One of the most common problems in relationships is something so simple, yet can be so difficult at the same time.
It's the ability to say "no" without feeling like you are "hurting" the other person--and being okay with it without all the guilt that usually goes with it.
We realize that for some people, (maybe you're one of them), this is a non-issue. You might say no easily and are just fine with it.
But we're willing to bet that if you don't have this problem, your partner may--and then it does become a problem for you.
Whether you have trouble getting "no" out of your mouth without guilt...
Or you're with someone who blindsides you because he or she can't say "no" and says "yes" instead (or nothing at all)--and then doesn't follow through...
It's a big relationship problem!
People end up "talking on eggshells" instead of communicating openly and honestly.
So why do so many people have trouble saying no?
The long and the short of it is simple--
Some of us were taught that it's unselfish and "nice" to say "yes," no matter what.
Most of us have adopted the belief that to say no to someone means you don't love them ("If you loved me, you'd agree with me")...
Or the belief that you're being selfish when you say "no" and that's BAD.
Most of us have learned that agreeing even when we don't mean it or want to means that we'll get love from the other person.
We lie to ourselves and we lie to others just to keep the peace.
Saying "yes" when you mean "no" might even be a tactic you learned that says "I'll delay disappointing you and it won't hurt so bad."
Maybe you were even punished when you did say "no" or watched other people get punished for saying it--and decided you'd try another way to get your needs met.
Much of this thinking is unconscious and is done from habit.
Most of the time you might not even realize that you're doing it!
A step toward really happy, fulfilling relationships is to make your words and actions come from a conscious place from inside you.
And learning how to say "no" in a loving, heart-felt way that keeps a connection with the other person is a step toward that.
Whenever we come across a relationship challenge, the two of us find it helpful to slow it down so we can untangle it and see what's there.
So how about if we start untangling your or your partner's hesitancy (or complete inability) to say "no" when that's really what you or they feel?
Here are 3 ways you or your partner can begin finding an honest "no" inside, saying it without feeling unkind or guilty, and keeping your connection...
1. Find your inner "yes" and your inner "no"
For many of us who've had a hard time saying "no," even being aware of what we're feeling may be difficult.
So start there.
Start identifying the feeling inside your body that is a "yes" and the feeling that is a "no."
For Susie, a "yes" is a tingly, excitement she feels in her belly. A "no" for her is a heavy, nervous, uncertain feeling in the same area and also in her heart area.
What about you?
Think about something that is a definite "yes" for you. Where in your body do you feel that "yes" and what do you feel?
Now think about something that is a definite "no" for you. Where and what is that feeling?
Your body can give you loads of feedback if you learn to pay attention. Of course, when you've got this information, you can choose to act on it or not.
2. Separate out the stories from the "yes" or "no"
A few years ago, two young women came to our door and Otto talked with them. They were selling magazine subscriptions and part of their sales pitch was to tell Otto that if he didn't want the magazines for himself, he
could buy and donate them to the troops in Afghanistan.
When Otto gave them a "no," they asked, "Don't you care about the troops in Afghanistan?"
Otto thought for a moment, considering their question and very clearly told them that yes he cared about the troops and the answer was still no to the magazines.
What he did was separate out the "story" and the meaning from the question or questions...
--The story--If he says no to buying the magazines, he doesn't care about the troops.
--The questions--Did he want the magazines for himself? Did he want to donate to the troops in this way?
Since there were a lot of unknowns in this situation--he didn't know if this was a reputable company and if the magazines would actually make it to the troops--it was an overwhelming "no" for him.
So our advice--start separating out what you are being asked from the story you might be telling yourself to more easily find what's the honest answer for you.
3. Stay in the truth of your "no" when you speak it without apologizing. Have it as your intention to keep your connection.
For many of us, it certainly is tempting to put an apology after the "no." We'd like to please the other person by doing what they want so we apologize.
We say something like--"I'm sorry to have to say no but _______" and after the "but" is a long list of excuses about why you have to say no.
Somewhere inside us, there's the belief that the "I'm sorry" and the excuses will soften the no and everything will be okay anyway.
Not necessarily so--and they may not care about the excuses you're giving and figure you're not telling the truth anyway.
Here's a switch you can make...
When your "no" is from an authentic place inside, say it with love instead of apology.
You could say this or something like it...
"Thanks for your offer and right now it's a no for me."
Make it your intention that even though this is a "no" for you, you want to stay connected to this person.
You can do that by making eye contact and having an open heart while knowing deep inside what is true for you.
The truth is that being in your truth and speaking lovingly from that truth is one of the best ways to create love that lasts and grows stronger over the years.
If you or someone you love has this problem with "no," we invite you to experiment with making some positive, conscious choices that will bring more love and peace into your life.