Bringing Balance to our “NO!”
" It is one of the first words in a child's vocabulary: right after "da-da" and right before "mine." How does it happen that a word we have no problem using as a child creates so much angst as an adult?
This week I watched Abigail's first struggle with saying, "No." My seven-year-old daughter was playing with her new best friend, Sophie*, when the time came to leave for dinner. Abigail had been looking forward to this meal for a couple of days: sharing her favorite wings with her grandparents and an aunt who was visiting from Tennessee. It should have been an easy decision, but Sophie's practiced persuasion proved a formidable foe.
Abigail (middle) has no trouble helping her sisters tell their little brother, "NO!"
Abigail's glance shifted between me and some of the most pitiful puppy dog eyes I've ever seen. Sophie wasn't ready to say good-bye. She begged and pleaded with every word and eyelash at her six-year-old disposal. Abigail eventually chose dinner over Sophie. We rode in silence until she could bear it no longer, "Momma, is it okay I came with you?"
Saying, "No," can be hard work. Not everyone will respect your, "No." Some people believe they have a right to expect you to act a certain way. When you don't perform according to their plan, they will get mad at you. They will yell. They will pout. They will give you the cold shoulder. Their disdain will be obvious; you'll know you have disappointed them, let them down. You will feel like you've done something wrong.
Sophie's response made Abigail feel like a bad friend. I explained to my brave little girl that she had been courageous when she stood up for what was important to her. I told her she was really being a good friend by showing Sophie it was okay to make an unpopular decision.
As adults we have to be okay with unpopular decisions. When it comes to saying, "NO," here are a few perspective-keeping keys:
1) Your decisions will not please everyone. Don't even try.
2) No one has a right to expect you to say, "Yes." This expectation often occurs when people ask you to do a task they are unwilling to do themselves.
3) No one has a right to be angry if you say, "No." Disappointed, yes; angry, no.
4) A true friend will respect your decision, even when it is opposite of what they wanted you to do.
5) People have the right, even the responsibility, to question your decision if they feel your choice is detrimental to your personal well-being or their relationship (i.e. work environment). Asking for clarification/explanation is not the same as disrespecting your answer.
6) People have the responsibility to tell you if your "No," was hurtful to them. They do not have the right to use their feelings in emotional blackmail to get you to change your mind.
7) Do unto others...the best way to receive respectful treatment is to model it.
Today, bring balance to your, "No." Be courageous by saying, "No." Be gracious when receiving, "No."
*Sophie is not her real name.