, you know?” She said, clearly wanting so badly to say no but uncomfortable with the idea of doing so.
“No,” I said. “What’s not nice is the other person’s expectation. You have every right to say no.”
I asked her to send me a message the next day to let me know if she had stood up for herself. And when she wrote to me, she explained that, not only had she said no, but that it was an incredibly liberating moment for her.
The interaction got me thinking. Certainly, there are so many great reasons to say yes when people ask us for favors or ask us to get involved in activities. We want to help out our neighbors, cook for simchas, cover for another parent caught in a bind, etc. Saying yes is important and lovely and there are many great reasons to do so.
But, while it’s great to say yes, I notice that most of the women that I know don’t know that it’s also ok to say no. It’s as if the word shows a weakness; a meanness; a selfish disposition; an inability to do it all and juggle it all. (I’m not sure if this is the case for men; it seems to be more of a struggle for women.)
What I was trying to explain to my friend last week, and what I try to practice for myself, is to be comfortable saying no. It’s vital to find a balance, and that balance includes both yeses and nos. I like to help out just as much as the next person and I love the sense of accomplishment that I feel when I can cook for soldiers, invite extra people over, check on a new mom, etc.
But I also find it empowering and healthy to say no. I can’t always do the things that others ask of me or of the community at large. And that’s ok. It’s just as important for me to take care of my own kids, to rest or read and have time for myself, to exercise, to juggle the important things in my own internal life. And when I say no to something, I’m empowering myself to make good, healthy decisions. I’m not saying “No, I don’t want to help you;” rather, I’m saying “No, I can’t always juggle it all, but I can prioritize. And right now I’m the priority.”
There is power in saying no.
There is health and balance in saying no.
There is certainly nothing wrong with saying no, when it’s done for the right reasons and in a nice way.
Bring more no into your life and see how it makes you feel.
I’d love to know your thoughts on this topic (and if you’ll ever ask me for anything again, now that you think I’ll say no!).