The difficulty we have in saying 'no' to a request is not a personality trait that comes naturally. In fact, it has an historical root in our upbringing and parental care system.
As children we were taught to follow what our parents told us to do. They told us not to go against authority. At school we had to do what the teachers said or we were punished.
We became submissive not only because of the fear of punishment, but also because of a desire to please and be loved by people who are very important to us.
Most people assume that saying 'No' is a simple and easy process, however for many this could not be further from the truth.
Here are five reasons:
1. Avoid disappointing someone. Sometimes we do things that go against our own desires just to make others feel better, even without us realising.
We often unconsciously make choices in life to our own detriment just to please our parents, husband, wife, partner, boss or friends because we want to make them happy.
2. Fear of conflict. Many of us don't like to be in conflict. We don't want others to be critical of us or angry with us when we turn down their request.
We want to do everything and anything to avoid the unpleasant feelings that come with being in conflict in order to show up as the 'good' person.
3. The need to get along with the crowd. We have the desire to be accepted and be liked by others. We do what others are doing to avoid rejection instead of saying 'no' because we have a different opinion.
Consequently, we are pressured to compromise our principles because we don't want to be seen as someone who is difficult to get along with.
4. Desire for recognition. Saying 'No' may be perceived as a sign of weakness, selfishness or incompetency, we either believe this to be true or we fear others think it of us.
We want to be seen as someone capable so we say 'yes' to a request even if we can't fulfill the task in that moment. At work we don't want our colleagues to think of us as 'unsupportive' or not a 'team player'.
This is especially true for people with low self-esteem who feel insecure about their career.
5. A constant unspoken expectation of a 'yes'. When we are asked to do something, we often get a sense that it is more of an instruction than a genuine request.
This is because the person who is asking has already assumed that we will say 'yes'. So we are pressured to become submissive to this unspoken expectation especially when it comes from someone we see as 'above' us.
With every 'yes' we speak that has a 'no' underneath we encourage people to keep expecting our yes's.
Find it hard to say 'No'? It's time to stand in the power of your 'No' and be aware of the pitfalls of your constant 'Yes'.
We say 'yes' for all the reasons above, but we often overlook the extent of the consequence it has on us; it creates resentment, jealously, self loathing and depression.
Even though it is so hard to speak it there is real value in your 'No' and speak it - you must.
- Become aware of your boundaries which will enable you to stand in the power of your 'No', an essential skill in becoming a good leader.
- Consider all possible choices available to you before giving your answer to a request. This involves putting yourself first and offering your reply from your reality not what you think others expect of you.
- Have a mindful approach to requests made of you, especially in the workplace.
- Be able to create a professional and thought-out response which leaves the person making the request with a clear indication from you as to what you are prepared to do or why you are not prepared to do what is asked of you.
- Come from the place of awareness and clarity which will leave you less space for conflict and open up the possibility of healthy, stress-free interactions with the people in your life.
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