The Forbidden Word: No

Amy Winehouse was probably the last person I ever heard say “No, No, No” when they asked her to go to rehab. Think about it for a while – how often do you hear the word “No”? And ask yourself – how often do you consider saying “no”?

We usually use vague statements, such as “I’m sorry I’m busy” or “I’m not sure I can make it” or “Another time”. We feel its being polite to other people, the harshness of the word “no” is like a door being slammed into someone’s face. It leads to the other person feeling hurt or disappointed, even angry at times. Not only do we often avoid saying no, but in a lot of situations we also fear to say it in the most vague way. We don’t want to let people down and we want to fulfill their expectations towards us. We avoid discomfort with other people and often agree to do things we don’t even want to do. There is such a pressure from society to agree. A disagreeable person is not someone who is liked or included, rather avoided by others. Would you ask someone to hang out knowing they will always say “no”? It’s a form of rejection. No one like being rejected.

So we either are as polite as possible, try to say no without saying no and feel guilty. Or we end up agreeing just to be agreeable and not enjoying ourselves. In both cases, it doesn’t seem to be the ideal situation. Why do we value our own feelings and time less than others people’s feelings and society expectations? Is saying no really that bad compared to us being unhappy? Could it be, we don’t know how to stick up for ourselves in order just to be polite?

This is something I have been exploring lately. Often I get asked after work if I want to grab a drink. I usually say yes just because I know its not only expected of me, but I worry that the team will not feel like I am a part of it. I will be excluding myself and I fear negative consequences – that I won’t be asked to join anymore. Yet lately I wonder – is that really that bad? Can spending time doing something I don’t want to do way outweigh perhaps not being invited to drinks anymore? Thinking about my life as a whole, it doesn’t make sense to me why I would put the possibility of being excluded before me doing something that could fulfill me. It seems rather stupid to be honest.

So, in my latest experiment every time someone asks me to do something,  I have asked myself “Would I rather be reading a good book than doing this”. I enjoy to read so that sentence works well for me, if you have other passions such as your family, a TV show or perhaps running, its best you adjust that sentence to yourself. I have found that with people I feel close to or interested in, I always would rather spend time with them. Otherwise, I am more interested in my book. It has helped me actually understand how  feel about people, something I didn’t spend much time thinking about before. Its funny how when you try to fix one thing about your life other areas get fixed too.

We tend not to prioritize ourselves and our needs out of fear of hurting or disappointing others. Yet we also tend to forget how short life is and how easily it can be difficult and beautiful at the  same time. If you consider that you have lets say 70 years on this earth, wouldn’t you like to look back and think you spent that time wisely, doing what makes you happy.

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