As parents, we have countless memorable moments with our children. For me, two specific memories stand out as epic in my mind; the day my babies were born and their 2nd birthday. Those of you who don’t have kids may be wondering about the significance of birthday #2. Let me explain. Somehow, almost like clockwork, when kids turn two, those tiny humans expand their vocabulary to include their new favorite word: NO. Oh, and by the way, it’s on repeat for the next few years.
As a mom, I tried everything to buffer the formidable NO years. When my kids were about to do something they shouldn’t, I’d say to them, “May not” in a gentle voice but all my efforts were to no avail. They still responded with a resounding NO.
What about you? Is your NO as authoritative as that of a two-year-old? Or do you say YES to everyone and everything leaving you feeling resentful, overwhelmed, and drained of energy? Do you find yourself continually overcommitting your services and your valued time?
Why do people say yes when everything inside of them is saying NO? I see a few reasons:
Fear is often at the root of driving “yes” decisions. It may be the fear of:
- Being Judged
- Disappointing Someone
- Other’s Perceptions
If fear is compelling you to say yes when you actually mean no, chances are you are not being authentic or honest with yourself. If this continues long term, it causes frustration and chips away at your self-esteem; making you feel like you’re not enough.
If you are one who chronically says yes when you mean no, odds are that you have developed a habit of not thinking before responding. Your yes becomes automatic; it’s your default setting. Without even stopping to reason, you’ve relinquished the wheel of your life over to someone else’s agenda and lose a little bit more of yourself with each yes. Eventually, you resign yourself into thinking this is normal.
Wanting Acceptance or Approval
Ouch. This one hurts, but it’s true. We learn from an early age that it feels good when other people approve of us. So we start doing things for the esteem of others and consequently become people pleasers.
Do you find yourself going through life saying yes and being kind and accommodating to win the approval of others? That mindset sounds like:
- They will like/love me because I…
- They will accept me because I…
- They will approve of me because I…
This thinking creates an unhealthy cycle of believing you are not good enough and need others to validate who you are.
“I can’t tell you the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.” -Ed Sheeran
Super Hero Syndrome
Are you of the mindset that believes you can do it all? Truth is you can, but only for a limited time, and it comes with a high price tag. People in this camp wear their busyness as a badge of honor not realizing that a crash is inevitably waiting around the corner. They have misplaced their priorities and are not respecting themselves, their core values, their time, or their personal relationships.
All of us have passions that drive us. They are our strengths, but when overused, they become weaknesses. For example, those who are highly altruistic, motivated to help others with genuine sincerity, can invest so much of their time, talent, and resources to others that it leaves very little left for themselves. Over time, they experience burnout and run the risk of giving everything away; handing their power over to someone else.
5 Steps to Take Your Power Back
Let’s look at building confidence in your NO.
1. Connect to Your Why Patterns
First, you must acknowledge your tendency to say yes so you can stop the behavior. When faced with making a decision that involves a yes or no, before saying yes automatically, evaluate what is at the root of your yes. Why are you saying yes? Is it fear based, is it a habit, are you seeking approval, do you think you can do it all by yourself, or are you overusing your strengths?
Knowing your why patterns helps to create awareness and allows you to better identify your motives.
2. Hit the Pause Button and Consider the Cost
Stop and hit pause. Don’t automatically make a yes/no decision until you’ve slowed down and taken time to reflect. Once you’ve identified the root, evaluate what YOU truly want to do and why.
What are the consequences of constantly saying yes? Take a minute to assess how much your time is worth and put it in a bottom line perspective. What is this yes going to cost you? Before you make any decision yea or nay, take a few moments to ask yourself:
- Does this line up with my core values?
- What is this going to cost me in time, freedom, finances, and time away from my family?
- Does saying yes risk the chance of draining my vitality and productivity?
By pausing to reflect on your decisions before you take action, you are developing a new habit; one that will replace the old pattern of saying yes automatically. It’s important to make saying yes to yourself first a priority.
“When you say ‘yes’ to others, make sure you are not saying ‘no’ to yourself.” -Paolo Coehlo
3. Get Your Needs Met
Learn to get your needs met. All of us have emotional needs in the same way that we have physical needs for water, food, and air. Having unmet emotional needs increase the likelihood of you seeking the approval of others and becoming a people pleaser.
Identify which need is triggering your propensity to say yes. Some common unmet needs that elicit yes behaviors are the need for:
- To Be Needed
By getting your needs met, you no longer have to depend on others to give you something you already have. Discovering how to get your needs met is a powerful tool to combat the “need” for acceptance from others and lessens the people pleasing disease.
4. Replicate Yourself as a Leader
The ability to know when to say yes and when to say no is a mark of a great leader. When you say yes to everything, it damages your effectiveness as a leader. Building your leadership skills helps you become more decisive in your choices and confident in your capacity to follow-through with your plans.
It’s important to note that leaders do not work alone; they develop teams because they understand that no one does everything well, including themselves. Be strategic to include people in your inner circle who can impact your effectiveness, increase your productivity, and hold you accountable for your decisions.
This will help dispel the superhero syndrome mentality and keep your strengths at the optimal use level rather than overusing them till they become weaknesses.
“There are no Lone Ranger leaders. Think about it: if you’re alone, you’re not leading anybody, are you?” -John Maxwell
5. Determine Urgency and Timing
Life is not always black and white. You will find yourself in situations where you are the only one who can help someone; an aging parent, a young child, or a co-worker who needs what only you can provide. In that case, guard your time and honestly assess the urgency and timing of the request. You don’t have to drop everything you’re doing and say yes right away.
When possible, finish what you’re doing and respond when it’s convenient for you. You might say something like:
- “I’d love to help, give me 30 minutes and I’ll be right there.”
- “Sure, I have an hour free next Thursday.”
- “I am free tomorrow from 9-10.”
This solution is an excellent alternative for those who hate to say no. It’s a win/win. You have satisfied the need to help someone, but you’ve not dropped everything to do so; you’ve upheld your power of choice and stayed in control.
“Time is free, but it is priceless. You can’t own it, but you can lose it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.” -Harvey Mackay
Find Your Childhood Independence
Although I was frustrated during the stage of the terrible twos, I also knew that despite my toddlers’ seemingly defiant behavior, they were in actuality developing their independence and learning how to assert their rights. They had not yet acquired the skills to express what they wanted; that all came in time.
I’m not suggesting that you revisit your childhood behavior and say NO to everything. I am, however, urging you to slow down, find your independence, and relearn how to assert your rights.
Lastly, esteem honesty for the virtue it is. If you believe your word is true, let it remain true. Let your yes be yes and your “NO” no; anything less is dishonest – to yourself and others.