Does saying ‘no’ stress you out?
I used to be a flight attendant and during every pre-flight briefing, the managers would ask us how we could deliver good service. Very often, one of the team would say, ‘Never say “no” to the passengers and always offer alternatives.’ I disagreed with this. What if the passenger says, ‘May I touch your breasts, please?’ It’s a definite ‘NO’! Alternatives? ‘Would my bottom do?’ ‘Let me check if any of my colleagues are willing.’ This might sound extreme but if we have conditioned ourselves to never say ‘no’, it would be very difficult to do so when we really have to because saying ‘no’ is totally against our belief systems.
Deep rooted programming
From young, we were taught to be obedient. Adults would tell their children many times a day ‘no’ and ‘don’t’ and yet when the children say ‘no’ to the adults, they would be reprimanded. Our bodies associate ‘no’ with stress and even when our logical minds have understood that it’s just a word, our bodies usually would still hold on to this programming. Any kinesiologists can show you how saying the word ‘no’ would inhibit the muscles that are being monitored.
What I learnt from my flight attendant days
The turning point for me, when I realized I needed to learn to say ‘no’, was when I was first promoted to flight purser. On this flight I worked in Business Class with the responsibility of serving the cockpit crew. While in the cockpit waiting for instructions, one of the pilots told the others that it was my first flight as flight purser. He then said they would look after me and said ‘sit on my lap’ repeatedly while patting his thigh. I didn’t know how to respond and just looked at him. In my mind I thought I had to comply, but I didn’t want to sit on his lap. He then grabbed my hips and pulled me to his lap while I held on to the captain’s seatback and whispered ‘Stop him! Stop him!’ At the end he did stop and the captain said to me that if I wanted to file a complaint, he would support me. I did just that and I started to examine the reasons why I couldn’t firmly tell him ‘no’ in the first place, as well as learning how to politely decline a request.
Do you find it hard to say ‘no’ to people? Have you thought about the reasons behind it? Under what kind of situations you find it to be the most difficult?
In the above incident, the big reason behind it was that prior to that flight, I had heard many stories and rumours that pilots could be difficult and we would get into big trouble if we didn’t comply to their requests. I feared them, because their rankings were higher than me and because they were generally bigger than me physically. After this incident however, despite my senior colleagues’ advice, I would negotiate with the pilots and tell them honestly whether I was capable or not to meet their requests and I had never ran into any sort of troubles. I was told by my senior colleagues that I shouldn’t have done this or that. Well, they could do what they like and continue treating the pilots like kings and then gossip behind their backs. I preferred to treat them like reasonable people that they were. I think polite and honest communication is key.
We are all equal
Would this be your reason too of not saying ‘no’ to authority figures/senior colleagues? After years of being taught obedience to adults both at home and schools, it is understandable how we would find it difficult to do otherwise. Please remember that we are now adults too and these people are our equals although they might have a fancier title than we have. Let’s believe that they are reasonable human beings and all that is needed is polite and honest communication. If they are seriously unreasonable people – well, more reason to start saying ‘no’ before they push us off the wall!
But I feel bad!
Do you feel bad to reject people? I once saw a video about a man who ran an orphanage in Cambodia. When asked what was the most difficult thing in running an orphanage, he said it was to say ‘no’ to the children he met on the street who asked to be admitted to his orphanage. He explained that he had limited resources and if he were to have more children than he could have handled, he would only be doing a poor job for all the children that were under his care. Suppose you feel bad to reject your friend and took on extra work for yourself, would you have enough time or energy to finish all the tasks that you have on hand or would you be doing a poor job?
‘No’ doesn’t equate rejection
If you don’t want to reject people simply because you don’t like to be rejected, please think about saying ‘no’ as a balance between what you can do and cannot do, what you enjoy doing and how much time and energy you have. Usually it has nothing to do with who these people are. Let’s not take everything personally as they say. Let’s be logical and not take on more than you can handle.
Be kind and fair to yourself!
I heard that some people say they are too kind and they want to help and sometimes they feel hurt as they feel they are taken advantage of. If you are kind, you would be kind to yourself and look after yourself as you are a person too. When you are well, you can help more people the best way that you can. When you are unkind to yourself and put other people’s needs before you, you’re being unfair. Please remember that you are the most important person in the whole world because without you, the world does not exist in your perspective.
