We are all familiar with four letter words. From childhood we have been told what we should and shouldn’t say. We have been taught that words have meaning. We use words like, “love” to express how we feel about someone when they have become more than a dating relationship and we are committed and serious. Love is also used to express how I feel about pie. But what about two letter words? Words like “no”? If you are anything like me, you learned incredibly young to shrink to make people like you. Using words like “no” could cause problems. It was more important to have everyone feel good and like you because saying no could be interpreted as being rude.
If you grew up in a Latin household like I did you saw your mom doing it all. Cooking the food, serving the men, cleaning the house, planning the birthdays, and so on. And it was not just your Mom. It was your Abuelita, your Aunts, your Amigas, and your Friends Mothers. They catered and did it all, even if they didn’t want to. They did it because their mothers did it. They learned it, they were conditioned. I am SO glad that this narrative is changing for our young women. but what if YOU, yes you MOM, with your daily chore list, and kick ass job; what if I told you it is possible to fall in love with this beautiful two letter word. You can learn to fall in love with no.
There are three strategies to fall in love with the word no. I am going to help you and remind myself how to raise the stakes and push the boundaries of social conditioning. I am going to help you break free of shame when we speak our no. I will teach you to be empowered to speak no over your life and move your mountains.
Step 1: Realize you have power, and the word "no" is not rude.
When you remove the feelings associated with words and look at them for what they are you gain power. According to Merriam Webster, there are six definitions of the Word, “no.” That is a lot for such a simple word. One of the definitions states, “No so- used to express negation, dissent, denial, or refusal. Example: “No, I’m not going.”
What sounds like a word defined and describe with negatives has so much power and in fact is a boundary re-enforcer.
Matthew 5:7 gives you something to think about. It states, “All you need to say is simply 'Yes' or 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” I am in total agreement here, and here is why. When we are not a clear when using no, or yes, we leave room for interpretation and the potential to be misunderstood, or we just plain straight out lie not hurt anyone’s feelings. We have all been there and it feels so bad to hurt someone that we care about. So instead, we dance around. Let’s say a friend invites you over to their house, but for the time being it isn’t wise to meet because of the global pandemic. You don’t want to hurt them, so you start stating facts like, “well the numbers are on the rise, and I don’t want to be responsible for getting anyone sick, we all have to do our part. I ‘m not saying you would have Covid, but what if we are asymptomatic.” You get it. Long winded answers that give away your power and actually sound rude and lack accountability. Let your no, be no. You can say no with love, and power. Here is how. “Thanks, Nancy. I really appreciate the invitation, but I will not be going. I look forward to a chance to connect in person when things are safer. Should we schedule a time for a zoom date next week?” This message is honest, direct, and re-enforces your boundaries. It is said with love, and the willingness to connect and preserve the relationship. The more you practice making your no, no, and your yes, yes without all the other fluff, will change the way people interact with you, and you will build credibility for being an honest person.
Step 2: Separate Refusal from rejection.
Maybe you were raised by overbearing parents, and you have fallen into the anti-no camp.. Maybe your mom was amazing and always took care of you, and her children and provide an amazing childhood experience. Maybe these influences created a belief in you that you are loveable because you are compliant and helpful, and you have become people pleaser. Maybe your self-worth comes from doing things for other people. This can be a vicious cycle where people around you may believe you are there to fulfill and comply with their wishes. If you can’t say no you will become exhausted, stressed and irritable. Don’t wait until you are on empty and your energy runs out before you get into a serious relationship with the word no. One way to flex your “no” muscle is to separate refusal from rejection. When someone requests your time, energy, or service, and you are not in a place to comply, remind yourself you are turning down a request, not a person. You have a right to say no, just like they have a right to ask for a favor.
