Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Its OK to Say NO

Why is it so hard to say "No"? I thought I'd just share my reflections and conclusions.

I've been finding myself in situations where I've had difficulty saying "no". These are not your obvious "no" situations like when someone asks "would you like to jump off the roof?" (NO. Thank you!). These are situations where someone is making a request of me or I am working with someone to come to  mutual agreement on something.

Upon reflection, I discovered that my difficulty with "no" comes from two things.

One is a simple logic chain: no is negative, negative is bad and so, no is bad. The second is rooted my desire to please people and avoid conflict whenever possible without having to compromise my own values and needs.

It is easy enough to objectively refute the logic chain. I realize that the fallacy lies in the statement that "negative is bad". I'm not sure when I started to associate being negative with being bad - that thought just feels like it was in my head from something long ago. I can't dive into the psychology of it but I do know its not true. Negative is simply the opposite of positive. 

The second part of my difficulty with saying 'no' is a little trickier. Its like having to break a tug of war inside myself.

Having to say no is often times accompanied by an interaction that is so opposite to what I expect. When things happen out of left field its usually because I still haven't fully embraced the fact that people are driven by different things and have their own goals to accomplish. When I encounter this, I try to apply my own reasoning to explain what just happened. I forget that not everyone operates from the same root and not everyone's objectives and goals are the same as mine. When I forget, I start to assign right or wrong to the situation based on my values.

So when I find myself in situations where my first reaction is anger or indignation or even unpleasant surprise (as in coming out of left field), I apply my reasoning and I get righteous. This strong reaction eventually makes me think that perhaps I'm the one being selfish and unreasonable and I start to second guess myself. This begins a personal tug of war where I get all wrapped up in the "me" part of things. My need to feel validated ends up at war with my need to be right and I end up feeling like I'm in quicksand.

Lucky for me, I have friends and family that help to remind me that its not quicksand, its just a muddy, messy pit that I've stepped into. I may end up feeling dirty from all the mud after I get out, and that's ok. Once I make that shift, I return to thinking about my intentions and goals and I'm not just reacting to save my pride or be right or get caught up in someone else's model of what's right.

Saying no is still hard and I can't say that I've always done it gracefully but each time it happens I get less tied up in my personal tug of war and its gets a little easier.