Probably, there are not many things that every human has in common. Well, we might share a similar DNA, breathe the same air, we all smile and we all cry, and ultimately, none of us will overcome our own mortality. However, we also share something much more important – the time – the given twenty-four hours a day, which we waste so easily by saying “Yes” while, deep inside, we already opted for “No”. Regrettably, once in a while, I am put in an awkward situation where I hesitate to disagree with someone or reject a certain request, even though, I am convinced it is the only good choice at that moment. Do you know what I’m talking about? You do not have to say it out loud. Don’t worry.
From my perspective, the major problem with saying “No” is the fact that this short word is associated mainly with pessimism and negative emotions. I totally disagree with that (you see, having an opinion is a simple way of saying “No” to something you cannot accept), there is nothing bad in contesting the Status Quo or having a different view. Saying “Yes” is easy because present self thinks that future self can handle it. In addition, there is no wrong-doing in being frank with those closest to you. Real friends should have no trouble in understanding that your availability might be occasionally limited. Depending on the nature of your relationship, you may want to explain why you’re saying no. But don’t over-explain or give your entire life story. That’s not necessary. In most instances, no explanation is required.
Sadly, our way of life promotes the feeling of guilt when you refuse to lend a hand to someone – even in with the minor need. To be frank, I am not a huge fan of the Parable of the Good Samaritan, and I do not observe anything special or romantic in sacrificing your own belongings, time, and life to satisfy others. Do not misunderstand me — if it makes you feel happy and fulfilled, then there is nothing stopping you. On the other hand, if these kinds of choices make you suffer inside while having known you preferred the opposite choice, then I suggest you stop hurting yourself so badly.
We come to a point when putting your efforts and means into things you do not want to do is basically wasting your the most precious, and most importantly, irreversible commodity – your time.
I recall too many events or parties that I did not want to attend, but went there just to not hurt another person’s feelings, whereas, I did harm unto myself. I would have rather spent those evenings back in my apartment reading a Philip K. Dick’s book or playing the guitar having a glass of fine wine. I am not a party-animal. I can’t help it – that’s the way it is.
Same story goes with your daily work, I know that is nearly impossible to resist against helping a colleague in the office. And if you don’t and this gets noticed by your supervisor you are in a whole load of trouble. It seems like there is an allowance to depreciate your persona to make people around happy. In the end, is it really worth the cost?
I know individuals who had been lost in toxic relationships for long years before they realized that trying not to hurt the other party was the worst choice they could have made at the time. The result? The loss of time, money, and even more emotional engagement. Not to mention the cost of so many missed opportunities. The question is why are we so hesitant about denying or refusing. After feeling trapped for some time by my excessive urge to be agreeable, it got me thinking. I had to ask myself numerous times is it that bad to be a bit of an egoist? I call it being a positive egoist.
Sonya Parker, a blogger, and a public speaker described it perfectly:
“Live your life for you, not for anyone else. Don’t let the fear of being judged, rejected or disliked stop you from being yourself”
Most of the people are afraid of saying “No” because they have a strong, inner fear of getting rejected. They are terrified by the thought they might disappoint someone, hurt their feelings, being seen as unkind or rude, and make the others angry. It is way too easy to forget that, as always, you have a choice with how you respond to the needs of others. Can you remember when you were two or three years old at all? You had no trouble with verbalizing your beliefs and viewpoints. You remember when you wanted to have that blue toy car? You whined kicking and screaming that the green one would not be a suitable fit.
But later on, this all changed. We learned that saying “No” is an unwelcome habit and inappropriate. If you refused to agree with your dad, mom, grandparents, teachers and others, who in their views should be seen as authorities. You were most certainly considered rude, and you would have probably been told off for it. What a pity. Now that we are all grownups, we are more developed and clever enough to make our own decisions, as well as telling the difference between immorality and respectability. Therefore, “No” should not be a forbidden word, but rather something that we determine for ourselves, built at our own discretion. My sad observation is, unfortunately, we keep up with our juvenile dogmas and we remain to connect “No” with being dislikeable, ill-mannered, hostile, or egoistic. We are afraid that if we say “No” we will feel embarrassed, guilt-ridden, or shamefaced, and will end up being alone, left behind, or forsaken.
Looking back, I realize that it really is not worth it to say “Yes” when you do not want to. Everyone has a right to say “No” and should not be frightened of letting other people down at the expense of their own happiness. Begin by placing benchmarks. Draw the thick line and support your feelings. Exercise by saying “Yes” and “No” so you can do what you desire and see what happens to you and your life. Of course, it will not be a bed of roses since every rose has its thorn. You have no control on how the surrounding people will react to your choice – whether they accept it or not. I am aware that it is a risky game, but I am eager to observe it from the other side, even if you lose some friends (you probably will). Were they really true pals to begin with? Focus on what matters utmost. It is not egoistic at all. It is down-to-earth and essential for your personal happiness. The realization to say “Yes” to yourself and “No” to others. If you are not proud of doing something, never do it. If you do something against you, stop immediately and withdraw. If you constantly try to please other people at no cost – change. Michal Szafranski has a simple solution with how to distinguish things you aspire to do and those you do not. If something is not an obvious “Yes” it is an undeniable “No”.
“Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying yes too quickly and not saying “no” soon enough.”
“The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is very easy to say yes.”
“It’s only by saying NO that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”
Thanks to Kamil Siwecki for language consultations.