Getting to “no”

I was talking with a friend of mine this morning. She has invited me to collaborate with her on a project. As we talked, she said, “I’m afraid I’m asking too much.” I told her that if it were too much for me, I would say no. “Asking is not the same as telling a person to do something,” I sagely added. We both cracked up. And realized how seldom people remember this. Learning how to say no is a lesson that often comes up in client sessions, and in life.

Ask, and it is (sometimes) given. And sometimes not.

Over on the other side of this equation, I have almost lost friendships over this issue. Once, a friend asked me to do her a favor. I could not, so I told her that I could not. She was clearly annoyed with me, and I did not hear from her again for months.

This theme runs through my practice. Often clients are afraid to ask for things. They are afraid of how their request will land with the person they are asking.

I always advise clients to remember that “no” is always a valid answer. When people ask something of you, you can say no. When you ask someone to do something for you, remember that they have the right to say no. It seems so simple, but like so many things, can be difficult to execute.

Learn to say no, and you practice setting boundaries

I think that it is helpful to think of this as a boundary issue. We all do better when we know what our limits are, what is healthy for us, where our “no” is. We are ultimately responsible for ourselves, and for taking care of ourselves. That includes setting limits, and saying no.

We can also think of this as a healthy use of our throat chakra. When we are clear that “no” is an acceptable answer, we are able to speak our truth, kindly and clearly. How the listener receives our words is not really our responsibility. We are, however, completely responsible for how we communicate.

The path of non-resentment begins with “no”

Very often, people who have said “yes” when they wanted to say “no” carry resentment. This begins to erode the trust in the relationship. Sadly, the person to whom they have said their inauthentic “yes” has no idea that there is any resentment. Moreover, the resentment often erupts like Mt. Vesuvius, leaving a path of destruction in its wake. This further erodes the trust in a relationship.

It is a far better practice to work at speaking the truth, holding our boundaries, and getting comfortable with “no.” Learning how to say no is liberating, and creates more harmony within ourselves and in our relationships. In fact, it is a practice that just might save your relationships.