Saying “no” to people comes very easily to some and is nearly impossible for others.
I have found that many people with C-PTSD have trouble saying no. If you were brought up in a mentally or otherwise abusive childhood, saying “NO,” may be associated with severe consequences to you.
If you lived with a parent that had narcissistic personality disorder or borderline personality disorder, then they probably used confusion tactics on you, to the point where there was no way to say no to them.
Gaslighting can confuse our ability to trust ourselves and our perceptions. It may be difficult to tell what situations that “NO,” would be perfectly okay, and what situations where saying no, would really cause a problem.
If you grew up in an environment where your feelings and thoughts were not considered relevant, then you probably feel that your feeling of wanting to say no, just does not count. Even though the same person may say “No” to you all the time, you do not feel that you have the same right to say no, that they do.
If you were even in an abusive situation where disobeying meant punishment , then you probably have a fear of retaliation from others. There is an anxiety response triggered by saying no and refusing to comply with another person’s request.
The act of saying no, can trigger a very uncomfortable physiological response. In order to avoid feeling severely uncomfortable, we just say “yes” when we really want to say “no.” I have this same problem, so don’t feel bad.
Triggers are very real and the tendency is to want to avoid feeling the bodily sensations associated with them. Ignoring triggers and going against our conditioned responses, is a very difficult thing to do.
Here is an excerpt from an article called “The Beauty of Saying No” by BY CARRIE STECKL, PH.D. DEC 6, 2013 posted on MentalHelp.net Link here
The idea that we can’t say “no” is a stubborn thought pattern (albeit with good intentions) that we must work to unravel. Here are some steps to do that:
First, examine what you are telling yourself whenever you find yourself saying “yes” to something when you would rather be saying “no.” Are you afraid that someone will be angry with you if you don’t comply?
Are you fearful of losing someone’s love, respect, companionship, or resources if you don’t agree to a request? Or would you simply feel like a failure or a bad person if you said “no”? Pinpoint your thought process in order to examine it.
Once you’ve determined why you think you can’t say “no,” evaluate the validity of that statement. Would the person asking a favor of you really be angry with you or cease to respect you if you graciously declined?
If this is a person worth knowing, he or she will understand. Does saying “no” every once in a while make you a heathen, or does this actually mean that you being smart and proactive by taking care of yourself? When you avoid burnout, you are ensuring you can really be there for others when it counts.
Create a new statement to replace the old one. For instance, instead of thinking, “I have to say ‘yes’ or else I’m a horrible person,” you could tell yourself, “By saying ‘no’ I am making smart choices so I can invest my time and energy wisely.” Repeat this regularly!
So, the idea that we can take a cognitive view of our feelings, makes sense to me. Rather than going right away, to our conditioned response, maybe we can stop for a few seconds or even a few minutes to think about what we want.
If we can stop and think rationally about the reasons we want to say no and the reality about the consequences of saying no, in each instance, then maybe we can create healthier boundaries. Lack of proper boundaries are common with adults who come from abusive childhoods.
Whether you lived with an alcoholic parent, a narcissistic parent, a parent with anger issues or any other type of abuse, your boundaries were crossed all the time. There was no respect for your basic rights as a person and therefor you were not taught to set proper boundaries.
As adults, we need to rewire our brains to be able to set proper boundaries that support us. We need to be able to keep ourselves safe and healthy. Saying “yes” when we want to say “no” on a regular basis, can erode our self esteem.
It can also cause us anxiety due to having to attend functions, do extra work and engage in all kinds of activities that we do not want any part of.
The inability to say no, can also add extra stress on us by making our schedule too full of doing things for others, and not allowing enough time to take care of our own needs.
People that fear setting boundaries with others, are primed for being abused, in a variety of ways. There are plenty of people who will take advantage of us. There are also predators, such as narcissists, that look for people like us.
This is something to work on. I think it is a process and not just an epiphany. We may realize that we say yes too often, but have a hard time changing that. I think that the idea of developing a habit of thinking through our responses, is the best practice. Also watch what other people do and how they say no.
Other people say “no” all the time, including the ones who keep expecting you to say yes. Even when you say “no” to someone, you are asking them to do something.
You are asking them to accept “No” for an answer. If they argue with you about saying no, it is their version of saying “No” to you.
They are saying “No” to your request to accept your “No” for an answer.
You see all the NO’s I threw in your visual field? They don’t look so scary after all. Maybe if we just write the word NO a few times a day, on a piece of paper, we can become desensitized to the fear of the word.
Personally, it felt really good, writing and seeing that word NO so many times. It feels freeing, and even a bit vindicating ….LOL….Try It for Yourself!
No, thank you. No, I really cannot do that.
No, I do not want to do that.
No, I am not interested in that.
No, I cannot find time in my schedule to do that.
No, I am just too overloaded right now, to do that.
No, I am not interested in doing that.
No, you go ahead without me.
No, please ask someone else.
No, i do not have to think about it. I would rather tell you NO right now.
I said no. Please respect my answer.
We can also role play different ways to say so, that has clear boundaries attached to it. Why should other people expect us to say yes all the time, when they have clear boundaries themselves?