Monday, 19 June 2017

The importance of being able to say no

Many years ago I read a booklet on why it’s important to learn to say no.
What stands out for me from that booklet was the simple advice that:
If you say no then people may be disappointed, but at least they know where they stand with you. If you find you can do what they asked later down the line, then that’s a bonus. No-one will think less of you for doing that. So – if you are unsure about following through on any request, it’s best to say no.
If you say yes - then mean it. Even having to let people down for a legitimate, unforeseen circumstance after you’ve committed to doing something, can be hard enough, but if it turns out you never really intended to follow through, or had misgivings at the time, then that is likely to cost you trust, respect and ultimately your friendship.
If you say no, and the person can’t take it, then you will know where you stand with that person. If that person does not respect your boundaries then it’s good to know that.
Some people say no as their default, because they can never be bothered to put themselves out for anyone. Fine- that’s a clear message. Don’t expect any favours from that person.
To me, being clear about boundaries and only saying what you mean are mature adult social skills. I get it that when you are young you can feel pressured into pleasing people, but by the time you get to my great old age you should bloody well know better. If you do make that mistake, of not wanting to upset someone and agreeing to something that you didn’t really mean, or hadn’t had time to think through, then fine - we all make mistakes, even when we think we’ve learned our lessons - but you’re still responsible. It was your mistake, so own up to it. If you really want to retain any respect from the person you’ve let down, then it’s best just to own up and admit that you did make that promise but now you realize you can’t go through with it. If you opt for pretending you never made the commitment, then say goodbye to respect and any further basis to your friendship or relationship with that person.
Speaking as someone who has been painfully let down because of some serious miscommunications like these, I can vouch for just how it’s adding insult to injury that those who let me down now can’t even take responsibility for their own actions. It’s hard to believe that people who in every other context of their lives are quite dominant and self-assertive are really people pleasers and haven’t learned to say no when appropriate. I’ve been through months of emotional devastation because of being so badly let down by people I believed I could trust. I’m finding my balance now, but it’s been hard. I’ve had a lot of rants and said a lot of bad words about it to myself and a few to the people who let me down, but haven’t posted any of it on this blog or anywhere else while I was going through so much emotion. This is now a quiet reflective comment. I hope I phrased it in a way that may help other people to understand the importance of clear boundaries and just what hurt you can do to people if you don’t have them.

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