Written by Tabby Biddle
Are you a “Yes” person or a “No” person, and is one better than the other?
Movies like The Yes Man starring Jim Carrey would have you believe that saying “no” leads to a boring life and a host of unexplored possibilities. After saying “no” to just about everything, Carrey’s character is depressed, disconnected and on the verge of missing out on life altogether. As an antidote, he attends a self-help seminar that advocates saying “YES” to EVERYTHING. His life totally turns around: he goes bungee jumping, takes guitar lessons, learns Korean, flies an airplane, and finds love.
All good things.
But what really happens to people who go through life saying “yes” (note the lower case) to every request made of them without a “no” in sight?
Louise Hay, teacher, author and expert in looking at the emotional causes of disease, says in her book Empowering Women that there is a consistent pattern that she has noticed with almost every woman she knows who has breast cancer. She says that they usually have a tremendous inability to say “no.” “Breasts represent nourishment, and people with breast cancer seem to nourish everybody in their world but themselves,” she says. “They give and they give until there is no nourishment left for them.”
True or not, there seems to be a fine line between moments when we say “yes” to open up to new life possibilities, and, when we say “no” to honor ourselves and maintain a healthy boundary.
For example, do you say yes to donating your time to a cause because you feel it is a good thing to do, but then start bouncing checks because you gave too much of yourself and your bank account? Maybe that should have been a no.
Do you say yes to learning another language, traveling abroad and possibly meeting the love of your life? That yes could work.
Sometimes the Zen of “Yes” or “No” can be a tough call.
We’ve all probably had the experience of sharing a confidence with a friend, and then they later spilled the beans to someone else. The next time around when they asked you to share something intimate, you thought twice about this.
If you are a yes person, learning to say no can feel difficult — especially the first time! The first time I said “no” to someone when they asked for one too many favors, I was so nervous. I was so afraid the person was going to get angry with me. I wondered if I was being selfish, or even worse, not nice. I even contemplated reversing back to “yes.” If I said yes though, I would be betraying what I knew to be true for me — deep down I wanted to say “no.” After much deliberation, I stuck with my no.
“Anybody who is learning to say no has to put up with anger for awhile,” says Louise. “You can expect that reaction.” The people around you have become so used to you saying yes, that this disruption in the pattern can be unsettling for them.
Although some people would have you believe that when you say no, you are closing off to possibilities in your life … I would like to challenge that by saying that sometimes saying no, will open up tremendous possibilities.
Maybe when you say no to someone in certain circumstances, you are actually saying YES to yourself!
Tabby Biddle is a writer and editor specializing in helping women entrepreneurs and emerging authors get their message out. Additionally she is the founder of Lotus Blossom Style, a yoga lifestyle company created to support women in their personal transformation. She lives in Santa Monica, CA.