Here is an example from my life. My husband asks for me to bathe our daughter. I am exhausted and not feeling well. Before my relationship with no, I would do it and then get angry and irritable with him and my kid. I was resentful because I was tired, and I wanted my kid in and out of the bath as fast as possible so I can do what I needed to do. Then I felt guilty for not being a mom that wants to do all the mom chores. How could I not want to take care of bath time? Then I realized that separating the refusal from rejection meant I could show up better for everyone. What I did instead was say no, and I said no with love and zero compromises and guilt. I simply said. “No, honey, not tonight. I’m not at my best. Thank you for asking. I appreciate you for taking point on bath time tonight.” At first my hubby was shocked, not because he doesn’t love our kid, but because I actually said no. Social norms had conditioned him to think that moms at all times will do mom chores even when they are exhausted. No one wants to do all the chores, and I am sure he was just as exhausted as I was and looking for a way out. but it taught him, and I do be more honest about where we are with our energy tanks. We learned to be more direct in our communication. No one wins trophies for doing more chores. We created a bathing trade off schedule. One of us baths the kiddo every other night so it never falls on one person. This works for us, and it isn’t always 100%. Sometime If I see he is a wreck, but it is his day, I will offer to take the duty of bath time parent. If he still decides he wants to bath the kid even if I know he does not want to, I let him because he has the right to say no. If he allows me to, I don’t act like I am doing him a favor, and I do the chore and enjoy a little splash time with my monster. What I am getting at here is that you are being honest and separating refusal from rejection of the person. You re-enforce boundaries and communication and create more authentic connections and transactions.
Step 3: Saying no creates confidence.
Saying no confidently can be a challenge, but if you accept the challenge you can create confidence.
First and foremost, you have the right to say no and express yourself and look after your own needs. Falling in love with the word “no” and using it to re-enforce boundaries in relationships is an important self-care method. Saying no reminds you that you have a choice in your life. You can choose how you handle any situation. Saying no is empowering. It is a small but powerful word. Remind your self that no is a complete sentence It doesn’t need anything else. As we grow in our relationship with no we can silence the “Should’s and the Must’s.” No becomes easier the more we practice. You don’t have to explain away your power. Sometime a simple and direct no is all you need. No followed by silence is very powerful. Here is an example. Your mom calls super late and asks you if she can stop by tomorrow in the morning to see the kids. You don’t feel like waking up, and she is asking without respecting your time. Instead of getting mad try this.
Mom: “ Hi, honey I was wondering if you can stop over tomorrow morning to see the kids?”
Your answer, “No.” (long silence, don’t speak at all. I know this can be awkward, and manipulative people will try to get you to do what you want. Hold on to your power.)
Mom: “Why, I want to see my grandbabies and you never work with my schedule.”
Your answer: “The kids will be free next weekend, but tomorrow is a no. Will next weekend work for you?”
Mom, “Well since you are saying no, I have no choice but to be ok with it.”
Your answer: “Sounds good. It’s late so I will talk to you later. Night mom.”
You still might be seething, you do not understand this woman, who does she think she is? but guess what you said no, and you didn’t engage. You stood confidently and you maintained your boundaries. You offered a choice because you wanted to, not because you should or must, but because it worked for you. Be proud of yourself you didn’t engage in the manipulative behavior. Keep doing this, say no, then silence, let the other person go first, then you can make whatever choices you want. This style of no can be the most challenging to master, but with practice your love of no will be a life changer.
Falling in love with no is a great romance. Saying no allows you to say yes to what is important to you. No comes from a place of love, not resentment, fear, manipulation, or passive aggressiveness. Saying No, creates space for what matters most to you. Consider this. When you step into your power and say No, what could you be saying yes to? More time for yourself? Your kids? Your mental health? Allow the possibilities to inspire you and fuel your love of no.
Want to get better at saying no, need some help with building boundaries, releasing resentment, and breaking free from societal norms? Subscribe to my email list at www.themustardseedproject.net , then schedule your free 30-minute session to learn how I can help you move your mountains. Until next time keep falling in love with no and keep moving your mountains.