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Does Your “No” Mean “No”

Do you agree to things because you feel pressured?

It was almost midnight. She was fading quickly, but he just kept talking doling out orders for the next day. Nancy knew he was a “night-owl” but she wasn’t. She needed her sleep. After 15 years of marriage, she thought that he would lighten up, but it hadn’t happened yet.

She felt pressured to do what she could to make the home and business run smoothly, but it felt like he thought she was Superwoman and could keep everything running, while he just ran his mouth.

Why do women say ‘yes’ when they really want to say ‘no’?

We as humans thrive on reciprocity. We depend on each other. Reciprocity and cooperation are “coin of the realm” in our society because we all have different strengths and weaknesses. Together they work better than separately. God created us to need each other. Romans 12:5 “Since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other and each of us needs all the others.”  We need each other. It’s like the John Jackson song, “Better Together.”

But, women are wired and socialized differently than men. They are taught from an early age to be socially obliging, to please others and when they are spoken to they respond back. To women, the word “no” often feels confrontational and threatens a potential bond, work-related, friendship or romantic. Women are taught how to play to get along, whereas, men, play to win.

This often poses a problem especially for women who are pursuing a career. They often find themselves caught in the Superwoman Syndrome, where they are expected to do more, do it better, and keep everything at home done as well.

“We live in a ‘yes’ culture, where it’s expected that the person who is going to get ahead is the go-getter who says yes to everything that comes their way,” said Dara Blaine, a career counselor, and coach in Los Angeles.

Too many times women engage in “token resistance” commonly referred to in the seduction community, denoting a rejection of advances, with the intention of actually engaging in the activity that was initially rejected.

Token resistance doesn’t have to refer to sexual activity. Some women say “no” to a work or family request, but later do what was initially rejected out of guilt internally or externally generated.

Nancy, The Superwoman

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Even though it was almost midnight, Frank, Nancy’s husband and wanna-be boss said, “Would you get a notepad and take notes for tomorrow? I have several things that I want you to do. Maybe we can do some of them now?”

“No, I am too tired. I have to be up early to get the employees started and get the kids off to school. You never go to bed until two or three. You’re never up that early. No. I’m going to bed.”

Frank pouted with his lip stuck out, “Okay, I guess I can do it myself. But, you are much better at all of this than I am. I guess I’ll make it.”

“Fine,” Nancy said with an angry attitude as she grabbed her notepad of assignments for the next day.

Frank’s pout suddenly gone, he started assigning additional work to Nancy’s already heavily laden schedule.

A “yes” instead of a difficult “no” tends to overcommit your time, energy and finances

Nancy had given Frank “token resistance” so many times that he knew exactly what it would take to get what he wanted. It worked like a charm every single time. Yet, he didn’t realize the toll it was taking on Nancy. Did he even care?

Frank knew he was making Nancy uncomfortable. He knew she felt bad about not doing what he wanted when he wanted it. Consequently, he pushed all the buttons at his disposal to get her time, attention, and to do what he pleased with no responsibility. When she gave in and did what he wanted he felt respected. But, instead of earning her respect, his lack of sensitivity actually lost him respect in her eyes.

Nancy had taken on too much responsibility in the business. She ran the office, maintained constant contact with the vendor who held their contract, managed and trained the employees, the accounting, plus anything else that came up.

She believed she had to keep going no matter what. But, did she have a choice? When she did ask Frank for help, he would give her a few minutes of his time, maybe. He was so insensitive that he couldn’t see the pressure he was putting on her, until one day she ended up in the hospital.

As he sat in the waiting room to see her after surgery he heard a “code blue” called on her room. For the first time in 15 years, he came face to face with the thought that he might lose her. What would he do if she didn’t make it? Could he run the business by himself? Could he make it on his own? He vowed to change things if she survived. But, was it too late?

Negative Consequences to No Follow Through

Agreeing to do something that you can’t or don’t do often creates hard feelings, bitterness, and resentment in personal and professional situations. One of the negative consequences is that honest communication becomes difficult because trust has been violated. It creates a hardship for all involved.

When you learn to say “no” and mean it, you automatically come across as more confident

Boundaries are the first step to being able to say “no” and be more confident. Setting and enforcing them will also help to establish a better work/life balance.

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. from PsychCentral shares 10 Ways to Build and Preserve Better Boundaries.

  1. Name Your Limits
  2. Tune Into Your Feelings
  3. Be Direct
  4. Give Yourself Permission
  5. Practice Self-Awareness
  6. Consider Your Past and Present
  7. Make Self-Care A Priority
  8. Seek Support
  9. Be Assertive
  10. Start Small

Nancy’s Recovery

Nancy’s recovery was arduous with many more surgeries to follow. Frank had to face the decision of trying to run the business rather than just his mouth. The decision proved to be much more difficult than he imagined that day sitting in the waiting room. He eventually gave up the contract and found another position while Nancy healed.

“The ability to communicate ‘no’ really reflects that you are in the driver’s seat of your own life,” said Vanessa M. Patrick, an associate professor of marketing at the C. T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston. “It gives you a sense of empowerment.”

Using Your “No”

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Nancy began to learn how to use her “no” as her body recovered. She basically had no choice. Frank began to learn sensitivity to Nancy and others around him.

Nancy learned that she wasn’t responsible for Frank or anyone else’s actions or reactions to her “no”. Understanding her own long-term goals gave her the opportunity to assess whether the request reflected her value and advanced her personal goals.

She began to practice her “no” in areas of low priority, being more assertive with telemarketers and cashiers at the local store. She found it’s much easier to be assertive with strangers.

Writing out her “no” script made it easier because she knew exactly what and how she wanted to exercise her “no”.

She discovered that she didn’t have to say “no” to everything. But, she had learned the hard way that saying “yes” to everything did not work. She learned to be selective with her “yes.”

People pleasers feel they must reply instantly. Nancy learned that she could take time to think about what was being asked of her. She developed a new habit of thinking before speaking.

One of the harder lessons was that she didn’t need to apologize for saying “no”.  Why say you’re sorry if you’re not? Often, if you express regret about saying “no” the other person keeps asking or pouring on the guilt. Apologies actually bring more requests. If the other person hears resolve in the tone of your voice and sees it in your body language they’ll accept your decision.

Nancy also learned that each “no” is an individual decision. For each request, she learned to ask herself if she really wanted to do it. She learned to be selective with the projects she accepted.

Lessons Learned

Frank learned to not apply pressure. He still tried to use guilt to change her mind, but Nancy learned how to stand firmly without getting angry or raising her voice.

She also learned that she didn’t need to defend her “why.” There was no need to defend. She learned to just say “no” with conviction, without justification. Justifying put her on the defensive which weakened her stance.

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