Yes Don’t Mean a Thing, If You Can’t Say NO

What does saying yes have to do with saying no? After all, they are opposite statements, meaning diametrically opposing things. We are “supposed” to say yes to friends, family, loved ones and especially…the Universe! Isn’t that the secret behind the Secret? And we should say no to things like drugs, smoking and requests from our teenagers begging to go to wild parties.
Why are most of us so wishy-washy when it comes to making commitments? Just look at the divorce rate as an example. More than half of the couples making the most important commitment of their lives will change their minds later. What they said an unequivocal yes to at one time, they say no to later on. We all feel betrayed at one time or another by friends breaking their solemn word and we all know someone we cannot trust to keep their promises. Maybe that betrayer, that someone who doesn’t walk their talk is the face looking back at us in the mirror when we brush our teeth in the morning.
Well, I’m here to tell you that we all have to be able to say no before our yeses have real meaning. What I am talking about has to do with having that solid something inside us that goes beyond wanting and wishing. It means having an immutable core that cannot be accessed from outside by anyone—not even our mommy or daddy or dearest loved ones. Not even our sweet babe cuddled in our arms.
Think about the people you know (if that includes you, so much the better) whose word is good, no matter what. When they say they will do something, you can count on it getting done. Can they also say no when they have to? When your request is out of line with their integrity, are they willing to stand up to you and refuse? If you cannot make them agree with you or comply with what you want, odds are you can count on them to do and say and be what they agree to. And the degree to which they truly own their actions certainly matches the chances they will come through for you when really needed, without you having to enforce or encourage them along the way.
How many grown up people around you can really say no? And mean it. Can you? How popular is that? Aren’t we supposed to be emotionally open to friends and loved ones. Shouldn’t we give them access to our feelings and let them change our minds about something when they really, really want something from us? A majority of the population would have to agree with that, if the truth be told.
We are trained from very young to be nice. Most mommies hate it when their precious little tykes screw up their faces and angrily say no! Daddies are more likely to use force to quash defiance and enforce obedience to rules, out of respect if no other reason. After all, it can be terribly embarrassing when the odd child in the bunch gets all rebellious and the parents are called out by baby sitter, the school teacher, or police officer to answer for it. Children are supposed to be well behaved, which does not include having a mind of their own, especially when their mind includes being defiant. Compliance is selected for and becomes an important component in the social survival of the fittest. And this is especially true of girl children, while boys are allowed to be more independent, which includes being less nice on occasion.
What I am here to tell you is that being nice is an aberration of the natural order when it comes to having a healthy personality, according to studies of the human developmental process. Compliance is a poor substitute for commitment because it lacks connection to the core of our being; but most of all it bypasses a most important step in the process of saying yes—that of exercising our will. Making a decision based on our principles, values, likes, dislikes, etc. requires a decision making process that many of our friends and loved ones don’t want us to utilize. Conversely, we want them to be nice by giving in to our requests, requirements, demands, and tirades when absolutely necessary. We want to be able to make them feel whatever is required that will motivate them to do our agenda.
Can you even imagine being the kind of person that no one can make feel anything? No one can make you sad. Scared. Mad. Happy. No, we aren’t talking about being the rock or island Paul Simon sang about when lost love broke his heart. Just because no one can make us agree with something when we don’t want to doesn’t mean we don’t feel at all. In fact it means just the opposite: having the freedom to feel whatever we feel, whether that meets with someone else’s approval or not. No longer having to hide or defend against pressure from people wanting something from us comes from an ability to say no.
Which brings us around again to saying yes. If we cannot take a stand when we need to by saying no, then when we say yes, it has the same fragile quality. There is no firm commitment when we say yes out of obligation. Or because we would feel bad if we refused. And when our best friend really has to have a favor, can we refuse? Bottom line, if anyone can make us do or say or feel something that isn’t genuinely us, then someone else or some other
circumstance can change it.
Want to know how good you are at saying yes? Take this simple test: take a sheet of paper for each of these questions and write large enough for someone else to read your answers.
1. Make a list of people you have to agree with—for whatever reason, be they your boss, better half, parent, child or pet. Now cross off the ones you are free to say no to without getting into a fight, fired, or made to feel bad about.
2. Make a second list of the most important commitments you have made in your life, such as to love forever, be together ’till death, be accountable for, take care of forever, or be best friends with. Cross out the ones you failed to keep. Do any of them still grab at you with pangs of regret, guilt, or shame?
3. List people you can coerce, cajole, bribe, beg, threaten, or seduce into doing something you want.
4. List people who can coerce, cajole, bribe, beg, threaten, or seduce you into doing something for them.
We can go on and on with diagnostic questions, but the point is if your lists are lengthy, there is room for improvement in your abilities to say yes and no. What can be considered optimal would be for us to feel free to decide for ourselves, based on our personal likes and dislikes, values, and feeling about the situation. And make a decision every time we get asked, using whatever criteria suit us at the moment.
Being able to make commitments that have no need for outside coaching, encouragement, or motivational technique to maintain are rest on a foundation saying yes to ourselves before saying yes to any person or circumstance outside us. They rely on the horses of interest, desire, and willingness to carry us forward, not the whips of shame, guilt and perceived needs of those outside us. We need to respect our selves by allowing the decisional process to happen, without allowing the shoulds and shouldn’ts of others to decide for us.
Respecting the same for others consists of allowing and waiting for a response, rather than attempting to make decisions for them. Doing so may encourage others to respect our own yesses and nos, but may not be reciprocated. Simply paying attention to who listens to us when we make definitive statements about what we will commit to and what we won’t gives clear indication of who we can count on, as well. For many of us, the simple criterion of listening and respecting our decisions becomes a qualifier or disqualifier of whom we will be real friends—and more let me showing you a good resource : .