We’ve all seen the abundant posts on social media about standing up for yourself.
“How to become more assertive in 10 easy steps”, “Saying NO without regret”, “Live Authentically”
We spend so much time practicing saying no and saying it with authority. We read about how to become braver, and stronger, and more authentic. It’s all about honesty and being true to your inner self. There’s nothing more satisfying than the first time you properly execute a good NO. The ability to say no to things that do not bring us happiness is a valuable skill to have.
But more importantly, the ability to accept and be okay with someone telling you NO is a skill that we are desperately lacking. Hearing NO is like someone literally kicked us in the gut. We literally go right to that person hating us, or being mad at us, or not really meaning it. They can’t reeeaally mean NO?!
Because of this, the NO-sayers have had to also master the art of avoidance. We, wild and crazy NO-sayers, have pushed ourselves hard to get to a place where we are comfortable to say NO. We have worked past the guilty feelings. We have worked hard at being open and honest. But then the eternal conflict arises with the NO-hearers. You know who you are…you don’t take no for an answer, you assume they don’t reeeeallly mean no, your ego would never allow, even for a second, to think that maybe some people just don’t like you…so you push, and you push, and you push.
Do any of these sound familiar?
“Oh, sorry I can’t because ________”
“OMG, I totally didn’t see your text”
“I don’t know what’s wrong, it must be food poisoning”
“My aunt died”, “My cat died”, “My dog ran away”
If they sound familiar it’s probably because you have a friend who doesn’t actually feel comfortable enough with you to be honest. They may feel hounded, or pressured. They may feel that you aren’t actually their type. Do you know they did a big study where it was proven that over 50% of the “friends” in your life don’t actually see you as a “friend”? While you see me as a BFF, I’m over here wondering why you won’t leave me alone?? The coworker you laugh with every day at lunch doesn’t even think of you over the weekend. There are work friends, kids’ parents friends, same yoga club friends, but that doesn’t mean we are FRIENDS. Sometimes we move on from friendships. Some relationships are built on couple-statuses, or close proximity to each other. Other friendships are there for short time and then we see we have nothing in common anymore, or that we don’t have the same schedules or priorities. I’ve had the very best of friends that meant the world to me, at the time, and I’ve since moved away from. Distance takes over. There is no longer as deep of a connection. We don’t talk anymore, maybe we vaguely interact via FB but otherwise that’s it. Now, if we ran into each other at the airport it would be a totally different circumstance. But day-to-day, our lives are no longer the same.
The NO-sayers see this. We appreciate that sometimes friendships run their course. But what we don’t see is how you don’t also see that? So you force the NO-sayers back into their frustrated holes. No-hearers put their earplugs in and we are forced to start all over again.
We make up excuses; we deliberately ‘miss’ calls and take too long to respond to texts; sometimes when we feel too pressured we end up doing things we hate just to make it easy, less stressful. Essentially, we sacrifice our authentic selves to avoid hurting the feelings of people that half the time we don’t even like anyway.
It’s already damn hard to say NO. We feel guilty, we know we are bad friends, we know you want to involve us. Trust us…we know. Because you refuse to let it die. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone to parties or social events only to spend the entire night hating it. Why do I do it? Because it’s easier to be miserable than to be honest. I have just unravelled all my hard, soul-searching, self-help reading work to appease you. It’s like honesty is only meant for when you have lipstick on your teeth or snot hanging from your nose. Unless it’s one of those two things, we don’t actually want honesty.
We don’t like honesty. Women don’t like it. We want to BE honest but we don’t want to HEAR honesty. Our egos can’t handle it. We’ve spent our entire lives being told to be polite so people like us. Be fun, be bubbly, be smart, be skinny, be a good hostess, be a good guest. Be gracious. EVERYONE MUST LIKE YOU. I must be invited to and attend every single function. I must have the biggest party, I must have the most friends, I must be the most liked. We do not want to feel any differently or that there’s fun being had that we aren’t included in.
The very best friends are the type that invite you without a predetermined agenda. I once had a friend say “I’m always going to invite you even though I know you’ll probably say no anyway but I want you to feel included”. Because, yeah, I’m going to say no…because I’m an introvert who loves alone time. I will probably say no 9.9 times out 10. But maybe if the mood is right and the crowd is good one of these days I will say yes. The rest of the time when I do say no, the friend says….wait for it…she says ok…that’s it. Just ok. Not “but whhhyyyy?”. She doesn’t try to make arrangements for me to make it easier to go. She doesn’t automatically assume I’ll just change my mind or that I didn’t really mean it. She takes me at my word. She isn’t threatened by it. She doesn’t take it personally. She doesn’t see this as some sort betrayal. She knows me. The real me.
And Oh. My. God. THANK YOU FOR GETTING IT.
She’s okay with being a NO-hearer because she is confident and brave and strong. Plus she’s also read all the 10 easy steps to assertiveness too.
This all seems harsh, even as I write I know life is way more complicated than whether or not I like you and you like me. Some personalities just do not jive. There are introverts and extroverts and introverted-extroverts. There are partiers and friends who like to dance all night. There are people who small groups of friends vs people who loooove everyone. It’s not as black and white as like or not. It’s really more about just respecting my NO. Listen to my NO. Hear my NO. Don’t hound me about my NO. Be genuinely OK with my NO. For you. Not even for me. Be ok that I might miss your party because I’m actually busy, but also be ok with the fact that maybe I just don’t want to go to your party. Accept my NO.