Four woman sitting together and posing

Four woman sitting together and posing

You knew that the only right answer was saying No. You had thought it through and evaluated all the options. Or you had a clear gut feeling. This was a red-velvet-rope-no-one-passes moment. So you said what you hoped to be a loud and clear “No”:

  • No, you were not willing to work through the weekend again.
  • No, offering extra work for free just to get the client would just wreathe havoc with your schedule.
  • No, accepting your Ex’s Friday afternoon change of plans for the children’s weekend, because he was “busy” was not acceptable.
  • No way would you allow your child to have chocolate for breakfast/to go out three nights in a row/watch late TV the night before an exam/to take the family car all weekend
  • No, there would not be a second date.
  • No, you would not hire this person, just because (s)he is nice and somebody’s protégé.

The right answer was No and you said it.

You claimed your boundaries, proud of your achievement. Actually, it took some doing for you to overcome your scruples, feeling guilty for disappointing someone, and your fear of rejection to state your No so clearly.

As so often it really took all you’d got to get our No out.

And now, in your heart of hearts you pray for the other one to hear you, and to respect your No.

Now guess what’s happening next?

They don’t. They keep pushing you “But, really, couldn’t you just this once….” Or “Come on, don’t be so….”, “You can’t seriously be THAT busy?” or “If you don’t come, we won’t have anyone else, and the project will crumble all together, you wouldn’t want that, now, would you?”

In this respect, bosses, aunts, teenagers, dogs or 4-year old children are equally resourceful. The reactions go from disrespect to hardly disguised emotional blackmail to threads, begging, nagging, or wagging tails to showing you the cold shoulder.

I admit I’m still work in progress, when this happens to me. Depending on my state of mind, there is a risk of crumbling and giving in (and then being resentful) or being resentful right away, because it is so UNFAIR that they would not respect my NO (sound familiar?).

What to remember when people keep pushing

What I have learned is, that when I’m not prepared in advance to a less than stellar reaction to my No, I’m more likely to get sucked into an emotional reaction. And this is my responsibility – after all, it is not the other person’s job to see my reasons for more important than hers. When this happens to you – please note that I said when and not if – here are three things to remember.

  1. Remember to listen to yourself. You had a very good reason to say No in the first place. The Yes you were protecting with your No is well worth it? Then it is also worth to maintain your No, with our without the other person fully understanding. To be at our best means to establish boundaries.
  2. Remember that a clear – albeit polite – No is the best policy. Don’t get sucked into justifying your reasons, into begging for understanding, into belittling yourself in the hope of eschewing hostile reactions. Most of the time this makes things worse. Just simply restate your No.
  3. Remember to acknowledge the other person. Being told No, however justified, is not an agreeable experience. If the other person feels seen and heard and taken serious, you can continue on good terms. In this line, whenever possible try to suggest an alternative solution.

Yes, maintaining or repeating a “No” demands quite a lot of energy. But imagine what’s the alternative and you’ll see: it is well worth it!

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