12. Saying No

Good morning and welcome to your twelfth meditation. Do you have a hard time saying no? If you answered ‘yes’ to this question, you are definitely not alone. Saying no can be difficult for many different reasons, not all of which are bad. Indeed, the problem often arises from a keen sense of empathy and a desire for others to be happy. And this wonderful altruistic impulse can go uncelebrated in a world that honours individualism and tends to reward uncompromising behaviour.

Rather this kind of considerateness for the comfort and happiness of others is often regarded as weakness, lack of character, acquiescence. So if you struggle with saying no, don’t punish yourself. Instead remind yourself of what society tends to forget: your impulse to accommodate others may well come from a place of love and care. Celebrate that impulse. It is beautiful and it should be encouraged.

Now, difficulty saying no doesn’t always come from such a positive place. It can also stem from fear. Fear of confrontation, fear of incurring the wrath of others, or just fear of your own discomfort. Of course, fear motivates countless human behaviours and decisions. It is perfectly normal and, just as in the case of the altruistic impulse, should not be punished. In fact, these two apparently opposite impulses can be so bound up with one another that it is very difficult to distinguish between them. How then can we know when is the right time to say no, and when that time comes, how do we make that action easier for ourselves? One of the best ways to ensure that you are saying no when you need to is to give yourself time. Time to consider your feelings on the subject, and to decide what is important to you. Often all that’s required to give yourself the time to ponder is a simple “let me get back to you on that”. Don’t avoid the question because that will likely only heighten your discomfort. Take a second. If the question was posed in-person in real time, excuse yourself for a moment. Be with the problem. Breathe. Consider what you want. Consider how much the other person needs you to do what they are asking of you. The answer will usually come to you fairly quickly. Now make up your mind to stick with that answer. The more conviction you are able to muster the less likely you are to waver when you have to confront the person who is asking something of you. Also the more you exude conviction the more you project to yourself and the other party that the decision you’ve made is obvious and so incontestable. The truth is that we often put far more pressure on ourselves in these situations than whatever pressure is coming from outside. If you deliver your answer clearly with conviction it is rare that anyone will be hurt or offended by your refusal. So be sure to take the time you require to make your own decision concerning any request of you that gives you pause or makes you uncomfortable. If you don’t give yourself that time, and you are the type of person who tends to accommodate others, you risk having all your decisions made for you, and that means living according to values that are not your own, and very possibly being unhappy as a result.

You will slip up. You will respond to requests automatically now and then and find yourself in situations you’d rather not be in. No worries. It happens! And sometimes we simply have less control over a situation than others. Just keep trying your best to make every response a conscious and genuine one and you will start to minimize those uncomfortable situations. Keep it up. You’re doing great. Have a wonderful day.

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