When You Do What You Really Don’t Want To Do

Great journeys begin with one small step.  In the journey of life, learning to say “No” is that small, but necessary step.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Burt was the kind of guy that everybody liked. You could count on him to be the life of any party. He never met a stranger or if he did they weren’t strangers for long. He knew everybody’s name, looked them straight in the eyes as he talked to them.

And then he met Kristina. She was different. She was more structured, keeping a tight schedule and didn’t seem to be impressed by Burt’s jovial demeanor. Other women seemed to hang on his every word, but not Kristina.

It wasn’t long after they met that he discovered he really liked Kristina and wanted to get to know her better. At the same time, he was a little intimidated by her “in-charge” attitude.

Kristina asked Burt to a swim party. He really didn’t want to go, but he also didn’t want to lose her as a potential girlfriend or maybe wife, so he said nothing. She told him who had been invited to the party. She wanted to introduce him to her friends. He remained quiet, not saying a word which was very unusual for him. But, Kristina, wrapped up in her plans didn’t seem to notice. Like many people, Burt found it hard to say no, especially to Kristina. He didn’t want to offend or upset her. He was afraid it would damage the relationship they had and lose any chance of a closer relationship.

Image by Jefty Matricio from Pixabay

Image by Jefty Matricio from Pixabay




Give Yourself Permission to Say NO

Many of us, especially women, have trouble saying “no” because being capable, helpful and reliable are a part of our self-image. We like to be seen as the kind of person who says ‘yes’, someone who is always willing to help a person in need.

Often, saying ‘yes’ every time we’re asked can create problems either now or in the future. Most of us, especial in the USA, are busy and we seem to get busier every year. We all need to balance our work, family, and restorative time. Too many times saying ‘no’ is viewed as being selfish. But instead, it’s a wise use of our time so we can be helpful at other times.

Saying ‘yes’ when we mean ‘no’ can actually be very unwise causing bigger disappointments and problems. It may be that we get too many things piled on our plate and it comes crashing down. Be aware that an attitude behind the ‘yes’ can indicate that you really want your ‘yes’ to be a ‘no’. If you don’t honestly communicate what you want or how you feel it not only strains your resources and time, it also erodes the trust you have established with the other person.

How to let people down gently when they’re asking too much.


“Let today mark a new beginning for you. Give yourself permission to say NO without feeling guilty, mean, or selfish. Anybody who gets upset and/or expects you to say YES all of the time clearly doesn’t have your best interest at heart. Always remember: You have a right to say NO without having to explain yourself. Be at peace with your decisions.”

― Stephanie Lahart – Overcoming Life’s Obstacles: Enlighten-Encourage-Empower

 Burt’s Battle

Burt reluctantly made an appearance at the swim party. He tried to mingle and talk to people, but Kristina noticed he wasn’t the life of the party, as usual. She thought maybe he wasn’t feeling well or something was bothering him. She asked him if there was anything wrong.

“No, no. I’m fine.”

He then made a concentrated effort to be more friendly and talkative. Kristina kept her eye on him, wondering what was really wrong. They had been dating for some time and she had never seen him act like this before. She felt there was something wrong. Maybe he was going to break up with her. Something!

As the party progressed Kristina got busy with her duties as hostess and forgot about Burt. The party was coming to a close and she wanted to introduce him to her friends. No Burt.

She asked a couple of people if they had seen him. Everybody shook their heads.

“He’s kind of quiet,” one of the guys said.

“Burt, quiet,” Kristina said more concerned than ever. “I’ve never known him to be quiet.”

Suzanne, her best friend overheard the conversation, “I saw him an hour or so ago as he was walking out the door. He slammed the door, but the music was so loud you couldn’t hear it. He had a scowl on his face like he was really upset with something or someone.”

Kristina stepped out on the porch to see if he was outside. His car was gone. You could see the burnt rubber tracks from his exit. Kristina’s anger began to mount.


Guests Gone

She started the task of clean-up. Some of the women had helped before they left so there wasn’t a lot to do. Her mind started wandering through the events of the last few hours, intensifying her anger.

She grabbed her purse and stormed out, slamming the door behind her, “How could he do this to me?”

She fussed and fumed all the way to his house, sliding to a stop in his driveway, “I can’t wait to give him a piece of my mind,” she said pounding on his door.

As he opened the door, “How dare you,” she yelled.

He stepped back from the door allowing her to step inside, so her rant wouldn’t be heard by the whole neighborhood. He slammed the door behind her.

“Why did you storm out of my house without saying a word? I wanted to introduce you to my friends. But, maybe that’s best, maybe I don’t want to introduce you. If you’re going to treat me like this I don’t know if I even want to be in a relationship with you…”


Image by PourquoiPas from Pixabay

Image by PourquoiPas from Pixabay

Burt’s Story

Burt hung his head with his lower lip stuck out just a little as he walked away going into the kitchen. He continued the cooking that he had been doing before being so rudely interrupted.

Kristina followed him to the doorway of the kitchen where she finally quit ranting. Leaning up against the door frame she watched Burt move about the kitchen as if she weren’t even there.

