I remember vividly when I made the decision it was rude to say “no.” My 6-year-old brother tried it on my mother, and it didn’t go well. I don’t remember what he said no to. I just remember her humming anxiously, stomping around, making sure he knew he was bad for “doing that to her.” As if his no caused her to stop loving him. From the height of the whole of my three years, I knew that was bad news. So, I said yes. Even when I wanted to say no, I said yes to not lose my mom’s love; then later, to not lose it from anyone else.
I am not alone. A lot of us say yes because we’re afraid of not being loved or liked, accepted or included.
I said yes so often when I meant no, I stopped knowing what my actual yes’s were.
It took me years to realize that saying yes when I meant no was always a bad idea. It led to deception, resentment, disappointment, and even danger.
Then one day, it happened. A co-worker asked me to help them move that weekend. Kind of assumed I would say yes actually more than asked me if I could. And maybe that is what turned me around. I had become such “the friend who would say yes.” I said no. I should say, no came out of me. I was not completely in charge, more like a witness. I didn’t even give an explanation. I wasn’t rude or unkind. Just clear. no. I had started writing a book and had planned to stay in my pajamas and write all weekend. So, no.
And from that day, I became the friend who says no when she means no. I lost a few friends. Friendships that were one-way streets. They only existed because I always said yes to them. Not real friends now that I know better.
I’ve seen CEOs and established artists, and mothers and powerful people twist their knickers so awkwardly, even lie through their teeth and saying yes to avoid saying no – out of guilt, shame, or fear.
To become more productive, people don’t realize they have to clean up their boundaries. They have to learn how to use this two-letter word. Very short word for such an impact it can have on our lives.
I knew how to say no before three years old. It’s funny how some skills we knew as kids, we lose as we grow-up, and then have to relearn them. My no’s were yanked out of me. I took them back. Try it. You’ll be surprised how much room that gives you for the yes’s that matter.