"Just Say No" Isn't Working
The weight of "no" is heavy when you don't say it.
Recently, I said no to something at work. Someone pitched me an idea – a bad one, in my opinion. It wasn’t right for the business and would negatively affect the numbers that I’m responsible for reporting. And so I said no.
It’s not something I’m comfortable doing. Whenever I do, I hear myself say the word, but inside I feel a clawing in my throat, a fighting to keep it bottled inside. You know in The Little Mermaid, where Ursula takes Ariel’s voice and those hands come creeping into her throat and take the little gold ball of her voice out? That’s me saying no, a spirit coming into my body and forcing it out. (There must be something in my psyche this week with two early 90s Disney movie references in a row … next week I’ll be talking about Aladdin’s pants, or something.)
I was laughing with some friends last week about how the anti-drug movement of the 1980s – “just say no” – was rather dismissive. As in, “it’s so easy! All you have to do is say no!” It doesn’t consider the nuances of peer pressure, or a lack of parental or family support, or an understanding of addiction, or a thousand other variables that might, just maybe, make it a little more difficult for someone to say, simply, no. If there’s anything I’ve learned from my therapist, it’s that the world is not black and white. Which, of course, means it’s not just yes or no.
If I dig into it, it’s not saying no that I struggle with, but telling people no. When that happens, it feels like it will be less painful for me to go along than to share my thoughts and push back. A feeling of failure in sharing my own voice, a lack of empowerment, is the side effect. Some days, it can be heavy, knowing that “no” goes back inside, a thing for me to carry.
In fact, this happened with that example at work. The person pushed back, complaining about something-or-other, and I lost my will to stand and fight. I said yes, after I said no. I stood my ground for all of 20 minutes. When we went through with the plan, the numbers were not as affected as I anticipated, and the fibers in my muscles relaxed a little bit – and then I remembered, this will all happen again tomorrow.
What I’m reminding myself is that saying no (at least at work,) and then saying yes, isn’t a sign of failure. I practiced it. I shared my point of view. And even if I ultimately said, kind of, in a way, yes, I was making my voice heard in the gray.
Was it worth it? Yes. Will it happen again? Probably, yes.
Did it feel good?