Daring to say "No"

Many of us seem to have great difficulty in simply saying “No” to requests made of us or even invitations to us. Somehow we assume – whether we are aware of it or not – that either the other person is too weak to cope with our refusal and will be offended or a relationship is impossible to maintain without 100 percent mutual agreement.

Daily examples of the results of this nonassertive belief can be seen when other people invite you out to join them in some social activity. How comfortable do you feel in assertively revealing your true state by saying simply and openly: “No, I just don’t feel like it this weekend. Let’s try it another time?” Instead you invent “good” reasons that will not allow the other person to get irritated, feel rebuffed and possibly dislike you. Most of us follow this inane behavior pattern because of our childish belief that we cannot function properly if we do things that cause other people to remove their good will toward us, even a little bit.

Although generalizations are suspect and typically useless, our behavior in this area is sufficiently childish to prompt me to make this observation: one cannot live in terror of hurting other people’s feelings. Sometimes one offends. That’s life in the big city!

Manuel Smith, When I Say No, I Feel Guilty