Why is it so many of us say “Yes” when what we really want to say is “No”?

If it happens occasionally it is likely to cause some minor irritation or inconvenience which is short lived. But if it has become the way of life it can be extremely damaging to our sense of self worth and in some contexts our health and well being.
There always times when it is appropriate to do things because we want to help or please others, when it is right to do what we are asked by those who have a greater expertise or level of authority. In this context I am talking about an ongoing pattern of saying the opposite to what we really want to do because of something within us, rather than because it is the right thing to do.

There are so many reasons why we say “Yes” even though it is the opposite of what we really want. The circumstances and the motivation for this pattern of behaviour can be vastly different for each person. If you want to change the way you respond you need to work out what is at the heart of your need to respond positively.

Below I have identified some common themes which have come to light during various coaching sessions with clients. It is not an exhaustive list by any means and you may find several of the examples resonate with you:

Low Self Esteem
Everyone is more important than me; therefore their needs must be a higher priority.

I feel much better about myself when I am doing things for others, even when I ignore my needs to service those of others.
I am wary of upsetting other people, if I say no, they will not like me any more.

Everyone else knows what they are doing, if I say no it could be the wrong thing to do.

I feel guilty if I upset anyone – it is easier to say “Yes” rather than feel bad about myself.

I’m always the one who gets put upon – it is my role in life
Saying “Yes” To Get Them Off My Back
I can never think of how to say “No” and not upset them. I say “Yes” because at least I have some space …….initially
It is just easier to say “Yes” than deal with the fall out – others being cross or disappointed in me. I fear the anger if I upset the person asking, or they’ll sulk, nag, withdraw etc.
Saying “Yes” makes me feel good …… to start with. Then I get overwhelmed by how much I have to do because I have taken on too much.

The Person Who Asks Has High Status
I wouldn’t dream of saying no to my parents / boss what ever they say goes.

If I say “No” I’ll get passed over for promotion
So What Is The Solution
If your sense of self – worth could do with an overhaul you may find it useful to work with a coach.
There is no single solution but some of the following suggestions may be helpful.

Thinking about life in terms of what is fair and equitable may help.

Think about a pair of old fashioned scales, (the sort with a weigh pan on each side). The fair thing is to treat yourself no better OR WORSE than you treat others.

Consider each time someone asks you to do something.
Weigh it out on your scales. Use that as the measure between “yes” and “No”
On balance is it fair and right for you to be asked to do it? If it is – go ahead.

If you feel that the balance is tipped against you, then it is probably time to say no, unless there are other factors at work.
Do you measure your own performance by the same criteria as you measure others? If not ask yourself why not?
How do you feel when someone says “No” to you?
Does it depend on why and how it is done?

Do you stop liking someone simply because they say no?
What do you believe about yourself which makes it right to give yourself a harder time?

How can you say no gracefully without upsetting the other person. Remember that the tone of your voice and the body language you use will have an enormous impact on the way the other person interprets your motives..

If you have trouble saying “No” in the first place rehearsing different ways to say no which are both friendly and appropriate can help you avoid being caught on the hop.

You don’t need to go into great screeds of reasons. Keep it simple and avoid lying as you are likely to be found out which will cause bad feeling.

Here are some possible examples.

In The Work Context

Thanks for thinking of me. I’d love to help but I need to focus on meeting my deadlines, happy to help if those could be pushed back.

I’d really like to help but if I were to do that, which of my other priorities should I put on hold.

I can see how important it is but I simply have no space in the diary to give it the time and attention it deserves. I would hate to let you down or do a poor job.

Just look at my diary – there is no window of opportunity till ---- I don’t think that will fit with your time scale. It would probably be better to ask someone else.

Look I can’t give you an answer at the moment. I need to look at what you require before committing as I hate doing a bad job and wouldn’t want to let anyone down.

I’ve looked at **** really carefully and I simply can’t see how I can get everything done in the time available.
In The Personal Context

I’d love to see you but I’m afraid I can’t do tomorrow. How about next week?

I’m really sorry I can’t help on this occasion but if you gave me more notice I might be able to help next time.
Under other circumstances I would love to help but I’m sorry I can’t help.

I’m stumped – normally – no problem but I’m snowed under at the moment so will have to say no, sorry.

Where the person has high status:

I really respect / love you very much and the last thing I want to do is upset / disappoint/ let you down but saying “Yes” would mean …..

I wouldn’t have time to do things properly
I would be doing something I feel is wrong

It isn’t the right thing to do

Can I suggest ……. as an alternative approach, or
How can we come up with something which works for both of us?

When you Feel You Have To Fit Clients In

If you find it difficult to say no to clients who want an appointment and find yourself creating a longer and longer working day you may find it useful to block out time with appointments to yourself.

One client I have worked with is self – employed. She found it difficult to say no to her clients but the result was her working very long days. She was exhausted and her health was suffering.
She found just saying “No” difficult, Her solution was to create a number of mythical clients. . She went through the diary booking in appointments with them in all appointments after the time she wanted to work.

When clients were demanding about her working late she simply showed them the diary and said – sorry there isn’t a space left for those times for months. How about …. Instead.

Author's Bio: 

Gina Gardiner has over thirty years’ experience in developing people, helping them to attain their full potential. She has a proven track record in providing leadership and management skills at all levels, from training newly appointed graduates to supporting middle and senior managers. Working with individuals is only half the story, as the strength of any organization is built on the way people work as a team. Creating and building effective teams maximizes interdependence and and underpins ongoing success. Gina's mission is to help individuals maximize their potential and facilitate effective team building.
Gina Gardiner was recognized by ‘Investors In People’ as creating an innovative and exemplary training programme for emerging and middle managers, and by Ofsted as an “inspirational leader”. Her experience includes running a highly successful organization and working with many others including Microsoft, CAPITA, the DFES, The London Institute and The National College Of School Leadership.

She now works as an Independent Leadership Consultant and as an Executive Coach and mentor. She supports people at individual, team and organizational level to develop confidence, leadership and people skills and effective delegation; empowering them to see themselves as part of the solution. She is an experienced coach and Master Practitioner in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP). For more information feel free to visit: http://www.graduatesolutions.co.uk/home.html

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