Finally, in a calmer voice, she said, “Why did you leave? What is going on? I really don’t understand. I haven’t seen you like this before.”

He paused with his head down for a few seconds, “I didn’t want to go to the party.”

“Why not? Why didn’t you just tell me “no”? I really need to know why?” she said.

He took a deep breath and motioned for both of them to sit at the kitchen table, “I can’t swim,” he said.

She didn’t say anything but motioned with her hand for him to continue.

“I almost drowned when I was a kid. They say I was under water for about three minutes before they got to me. I fell out of the boat on the lake. I had been in the water for 10-15 minutes before anybody noticed. I tried dog paddling, but I couldn’t keep it up.”

He stopped talking, lowering his head. Kristina sat quietly giving him the time he needed to continue, “When they pulled me out I wasn’t breathing. A friend was on the boat that new CPR and he finally got me breathing again. I’ve been very afraid of water ever since. I’ve tried swimming lessons, but just couldn’t do it.”


Kristina’s Turn

“I understand…”

He held his hand up for her to stop. He sat for a long time. “I left in a huff, more or less from fear, when two guys started joking around saying they were going to throw me in. Yes, I stormed out.”

“Jerks! Which two guys?” Kristina asked.

“No. I’m not going to tell you, that’s not important.”

They both sat for several minutes trying to digest the information. Finally, Kristina said, “Why didn’t you tell me earlier? It didn’t have to be a swimming party. It could have been a BBQ. I just wanted you to meet my friends. Saying ‘no’ could have avoided the all these problems.

Your opinions, feelings, desires, and needs are different from mine, but they are just as valid. If you don’t communicate them to me I won’t know. I’m not a mind-reader.”

“I guess I got it in my head that if I didn’t agree with you, you wouldn’t like me anymore.”


Learning To Say No

“The thing that would damage our relationship more would be if you agree with me when you don’t or just don’t say anything and allow me to assume you are in agreement when you aren’t. In that case, it’s liable to come up after the fact, like this time. That’s when I go ballistic. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what to say, you’re afraid to say what’s on your mind, or to say ‘no’. Not saying anything stops all communication and will ultimately cause hard feelings and problems in our relationship,” Kristina said. “Actually, I want to know your opinion, your thoughts and your feelings or I wouldn’t ask.”

She paused for a long moment allowing all of this to soak in, “And, please, ask for what you want. That’s how our relationship will survive and become strong.”

“I hear what you’re saying, but I’ve always had trouble saying ‘no’.”

“Then, practice you ‘nos’ on little things that don’t really matter. Practice makes perfect. Be ready to stand firm.  You need to respond in a way that says that although you hear and understand what I or anyone else is saying, you are not going to back down from your position.  ‘No’ means NO, and if you say it and then cave in at the first protest, your ‘no’ will never be taken seriously. I know I sound like a teacher or counselor, but please do it for me. I had the same problem a few years ago and this is the advice a friend gave me.  I practiced my ‘no’ and it felt so much better than doing what I didn’t really want to do. Trust me. It’ll work much better.”

There are 10 simple steps to learning to say No



Does Your “No” Really Mean “No”

Do you agree to things because you feel pressured?

Photo by Tweetspics on PixabayIt was almost midnight. She was fading quickly, but he just kept talking doling out orders for the next day. Nancy knew he was a “night-owl” but she wasn’t. She needed her sleep. After 15 years of marriage, she thought that he would lighten up, but it hadn’t happened yet.

She felt pressured to do what she could to make the home and business run smoothly, but it felt like he thought she was Superwoman and could keep everything running, while he just ran his mouth.

Why do women say ‘yes’ when they really want to say ‘no’?

We as humans thrive on reciprocity. We depend on each other. Reciprocity and cooperation are “coin of the realm” in our society because we all have different strengths and weaknesses. Together they work better than separately. God created us to need each other. Romans 12:5 “Since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other and each of us needs all the others.”  We need each other. It’s like the John Jackson song, “Better Together.”

But, women are wired and socialized differently than men. They are taught from an early age to be socially obliging, to please others and when they are spoken to they respond back. To women, the word “no” often feels confrontational and threatens a potential bond, work-related, friendship or romantic. Women are taught how to play to get along, whereas, men, play to win.

This often poses a problem especially for women who are pursuing a career. They often find themselves caught in the Superwoman Syndrome, where they are expected to do more, do it better, and keep everything at home done as well.

“We live in a ‘yes’ culture, where it’s expected that the person who is going to get ahead is the go-getter who says yes to everything that comes their way,” said Dara Blaine, a career counselor, and coach in Los Angeles.

Too many times women engage in “token resistance” commonly referred to in the seduction community, denoting a rejection of advances, with the intention of actually engaging in the activity that was initially rejected.

Token resistance doesn’t have to refer to sexual activity. Some women say “no” to a work or family request, but later do what was initially rejected out of guilt internally or externally generated.

