There is a song I started hearing on the radio this summer. Do you know it? It's Meghan Trainor's NO. You have probably heard it. I am not one to follow pop music, but I like to turn on the radio sometimes when I am driving. I heard this song and liked it immediately. The reason I like it is because she says "No" in so many different ways throughout the song.
No is an empowering word. Try it on. And really mean it. Feels good, right?
How many of us were taught to be polite and say yes when we didn't mean it? How many of us have a hard time saying no? If you do have a hard time saying no, it may not feel good to try it on as I invited you to above.
That used to be me. My no was so buried I didn't know where it was. It didn't feel okay to say no. I didn't know how to have a simple expression of "I don't want to" or "I don't like that." It is still something I work on and probably will be for years to come.
Since finding my no, I am learning to embrace it. I practice saying no when I need to and I like to go around saying it for the fun of it. That's why I like Meghan Trainor's song. I want to sing along (and I do) saying, "My name is no, my sign is no, my number is no...Nah to the ah to the no, no, no." It feels incredibly satisfying.
When Our Yes is Really a No
What happens when we say yes, but we don't really mean it? In my experience, it doesn't work out too well. Let's say, for example, my friend or family member calls. I am busy or tired and don't feel like talking, but I ignore that part of me and I answer the phone anyway. Maybe we have a simple, short conversation and it doesn't feel like that big of a deal. Or maybe the caller keeps talking and I start to feel resentful because all I really wanted to do was rest for a few minutes. In that case, I'm not really paying attention them and I'm not really paying attention to me, either. Very likely neither of us ends up getting what we want.
I have done things like this more times than I can count. In the end, it does not feel very good or satisfying. When we have a hard time saying no, it can feel like we are giving away pieces of ourselves. It can feel like we are spread thin and like there is no barrier between us and the world.
In this example, here are a few simple alternatives:
- Don't answer the phone when you don't want to talk. Sounds so easy. And yet how many of us feel obligated to answer our phones all the time?
- Answer the phone. Tell the caller that you would like to talk to them and you would like to be able to give them your full attention. Ask if there is another time you could call them back.
- Pay attention to the part of you that does not want to talk right now. Really honor that part of you and let yourself have that feeling. There are times in life that we have to do things we don't want to do. We can still honor the feeling of not wanting to do it. You can experiment with allowing for not wanting to talk and at the same time answer the phone. Notice if that feels any different than answering the phone while ignoring your no.
Having a No to Have a Yes
The more room we have for our nos, the more room we have for our yeses. As my teachers at Hartford Family Institute say, "You have to have a no before you can have a yes." If we never have a no, our yeses don't mean as much. It can feel like going through the motions without really being engaged in life. Our yeses and our nos give us direction, which contributes to a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction.
To turn it around, think of having a yes to you. What would that feel like? If you walked around the world saying yes to yourself first, how might your life be different?
I want to reiterate that we don't always have to act on our feelings. There are times, when watching young children, for example, that it is inappropriate to say, "I need to rest, you take of yourself." Even in that scenario, we can notice what we truly want and bring care to ourselves in that place. When we care for ourselves in that way, we tend to others with more care, as well.
Sometimes my no turns into a yes after I have really let myself have it. For example, someone may ask me to do something. My initial, internal reaction is often, "Nope, not gonna do it." This is the part of me that does not want to be forced into anything. I want to know I have a choice. When I notice that reaction in me, I pause and let myself land in it. I let myself know that I could really say no and that would be okay. Once I recognize that, I have more space to feel into what I want. Sometimes, then, I feel how I want to do what has been asked of me. At that point, I can say yes more fully and honestly. That's a game changer.
Whatever your relationship is to your no, it is worth paying attention to. Notice how it feels to say no. Are there any fears that come up? Do they seem true? Do you feel freer or more alive when you allow for your no? Try on little experiments; play with it. As you go about your day, what happens when you say no? What happens when you don't? How does it feel to listen to Meghan Trainor's song and sing along or to walk around your home saying, "No, NOOOOO, Nope, nononononono?" Notice how it feels to say yes. And how it feels to say yes and really mean it. Truly, we need both our yeses and nos to live a full life. NO!! YES!!