On the surface of things, it would seem easy for us to know when to say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. You just decide and then you give your response – clear and simple, right?
Well, not really. With so many of us there is a whole history of why we often say ‘Yes’ when we’d really like to say ‘No’ – or ‘No’ when we actually mean ‘Yes’.
Why on earth do we do this and what are some of the things that cloud and confuse this issue?
The reasons for this confusion often go back quite a way to how we were raised. For example, you possibly said something like: “I don’t like Mr. So-and-So’ and you were told: ‘Don’t be silly! Of course you like Mr. So and So!’. While this response usually comes with the good intentions of parents who want us to be good people, it can interfere with our ability to know and trust what we really feel.
Naturally, there are many things that we need to do whether we like it or not. Not many of us love going to the dentist or doing tax returns, but we do this as a necessary part of life.
We need authentic responses
When we become used to doing what other people want or expect from us, without any option for expressing what we think or feel, over time we stop knowing our own authentic responses. This inevitably makes it more difficult to know a genuine ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.
It’s good to be considerate of others – but not when this comes at the expense of ourselves. When we consistently put ourselves last, neglecting our own genuine needs, we can become tired, depleted, depressed and burnt out.
A helpful way to get back to authentic responses is to practice the following exercise:
In this exercise, our responses range across a scale with ‘Attraction’ on one end, ‘Aversion’ on the other, and ‘Neutral’ in the middle.
‘Attraction’ is the feeling of joy and energy you have when you can’t wait to do something. You’re excited and enthusiastic and time flies by when you do this. You’re relaxed and happy, your heart rate is calm and you feel alive and fulfilled. Being in ‘Attraction’ is therefore good for your body, mind and spirit.
On the other extreme of the scale is ‘Aversion’ which is the complete opposite of Attraction. Here you feel distaste and dislike for something or someone. You have to force yourself to do things and you usually feel tired, depleted and empty afterwards. These feelings show you that being in a state of Aversion depletes your energy, your health and your natural life-force.
In between Attraction and Aversion is ‘Neutral’. While Neutral isn’t an optimum state, it’s not about dread or obligation either. It’s a sense of: ‘This isn’t the best I could feel, but it’s OK for me, no real problem’.
The state of ‘Attraction’ is good for you
Ideally, it’s healthy for us to try and stay in a state of Attraction (or between Neutral and Attraction) as much as possible, because we’re then more aligned with our true self and authentic life purpose. This requires that we come to know our real needs as well as shifting from ‘I should’ to ‘I choose to’ in cases where certain things need to be done (difficult conversations, scary health checks, house cleaning – or whatever else we’re putting off doing).
The closer you are to the state of Attraction, the easier things become, because what you’re naturally attracted to is usually what you’re best equipped to be and do.
Aim towards staying in Attraction as much as possible
The further you move from Attraction towards Aversion, the harder things become, because you’re going against your innate design and purpose. This is when you start feeling off-track, frustrated and irritable.
If you were raised, as I was, to try and please other people at all costs, no matter how you feel – it would be interesting for you to get back to knowing what a genuine ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ feels like.
Don’t sell yourself or others short
A whole-hearted and authentic ‘Yes’ is a gift to yourself and others because you’re offering the very best of yourself.
And a sincere and well-considered ‘No’ is also a gift in that no-one has to waste time going through the motions, when the time and energy could be offered more constructively and authentically elsewhere.
Getting back to your inner knowing
It can take a little while to learn new habits so, while you’re in this process, it can be helpful to buy yourself some time to think before you give your usual knee-jerk response.
If you’ve ever said things like:‘Yes, of course I’ll do it – no problem!’ while, at the same time, wondering how you’ll ever find the added time, or if you’ve ever said: ‘No, I could never try that/go there/believe that/do such a thing!’ when, deep down, you’d actually like to open up to new possibilities, you may find these responses useful:
- ‘Thank you for asking me – may I please come back to you on this – let me have a day or so.”
- ‘That sounds interesting – I’d like to check my diary and I’ll let you know.’
And very few people will argue with this one :):
- ‘I’d like to pray about it first – and then I’ll be able to give you a better response.’
There is a freedom, joy and empowerment that come from knowing your own needs and acting upon them with courage, courtesy and wisdom.
And the more that you’re authentic and true to yourself, the better it is for everyone else too.