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Yes! Say No!


11/28/2006 3:16:25 PM


By Julie Fuimano, MBA, BSN, RN

One of the first words infants learn to say is "no." They learn this word partly because they hear it so frequently and partly because it's an easy word to pronounce. No becomes an even more popular word in the toddler years. But then we learn that it's not nice to say no.

And as we grow up, we allow people to convince us to do things we don't want to do. It becomes easier to say no to ourselves than to say no to others. We ignore our own feelings because (as we were taught in childhood) what matters most is that we please others. So, we take on projects and additional responsibilities when we'd rather not. Although we feel proud when we become known for being someone who "gets things done," we also feel resentful and unhappy.

Sound Familiar...?

I met Susan just before Christmas. She was expecting 45 people for Christmas dinner. And she was expected to do this every year – family members did not take turns. When speaking about her mother coming, Susan was excited, but her demeanor changed when she said her siblings were coming with their spouses, children, and grandchildren. She clearly was not looking forward to this dinner; although some of her sisters did bring food, it was still a lot of work. I asked her what would be the perfect Christmas dinner. Susan said it would just be the seven of them – her husband, her children, and her mother. I asked her what would happen if she said she wasn't going to have Christmas dinner for everyone any longer. Interestingly, she had not even considered the possibility. She just figured she'd be stuck having this dinner every year. Susan didn't even consider that she could choose to do something different.

Just as Susan believes it is her duty to host Christmas dinner, it's possible her relatives also feel they can't say no. She might find, once she expresses her true feelings, that her siblings feel the same. Either way, Susan is entitled to spend Christmas dinner in a way that brings her the most joy.

Just Do It – Say No!

How do you learn to say no? Practice. Pause before you answer requests, whether they're for your time, energy, money, or something else. How does it feel to say yes? How does it feel to say no? Which feels better? And you can say no with grace – simply state the truth. If you can, refer them to someone else who can help them or show them how to do it for themselves.

At first, you'll want to apologize; you'll want to give excuses; you'll feel guilty. Don't. As you practice saying no, the guilt will disappear. And people will accept that you won't say yes all the time.

Remember: Saying no to things you don't want gives you the time, energy and space to say yes to things you do want, which helps you build confidence and inner strength, which will make you feel good, be happier, be more productive, and have more fun!

Julie Fuimano, MBA, BSN, RN is the co-founder of Nurturing Your Success Inc., a dynamic organization leading the cultural transformation movement for a professional healthcare environment. We offer keynotes, workshops, and coaching for leaders and teams. Julie is also the author of The Journey Called YOU: A Roadmap to Self-Discovery and Acceptance, the manual for personal leadership. To learn more about how we can partner with you to nurture your success, call 610-277-2726, email Julie@nurturingyoursuccess.com or visit Nurturing Your Success, and sign up for our empowering newsletter.

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