PSYCHOLOGIES No. 46
The right to the word “no”: how to learn how to use it
Is it politeness, good upbringing, or bad boundaries? A second cousin and his family arrived without warning … I have to eat a tasteless jelly, on my long-awaited vacation – to help my friends repair … “The reason for the inability to refuse is our need for acceptance, approval or involvement,” says medical psychologist Andrei Chetverikov. – To one degree or another, we all depend on the approval of significant others and feel the need to belong to some group. The less personal maturity we have, the more difficult it is to separate our desires from the demands of society ”.
Example: a child is waiting for parental approval, but does not want to make music (become a doctor, lawyer, start a family). Until he learns to approve himself, he is doomed to fulfill someone else’s order and say yes where he wants to say no.
Another class of situations in which we do not say no means implying a certain benefit. “This is a kind of consent trade for the purpose of obtaining preferences,” the psychologist continues. – Agree to work on a weekend (although you don’t feel like it) to prove yourself, to get a bonus or a day off … The calculation does not always come true, and we “suddenly” realize that we are sacrificing something, but we are not receiving anything in return. Or we get, but not in the volume and quality we were counting on. Subjectively, this is also experienced as “consent against the will”, although in fact it is about unjustified or unrealistic expectations. ”
You can consider this as a way of knowing reality by trial and error. The main thing is not to repeat these mistakes.
Agreeing when we would like to refuse, we try to get away from the conflict, look “good” in the eyes of the interlocutor – however, instead we get only an increase in internal tension. The only way to truly strengthen our position is to respect ourselves, our own needs and boundaries. When we give up our needs, we also give up on ourselves, and in the end we spend time and energy without winning anything.
Why do we say yes?
We found out what happens when we agree against our will. But why does this even happen? There are six main reasons, and they are all related to each other.
1. Social stereotypes. Parents taught us to be polite. Especially with the elders, with the younger ones, with relatives … yes with almost everyone. When asked, refuse impolite.
“Traditions, accepted forms of behavior and adopted norms make it difficult for us to refuse,” says psychologist and teacher Ksenia Shiryaeva, “as well as long-term relationships. It is a natural habit to meet the expectations of society or someone specific who is important to us, and it is worth the effort to overcome it. ”
Politeness means the ability to respectfully communicate with others, the willingness to find a compromise and listen to opinions other than ours. She does not mean neglect of her interests at all.
2. Feeling of guilt. At the same time, we feel that saying “no” to a loved one is like saying “I do not love you”. Such an attitude can be formed if in childhood parents actively showed disappointment or grief in response to our emotions or expression of needs. Over the years, such a feeling of guilt is supplanted into the unconscious, but does not weaken.
3. The need to look “good.” For many, a positive self-image is important – both in their own eyes and in the eyes of others. To preserve such an image, we are ready to abandon many truly important things.
“If we are forced to agree by irrational attitudes:“ I must always help, ”“ I must be good, ”then our attention is completely directed outward,” the psychologist-teacher continues. It is as if we do not exist on our own – but only in the eyes of others. In this case, our self-esteem and self-image entirely depend on their approval. As a result, one has to act in strangers, and not in one’s own interests, in order to maintain a positive image of oneself.
4. The need for acceptance. If parents from childhood make it clear to the child that they are ready to love him under certain conditions, then an adult who is afraid of rejection will grow out of him. This fear makes us sacrifice our desires, if only we would not be expelled from the group, not deleted from life: such a development of events looks like a tragedy, even if there really is nothing terrible in it.
5. Fear of conflict. We are afraid that if we declare our disagreement with others, such a position will be a declaration of war. This phobia, like many others, arises if the parents reacted sharply to our disagreement with them. “Sometimes the fact is that we ourselves do not understand the reason for the refusal – and it is impossible to explain to another, which means that it is difficult to withstand the subsequent onslaught of questions and grievances,” explains Ksenia Shiryaeva. “And here, first of all, a sufficient level of reflection is needed, an understanding of one’s resources and needs, desires and opportunities, fears and aspirations – and, of course, the ability to express them in words, to declare them out loud.”
6. Difficulty making decisions. The basis of this behavior is the fear of making mistakes, making the wrong choice. It forces us to support someone else’s initiative, instead of dealing with our own needs.
How to learn to refuse
The inability to refuse, no matter how serious its causes and consequences, is just a lack of skill. And the skill can be acquired, that is, learn. And each next step in this training will add to us self-confidence and increase self-esteem.
1. Give yourself time. If you are not sure about your answer, ask the other person to give you time to think. This will help to weigh your own desires and make a deliberate decision.
2. Do not make excuses. Briefly and clearly explain the reason for the refusal – one thing. To fill up the interlocutor with verbose explanations and apologies is another. The latter does not at all help you to be respected, and most likely will cause irritation in your interlocutor. If you want to say no and at the same time maintain self-esteem, you should not waste unnecessary words in case of refusal. Neurotic apologies are more damaging to a relationship than a calm and polite refusal.
3. If you are afraid to offend the other person, say so. Just like that: “I would not want to offend you, but I have to refuse.” Or: “I hate to say it, but no.” Your fear of failure is also an emotion that you must not forget. In addition, these words will smooth out the sharpness of refusal if the interlocutor is touchy.
4. Do not try to recover your refusal. Attempts to compensate for failure are a manifestation of unconscious fears. Refusing to fulfill someone’s request, you do not owe it to him, therefore, he has nothing to reimburse. Remember: your right to the word “no” is legal.
5. Train. In front of the mirror, with loved ones, in shops and restaurants. For example, when the waiter offers to try dessert, and you only went to drink coffee. Or a store consultant offers a thing that doesn’t suit you. Training is needed to get acquainted with the refusal, to remember this feeling, to understand that after your “no” nothing terrible will happen.
6. Do not let yourself be persuaded. Perhaps the interlocutor will try to force you to agree to manipulate. Then remember the damage that you receive by agreeing and stand your ground.
Ask yourself questions:
“What do I really want?” You may need time to sort this out. If so, then do not hesitate to ask for a delay in the decision (see paragraph 1).
– What am I afraid of? Try to figure out which fear is preventing you from giving up. By defining it, you can more accurately place emphasis in your needs.
– What will be the consequences? Calm down: how much time and energy will you lose if you agree? What emotions will you experience? And vice versa: what will be the consequences in case of failure? Perhaps you will win not only in time, but also in self-esteem.
If you have already agreed …
… and realized that you were in a hurry? Ask yourself how you feel by saying “yes,” and then make a decision, psychologists recommend.
1. Listen to the sensations in the body – perhaps your physical well-being will tell you the answer. Tension or stiffness in the muscles indicates internal resistance, that “yes” was forced.
2. Pay attention to your emotions: after that, do you feel “yes” a breakdown, anxiety, depression?
3. Weigh the risks of failure. Most likely, you agreed because of an underlying fear to say no, but is this fear real? What really threatens your relationship if you refuse? If you conclude that you were mistaken in giving your interlocutor consent, do not be afraid to inform him of a change in decision. Tell me bluntly that you changed your mind that your “yes” was a mistake because you incorrectly assessed your strengths and capabilities. Apologize and explain that you were in a hurry, that it’s hard for you to say no. So, from the position of a child, you will again take the position of an adult, the position of a mature person with a formed idea of your own boundaries and the value of consent or rejection.