Nancy, The Superwoman

Photo by Geralt on Pixabay

Even though it was almost midnight, Frank, Nancy’s husband and wanna-be boss said, “Would you get a notepad and take notes for tomorrow? I have several things that I want you to do. Maybe we can do some of them now?”

“No, I am too tired. I have to be up early to get the employees started and get the kids off to school. You never go to bed until two or three. You’re never up that early. No. I’m going to bed.”

Frank pouted with his lip stuck out, “Okay, I guess I can do it myself. But, you are much better at all of this than I am. I guess I’ll make it.”

“Fine,” Nancy said with an angry attitude as she grabbed her notepad of assignments for the next day.

Frank’s pout suddenly gone, he started assigning additional work to Nancy’s already heavily laden schedule.

A “yes” instead of a difficult “no” tends to overcommit your time, energy and finances

Nancy had given Frank “token resistance” so many times that he knew exactly what it would take to get what he wanted. It worked like a charm every single time. Yet, he didn’t realize the toll it was taking on Nancy. Did he even care?

Frank knew he was making Nancy uncomfortable. He knew she felt bad about not doing what he wanted when he wanted it. Consequently, he pushed all the buttons at his disposal to get her time, attention, and to do what he pleased with no responsibility. When she gave in and did what he wanted he felt respected. But, instead of earning her respect, his lack of sensitivity actually lost him respect in her eyes.

Nancy had taken on too much responsibility in the business. She ran the office, maintained constant contact with the vendor who held their contract, managed and trained the employees, the accounting, plus anything else that came up.

She believed she had to keep going no matter what. But, did she have a choice? When she did ask Frank for help, he would give her a few minutes of his time, maybe. He was so insensitive that he couldn’t see the pressure he was putting on her, until one day she ended up in the hospital.

As he sat in the waiting room to see her after surgery he heard a “code blue” called on her room. For the first time in 15 years, he came face to face with the thought that he might lose her. What would he do if she didn’t make it? Could he run the business by himself? Could he make it on his own? He vowed to change things if she survived. But, was it too late?

Negative Consequences to No Follow Through

Agreeing to do something that you can’t or don’t do often creates hard feelings, bitterness, and resentment in personal and professional situations. One of the negative consequences is that honest communication becomes difficult because trust has been violated. It creates a hardship for all involved.

When you learn to say “no” and mean it, you automatically come across as more confident

Boundaries are the first step to being able to say “no” and be more confident. Setting and enforcing them will also help to establish a better work/life balance.

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. from PsychCentral shares 10 Ways to Build and Preserve Better Boundaries.

  1. Name Your Limits
  2. Tune Into Your Feelings
  3. Be Direct
  4. Give Yourself Permission
  5. Practice Self-Awareness
  6. Consider Your Past and Present
  7. Make Self-Care A Priority
  8. Seek Support
  9. Be Assertive
  10. Start Small

Nancy’s Recovery

Nancy’s recovery was arduous with many more surgeries to follow. Frank had to face the decision of trying to run the business rather than just his mouth. The decision proved to be much more difficult than he imagined that day sitting in the waiting room. He eventually gave up the contract and found another position while Nancy healed.

“The ability to communicate ‘no’ really reflects that you are in the driver’s seat of your own life,” said Vanessa M. Patrick, an associate professor of marketing at the C. T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston. “It gives you a sense of empowerment.”

Using Your “No”

Photo by Mohamed_Hassan on Pixabay

Nancy began to learn how to use her “no” as her body recovered. She basically had no choice. Frank began to learn sensitivity to Nancy and others around him.

Nancy learned that she wasn’t responsible for Frank or anyone else’s actions or reactions to her “no”. Understanding her own long-term goals gave her the opportunity to assess whether the request reflected her value and advanced her personal goals.

She began to practice her “no” in areas of low priority, being more assertive with telemarketers and cashiers at the local store. She found it’s much easier to be assertive with strangers.

Writing out her “no” script made it easier because she knew exactly what and how she wanted to exercise her “no”.

She discovered that she didn’t have to say “no” to everything. But, she had learned the hard way that saying “yes” to everything did not work. She learned to be selective with her “yes.”

People pleasers feel they must reply instantly. Nancy learned that she could take time to think about what was being asked of her. She developed a new habit of thinking before speaking.

One of the harder lessons was that she didn’t need to apologize for saying “no”.  Why say you’re sorry if you’re not? Often, if you express regret about saying “no” the other person keeps asking or pouring on the guilt. Apologies actually bring more requests. If the other person hears resolve in the tone of your voice and sees it in your body language they’ll accept your decision.

Nancy also learned that each “no” is an individual decision. For each request, she learned to ask herself if she really wanted to do it. She learned to be selective with the projects she accepted.

Lessons Learned

Frank learned to not apply pressure. He still tried to use guilt to change her mind, but Nancy learned how to stand firmly without getting angry or raising her voice.

She also learned that she didn’t need to defend her “why.” There was no need to defend. She learned to just say “no” with conviction, without justification. Justifying put her on the defensive which weakened her stance.