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When NO Is The Right Thing To Say

Law Book

I first said YES.

I thought about being the Power of Attorney for my brother and Executor of his will, which he does not have yet even though his liver is failing, and said yes I would do those tasks and then  studied the situation for two days and finally said NO,  just keep me posted as you want.

I have been trained to be the family care giver and emotional response team affiliate.  The first YES was old school thinking.   I really do not know this man well enough, so it would be another unpaid work experience.   I have already said NO to those kinds of tasks – just need to stand my ground.

It took me three full days of hospital visits and contemplation to find comfort with this NO.  I sometimes wish I was faster, but I got there none the less.

NOs are rather like that, they make us think, sort and glean.  NOs are the fastest route to our values and are often booster rocket fuel to our authentic self and making true changes in our lives.

After I made my reverse decision, three ideas confirmed that I was correct.  I keep my rule of 3 close to my sleeve and responses.  First my brother was told by the doctor, nurse, and discharge social worker not to drive until his primary care physician gave him permission; he immediately assumed that his current girl friend or I would be driving him home and taking care of that task for the weeks ahead (he was not going to the Therapy Center for 15 days – he was going home to care for himself).  ASSUMED is the key word for this search engine.

Secondly, for most of my married life my family has just said NO to two cars.   We moved almost right downtown and all members have good walking shoes and bikes.   Our city has a great bus system, and I taught my children how to use it.  I saw a news story   online about how this new generation is just saying NO to owning cars and that the automobile manufacturers are truly concerned about this new trend.

Just this morning into my inbox came the third confirmation.   This was an older newspaper column written by Mr.  Gartner and posted in USA Today in 2006.  Mr. Gartner was head of NBC News for a number of years and used part of this story in a graduation speech at a University.   It is a story about a couple, Gartner’s parents, deciding to MAKE NO LEFT TURNs.

I encourage you to read  A LIFE WITHOUT LEFT TURNS

It gave me a chuckle, smile and a lovely spoonful of wisdom to share with you.

Are NOs easy for you?  Are you a quick draw with a NO?   Do you need contemplation time or have remorse after a NO?   Do you have a story about a powerful NO in your life?  Have NOs provided wisdom and learning for your journey?

Related Reading:
A Simple Guide to Remembering Who You Are
Getting Results the Agile Way
Your Greatest Giving Experience
Accept Your Cutting Edge

Looking forward to your welcome and well appreciated comments

32 Responses to “When NO Is The Right Thing To Say”

  1. Alien Ghost Says:

    Hi Patricia,

    NO Comments! (Just kidding)

    I must admit I have problems with saying NO, mostly because of the stupid guiltiness thing. It has been a long trip to change that, but little by little I’m starting to get there (maybe just another 100 years!).

    The easy NO’s come when I am mad at the person, and curiously enough, there are less regrets when a NO comes out of anger than a YES in a normal situation.

    Haven’t observed that condition until now, after reading this post…thank you! Time to go back to the “Thinking Board” :)


    Patricia Reply:

    I have had a hard time with no for most of my life, but I am finding with age it is getting easier and easier. It feels good too.
    No with an angry motivation does not seem to carry regrets, yes I have noticed that – especially in one of my children.

  2. Dot Says:

    NOs didn’t use to be easy for me, but now they’re my default response. I made the same decision with my mother.

    Patricia Reply:

    I took care of my mother her last three years of life 24/7 because she paid me….and she has paid most of my health care bills all of my life….it made the relationship very comfortable….I think many folks find a freedom in having their parent in a care center, my mum found a way to help me pay off my health care bills and we both remained in our own skins…she was more comfortable not having strangers around at the end…

    No is definitely getting easier with age

  3. vered | blogger for hire Says:

    I’m slowly getting better at saying No.
    .-= vered | blogger for hire´s last blog ..Personally I find Fall Depressing =-.

    Patricia Reply:

    Me too!