As for the feeling of being taken advantage of, yes, I know some people can be very persuasive with their requests but the choice is always yours. Make the choices based on how you feel (be honest with yourself!) and your abilities, not based on what others want you to choose.
‘But what would people think? Would they think I’m unkind? Would they think I’m uncool if I decline alcohol… or drugs? Would they gossip behind my back that I said ‘no’?’ Do you sometimes feel you’re pressured into doing something because you’re expected to, especially when a group of people/friends are involved? I’ve learnt that no matter what we do, we cannot please every single person on the planet. I’m always interested to hear other people’s perspectives when they want to share with me as this is one way of how we can learn and grow, although in the end I’m still the one who decides what I do or not do with my time.
As for gossips, what they don’t want to share with me is not my concern. I have no time to think about what they might be thinking about what I’m thinking and they might not be thinking about me at all! We might lose some friends because we don’t share common interests or values, which means that we are now free to meet like-minded people.
We affect each other energetically
Have you ever been in the presence of someone who’s angry or sad and you could feel their anger or sadness? If you understand that we can project our thoughts and can influence each other energetically, then you would understand another reason why we feel so much better in saying ‘yes’ instead of ‘no’. For example, when you’re in a shop or market, people want you to buy things and whether you are aware or not, they do send out their thoughts and are influencing you energetically. I was first made aware of this by my clairvoyant friend who used to work in a shop. She explained that it was very easy to influence customers with her thoughts, more so than her words, although she would always step aside and leave it to the customers to decide for themselves because she respected their free will. I’m going to write about protection methods that you could easily do for yourself, although, simply be aware of our energetic connection with each other could help us be more centred and be able to think for ourselves.
Recent thoughts on why I would say ‘no’ when it’s a ‘no’
If I say yes to something that I don’t want to do, I’m making myself a victim, while the other person a bully. I feel that it is very unfair to that person. Imagine when this person found out we actually don’t want to do certain things and this person unknowingly ‘forced’ us into doing something, how would they feel?
Until few years ago I never wanted to ask for help because I didn’t like to trouble people, I didn’t want to be rejected, I didn’t want to admit weakness. I changed when I realized that just like me, my friends and family find joy in helping people and it’s not a weakness to be needing a helping hand.
Soon after that, I also realized that just like me, sometimes people say ‘yes’ because they feel obliged to or find it hard to say ‘no’. There are people who would say ‘yes’ and then not do what they promised and tell me all sort of reasons afterwards, as if I forced them to say ‘yes’ in the first place. This creates more trouble and confusion and I feel I need to ask and ask again ‘are you sure? Do you really have the time? Please tell me honestly if you don’t want to do it, okay?’ It’s like I ask them for help and then try to dissuade them. Too much trouble! Therefore, I prefer to be honest and say ‘no’ when it’s a ‘no’ so my friends always know where they stand, and they would not be feeling paranoid like I do when they ask me to do something for them. Life is not always smooth so let’s not complicate it further.
You might think I’m making it sound easy to say ‘no’. I don’t find it easy. It has to be done nonetheless. Be aware too, that it’s one thing to find the courage to say ‘no’ and it’s another thing as to ‘how’ to say it. I have helped some clients in finding their voice, to speak up for themselves and some of them told me that they were proud of their changes although, as one of them said, ‘I could have done it more elegantly’.
It’s not rude to say ‘no’. It’s how you say it. With some practice, you might even find that you could say ‘no’ without saying ‘no’ too. Can you think of some examples?
It is also not always a definite ‘yes’ or ‘no’ but somewhere in between. It’s all about open, honest and polite communication. While respecting others’ wishes and needs, let’s honour our own as well. We can also pause and take a moment to think about it. ‘Let me think about it to see if it’s possible.’
Honour our bodies
The only thing I would never say ‘no’ to is when my body ‘tells’ me that it’s tired and needs rest. When next time you need to consider whether you can take on a friend’s request for help, please first honour your body and take into consideration whether you are giving yourself enough rest time.