Some Thoughts on “No.”

No. It’s a complete sentence. No can be hard to hear and hard to say.

On Hearing “No”
When we invite or ask someone something and hear a “no” in response – it bothers some of us. It’s unhealthy when it bothers us because we started judging. We shouldn’t judge when people give what seems like ridiculous reasons for not being able to be involved in “whatever.” Yeah, some people are lazy. Yeah, in the right relationship, some people need challenged to put on big boy pants. But we all recharge and get drained differently, and we all have our own limits. So give mercy because you’ll need it soon enough. When we hear “no” – we should never assume we understand the other person’s situation.

On Saying “No”
When we are saying “no” to someone, we must avoid the temptation to place our hearer in the position of our judge. I think we do this a lot – let me explain.

For example, when I say to you, “I can’t be involved in your Save The Whales campaign because I have to go grocery shopping.” This solution makes you think I’m a jerk because I don’t care about the thing you care about. When I start to defend myself it kinda pushes you to make a judgement call about whether or not my commitment is unreasonable according to YOUR priorities. But you’re not the one saying yes or no. It’s me. And you have no idea how stressed its been in my house the past week and how much money we’ve been wasting by eating out for the past four days (and can’t afford it) and how much additional stress it will put on me to get home late tonight for the 27th day in a row – you’re just not in the seat to determine how I play out my priorities. So a “No, I can’t, I have other plans. Sorry” would be sufficient. We shouldn’t put ourselves on a judgement seat.

But we shouldn’t be silent either. That just communicates rudeness. We sometimes choose silence when we are asked to do something because we don’t want to deal with explaining ourselves, being judged, or possible confrontation that follows.… But we are usually only put in that place of judgment when we say “No, because…” And place ourselves in the judgment seat. If you are remaining silent to a request of your time, talent, or treasure because you want to avoid a problem or confrontation, chances are you are probably creating conflict. For example, some people ignore RSVPs with the motivation to avoid saying no, but that often just leads to the host having to follow through and contact them directly to confirm!

Just say no – it is a complete sentence.

(I make some huge generalizations here – and there are a million situations where “No” is absolutely not sufficient. (If your boss asks you to work on something, simply a “No” is definitely not recommended!). I imagine these thoughts are appropriate for most social situations, though. These comments are meant to be encouragement to those feeling rejected by “No’s,” and tips that I’ve learned for those who fret over saying it. If you never feel like you’re in one of those positions, this post probably doesn’t apply to your personality – but thanks for reading!).

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