Why We Don’t Say No…

by Rhianna on March 31, 2014

I think I have mentioned before, that during the Embracing Health Detoxification Retreats, we often see themes develop in the groups we get. We have seen the ‘Constipation Group’, the ‘Thyroid Group’, the ‘Headache Group’ and the ‘Low Self Worth Group’. These themes occur purely by the design of the universe and the magic of synchronicity. We do nothing to promote or encourage a certain theme through a retreat, and yet more than likely by day 5, we have uncovered the underlying theme that runs through the majority of the group. Not everyone who attends the retreat will fall into that exact category, but a significant number will inevitably surprise us by saying, having or feeling very similar issues or symptoms. And sometimes, it might even just pop up in the staff too!

Business Woman Looking On Option And Select No Decision Isolated
I have had the pleasure in the past, of learning from the ‘I Have Difficulty Saying No’ group. And through their unconscious teaching, I realised that I too fell into that same category. This has recently been coming up a bit in my radar, and has caused me to stop and ponder this topic further. Specifically I have been thinking about saying no, situations where we may not feel we can give this response, why we don’t say no when we want to and what the consequences are of our actions.


When we were children, ‘no’ was probably one of the first words we learnt. And the majority of us used it in excess during those terrible twos! What some of us learnt during these formative years, was that saying ‘no’ often elicited a negative reaction from our parents. When we learnt to talk, we also learnt to exercise our independence. We were able to give our opinions for the first time, and have some input into what we did from moment to moment. Children are asked if they want to do something, and then when they say ‘no’, they are sometimes either scolded or made to do the thing anyway. In certain people, a desire to please develops, and they can start putting aside their own wishes, to placate those around them.


Growing into adults, there are certain situations where we may not feel we have the ability to say no. The main situations include at the work place, in our romantic relationships, and in our family relationships. The driving reason behind many of these yes-no situations seems to me to be fear.

Work Place: No, I don’t want to stay late/ do that extra work/ work that shift, but if I say no, I am scared you will fire me/ think me unreliable/ not promote me/ not value me…

Romantic Relationships: No, I don’t really want to go watch that sports game/ go shopping on the weekend, but if I say no, I am scared that you will not like me/ breakup with me/ go with someone else…

Family Relationships: No, I don’t want to come visit you/ have Christmas at your place/ have you come stay, but if I say no, I am scared you will get angry at me, yell at me, be disappointed in me…


From these situations, I can see fear of the unknown as the driving cause behind saying yes but wanting to say no. So what does this do to us? The most common symptoms I associate with this scenario are anxiety, stress, depression, feelings of overwhelm, helplessness and powerlessness.


If we are constantly saying yes but meaning no, we are time and time again telling ourselves that what we want doesn’t matter. That everyone is more important then we are, we have no power and we don’t deserve to have an opinion about what we do with our lives. On a metaphysical level, this is a mental state that can encourage the formation of adrenal burn out and fatigue (so much running around doing what everyone else wants you to do, trying to please everyone), autoimmune disorders (attack on the self), and thyroid disorders (suppression of voice, opinions and thoughts).


So what can we do about it? If you happen to fall into the category of saying yes when you want to say no, the first step is being aware of this, and having a good think about the reasons why you feel you have to say yes. If you find it is fear of the unknown that is driving your reaction, try removing the fear from the situation. Clear communication is the best way to remedy this fear of the unknown. We will go into this further on.


The second, and most vital part of the solution, is learning to stand in your power. You know what is right for you. You know what you can and can’t do/ achieve/ enjoy. This is YOUR TRUTH. No one else in the world has any right or ability to tell you how you feel about a situation. Sit with the issue, note down how you feel about it, note down your fears about it and why you want to say no, and make a resolution to stick to it. For your own health and wellbeing.


And finally, offer alternatives. If that doesn’t work for you, what would? Could you compromise? Make other arrangements? Find a way where your needs are met, and the other person also feels supported.


For example, your Mum wants to come and stay at your place for 2 weeks but it really isn’t a good time and you want to say no. You have a very busy fortnight, you are already tired and having your Mum stay, while enjoyable, creates a lot more work for you. It is just too much to do at the moment. But you are scared if you do say no, you’ll hurt her feelings, she will be upset and angry at you and she might tell others in your family that you didn’t want her to stay and cause a scene.

Once you have identified how you feel about the situation, and what your truth is (you want to see her, but it isn’t a good time), have a clear and honest conversation with her. You will be able to address the fears you identified and see if any are valid.

You may say “Mum, I’d love you to come and stay with us, I would really like to see you but the timing isn’t right for me. I really don’t want you to be upset or hurt, and I’m scared you’ll feel like I don’t want you to stay.” Then let her respond and tell her truth. Calmly and patiently explain your truth again in language that is blameless and non-accusatory. Instead of saying that she creates too much work for you, try saying you feel you will be so busy you won’t get to spend much time with her.

And then offer alternatives. For example, “How about we come up on the weekend for a quick visit, and we organise a longer stay next month? Or perhaps you’d like us to come up in a few weeks for the weekend?” Give options in the alternatives, so it shows that you really have thought about the situation and how it can best work out for both. If you don’t have any alternatives then feel free to throw it over to them by saying “I really want this to work out for both of us, how do you think we can fix it/ organise it/ get it done?”


Remember to identify your truth regarding the situation. Identify your unknown fears, or reasons for feeling like you have to say yes when you don’t want to. Come up with some alternatives if possible. Community clearly and honestly, using blameless language. And finally, stick to your truth and stand in your power. You will be a much healthier and happier person if you can master this art! It is a work in progress, trust me! But practise makes perfect.


Thank you for those retreat guests who helped me highlight this area as work in progress for me too.



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