We talk a lot about learning to say “no” and being able to set healthy boundaries for ourselves. But are you able to accept “no” from others?
It’s true that learning to say “no” is an important part of guarding your mental health so that you don’t become overwhelmed. Saying “yes” to too many commitments is a quick way to skyrocket your stress level and deplete your energy. However, if we accept that this is important for us, then we must also understand that this is also important for others.
There is a competing philosophy that empowers us to never accept no as an answer, to never give up, and to keep trying until we achieve our goals and get what we want. This philosophy is great in many circumstances. It can inspire us to keep practicing our skills or reaching for our dreams. However, it’s crucial that we are careful not to apply this philosophy to people — people who also have the right to say “no.”
Think of someone you would be able to say “no” to. There are two types of people who might fall into this category: 1) people who are understanding, gracious, and able to accept your answer without responding with anger or a guilt trip, or 2) people whose opinions mean very little to you.
Now think of someone you would struggle to say “no” to. What makes it different? It’s likely that this is either 1) a person whose opinion means very much to you — someone you don’t want to disappoint. OR 2) someone who will not accept no for an answer. This might be someone who makes you feel horrible if you don’t do everything they want. Perhaps you’re afraid that they will hold it against you or do petty things to get back at you. Maybe this is a person who makes you feel that you must always walk on eggshells — and saying “no” would crack those eggshells.
Now let’s put the shoe on the other foot. Let’s say that you ask someone to do something for you or to be a part of a project you’re working on. Are you the kind of person that it’s safe to say “no” to? Do others know that you will understand if they are too stressed or tired or busy to say “yes?” Or would you respond with guilt or pressure or irritation? Which type of person do you want to be?
By all means, learn to set boundaries for yourself and be able to say “no” when necessary. But also remember that others need to do the same.