11.11.2013

Learning to Say No: A Practice in Trust & Loving Kindness

Saying and Recieving No A Practice in Trust and Loving Kindness by Beth Hemmila

- Beth Hemmila

Saying "No" can be challenging. My own personal history of saying "No" has been a bit of a journey. I can't remember me as a toddler, but I'm guessing I probably liked exercising my new vocabulary of "No" quite frequently. However, as I got older things changed, my people-pleaser instinct kicked in, and I chose to swallow a lot of "No's" to avoid potential conflict. I struggled with wanting others to be happy with me and the fear of jeopardizing love.

If this sounds like you, and you fear the loss of love from others, potential criticism, and other forms of subtle punishment, saying "No" could be perceived as a huge emotional risk.

Perhaps another way to look at this experience is to first become acquainted with how you receive "No's" from other people. Do you receive "No" with grace and understanding? Do you take someone's "No" personally? Are you able to hear and feel the underlying need this person has that is prompting them to politely decline?

I have to admit hearing some "No's" have triggered hurt and pain. And I'm sure there are people in my life that have been afraid to say "No" to me. Receiving certain "No's" in the past have stimulated feelings of shame and inadequacy such as when I didn't get the job, the person I liked didn't want to go out with me, or something I wanted wasn't going to happen the way I planned.

"No" can be a kind of metaphorical death. Someone or something couldn't fulfill your needs and you are asked to sit and be with the helplessness, loneliness, and discomfort. In this way, perhaps when we react negatively to someone's "No" what's really happening is that we are trying to avoid the suffering of this miniature death. If we get angry or frustrated, our big scale reactions mask our deeper feelings of sadness, grief, or anxiety that may result from hearing "No" and realizing our need might not be met in the way we imagined.

However, if you wipe away all the confusing emotions, the simple truth of "No" is that another person was unable to meet your needs. Your needs and their needs didn't match up and he or she is not able to fulfill your desire.

So if you are a person that has a difficult time saying "No," maybe the place to start is to begin receiving other people's "No's" with compassion. When you hear a "No," begin thinking, "What need can I honor in this person by graciously receiving their "No?" Divorce yourself from "No" being a personal affront and look within the other person. Attempt to see and value his or her need for relaxation, peace, adventure, choice, safety, and independence that is crying out to be acknowledged and begging him or her to say "No" to you.

When you recieve a "No" from someone, see this person as a risk-taker. They are trusting in your love for them as a fellow human being so much that they are willing to say "No" to you. Make yourself the biggest fan of other people's "No's." Become a cheerleader for their "No." This experience of receiving a "No" with grace may empower this other person to continue to take care of their own well-being in the future.

As you start valuing the "No's" of other people, this may lead you to honor and voice your own "No's." Saying and receiving "No's" could be one of your greatest vehicles for developing trust with yourself and others as well as practicing a deeper form of loving kindness.

By being able to say and receive "No's" graciously, you stay centered within yourself and understand that you and others are completely fulfilled, supported, and loved just as you are without any additional needs being met.

Contrary to popular beliefs, learning when to say "No" is a practice in loving kindness.
- Beth Hemmila


13 comments:

  1. It takes courage to say 'no'... I use to sit back and not speak up.. agree to things that I didn't feel right about and later kick myself for not speaking my mind... the older I got, it bothered me and I learned to say no and haven't regretted it.

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  2. 4got to mention... saying 'no' is only uncomfortable if one doesn't have a legit reason for declining. :-)

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    1. Like you said it does seem to be something that you develop more courage with as you age if you weren't comfortable with it in the first place. Yeah, I can see when you're declining if it isn't genuine it can feel incredibly uncomfortable. Those moments when what you really want to say is covered up with perhaps a polite excuse. Thanks for chiming in and sharing your experiences!

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  3. saying no to people you care about is difficult..however i think as you mature and gain experience from having agreed to do things you didn't want to do( many times over), gives you courage to say No No..and you don't really need any reason for declining, other than the simple fact, you don't want to do something..that's as legitimate as anything else...just do it kindly.

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    1. I love how aging gives our voice more courage!

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    2. I so agree w/Spirited Earth!. You said it well sista! :-)

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  4. Great post! It's taken a while for me to start to comfortably say no. Sometimes I still struggle, but w/age and experience the "no's" have become easier and are a part of taking care of myself - mind, body and soul.

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    1. I like how you frame it as a way we take care of our whole self -- mind, body, and soul. Sometimes I forget that! Thank you :)

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    2. maturity says it all or is it that w/age we just figure wth with what others may think and just do? I know at times I feel that way... either way, at least we aren't kicking ourselves for not doing what is right for us.

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  5. Ahhh, the 'no' emotional conundrum. Most of my life I've been afraid to ask because of that fear of rejection. Most of my life I've been afraid to say no for the same reason. But at this stage of my life I don't have so many of those fears anymore. I like your starting point of receiving other's no's with compassion. Most of the time people who say no have reasons of their own that have nothing to do with you. Likewise, when you say no, it's not a value judgement on another person. And when I think this through just a wee bit more, getting caught up in the rejection thought loop is a wee bit self centric. Having said that, I think it takes a good deal of self awareness to realize when that happens and I certainly do not always have that. 'No' is a difficult emotional subject. Thank you for approaching it.

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    1. Thanks so much for connecting with these ideas of receiving No's with compassion and sharing this wisdom of stepping away from our ego's fear of rejection!

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    2. Beth,u definitely hit a nerve here!. :-) Looks like we all are marching to the same beat/tune...

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    3. It's been such a powerful force in my life, and I haven't dared talk about it aloud before. I appreciate so much that everyone has connected with these ideas :)

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