Maintain healthy boundaries AND be nice!
Saying no is a cultivated practice. Being Nice is a common courtesy. And these things are not at odds! Everyone can practice creating respectful boundaries around what is sacred and necessary and still be able to really throw down when needed. It's simple. Just say, "No. Thank you" Saying no is not for the faint of heart. Depending on where we come from and any family of origin stuff that is still alive and well, it may be even harder. Personally, I have a ton of abandonment issues, both locational and emotional. When people don't show up in the way they said they would - even if it's really small - it crosses a line for me. I used to deem people "untrustworthy" and not look back. It was an important tool for me AT AGE 3, but not a sustainable way of being in the world as I wanted to be at the time, and now. Friends are really important to me, and everyone make mistakes and forget things daily. So in my own work, I'm constantly (and quickly) trying to assess what is truly important and what is no big deal.
The "no" itself is not harmful. More often than not, an honest no is liberating to say and to hear. Sometimes I think we assume too easily in relationship, either that the other person knows exactly what's going on or has no idea. (That's probably just me.) Most of us are acutely intuitive beings, whether we are aware of it or not.
I corresponded with a dear friend while they were serving time in their early 20's. I got a letter where they told me about a therapy that included the idea of being the same person you are in public that you are in private. Creating and maintaining healthy boundaries is exactly this. It means that we respect ourselves in public as well as in private. In front of our partners, colleagues, family, children, and pets, for all to see. If we can do that, even once more a day than usual, we are on the right path.
4 ways to PRACTICE:
- Recall the scenario where you dread saying no. Or where you've always wanted to but have not been able to. Now imagine yourself in your mind gracefully saying, "No thanks!" Scene.
- Be honest. If you mean no, say no instead of, "I can't" "Not today" or the ubiquitous "I'm too busy". It's more respectful to others and to yourself.
- Just say it. It will probably feel weird in the moment, and maybe for a little bit afterwards. Later on, reflect on your decision and pay particular attention to how you feel. If it worked, you will most likely feel like you have more energy (and you do!), courage and self-respect.
- Say it fast! The quicker you respond, especially in an expected situation, the easier it is to stick with it. (note on this: I just was trying a free week of Crossfit and we got to the sit ups part of the warm up. I don't do sit ups right now because of muscle separation in my rectus from being pregnant. It would have been really easy for my competitive nature to be swept up by the loud music, and the whole as-much-as-fast-as-hard vibe. But I said quickly, and awkwardly: I don't do sit ups, my abs are separated, guts pop out. "Right" the guy says, "My wife has that." And I still felt whole cause I didn't betray myself.)
Sometimes this saying no thing takes some forethought and planning. Visits with family or in-laws are a great time to practice. When we respect ourselves and our boundaries, it grants permission for those around us to do so as well. Stay your path! Don't be dissuaded by haters! Push back may mean your boundaries are working.
Here is a short list to leave you with. Be willing. Be courageous. Take action!
10 simple things to say to decline. To be clear, this is for the times when you have no honest interest in saying yes, but you don't know how to say no. In order of politeness:
- Thank you for the invitation/opportunity/offer, but I'm going to politely decline.
- No, thank you.
- Um, no.
- Noooooooooooo (sung)
- No (whispered)
- No! (yelled)
- Are you kidding?!! No way.
- I'm sure your mother would be happy to join you.
- Go fuck yourself.
See the common thread? It's just about figuring how to get the no out of your mouth.