  4. Betsy Wuebker Says:

    No’s are not so easy when we’re younger and programmed to please and get along. No’s are not so easy if we remain prone to avoid conflict at any cost, even to our own well-being. No’s get easier and easier when you decide to take a good long look at what the “shoulds” are doing to you. Great post, Patricia. I love the look on some people’s faces when they hear “no” for the first time after a lifetime of getting their own way with everyone.

    Patricia Reply:

    I think being in the counseling field I found conflict such a powerful agent of change – NO became easier for me and I found myself teaching it to lots of mom’s and teens….especially around school issues and dating….as parents we need to model that NO for our children in many ways

    I sure do know that look when you say NO to someone assuming a yes!

  5. Katie Gates Says:

    A friend once told me that she admired my ability to say NO so easily, and until she made that statement, I’d never reflected on it. But I guess I am good at it, and I realize its value. I have another friend who has major trouble with NO. And what I observe in him is resentment at his own default to “pleasing,” which then manifests through passive-aggressive behavior. To me, that says it all. If you say YES when you want to say NO, you’ll end up being mean to a lot of people who never even asked for an answer!

    Patricia Reply:

    I have sure had to work at learning NO….I just assume since it was already on your plate that you had parenting that demonstrated good NOs and were not connected to being loved or approved of…

    Dr. Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communications/ Compassionate Communications taught me so much when learning to deal with Oppositional Defiant Disorder

  6. Eliza Says:

    I am getting pretty darn good at saying no. However, I ran into a situation recently when I was asked to do something but the message came through my husband. I sent my ‘no’ back through him. Apparently, it didn’t ‘translate’ well because it somehow ended up as a ‘yes’. Then my poor husband was stuck in the middle even though I am sure he said ‘no’. So, my new lesson is, say NO directly to the source, not through a middle man.

    Good for you, Patricia. It doesn’t matter that it took you several days. Taking time to think about your response is way better than an immediate ‘yes’ which most of us are programmed to give.
    .-= Eliza´s last blog ..Words From The Editor- Books- Creativity- Computers- Weddings =-.

    Patricia Reply:

    Oh I do so know those middle positions and how they can often be passive aggressive in nature….

    I have been working on being as clear as I can with my communications, but living with a fellow who avoids conflict at nearly all costs and takes everything personally has been quite a ride!

    Sometimes my NOs are very creative…It is better when folks can work it out for themselves.

    I detest excuses.

  7. Meredith Says:

    I’m terrible at saying no. I was raised the compliant older child who took care of my younger sibling starting very young, and I learned early on that it was my job to keep the peace in the family, too. I always aimed to please.

    Saying “no” is an act of defiant self-care for some of us, and the older I get the more I’m convinced that it is one of the most beautiful words in the English language. Three cheers for Patricia! (And f.y.i. my mother — coincidentally also a compliant older child — is executor for my grandfather’s estate, and it’s been a nightmare for her since late August.)

    Patricia Reply:

    I did my mother’s executor role and power of attorney for health care….until my sister made felony charges against me and then I paid $7,000 to a lawyer and $10,000 for a professional executor…from her estate. My brother and sister both got cash from her estate….I got the bills, memorial service, and all the work plus a mutual fund that transferred to me upon death.

    It was a lot of work! I understand what your Mother is going through.

    My husband’s family all worked together when my mother in law died and we told stories and paid a estate planner to work with us….it turned out to be a wonderful story telling experience with lots of healing involved.

  8. Kelvin Says:

    I’m terrible at saying No too! Sometimes I just find it hard to reject my friends for certain errands then I ended up avoiding the subject matter completely. And it did strain my relationship with my friends…. I just didn’t feel good saying No.

    Up until recently was I able to change a little………but it it still a little uncomfortable

    Patricia Reply:

    As I started to know my self better and better and got right into my face about my values and what I wanted my living to look like NO just started coming out of my mouth.

    I watch my youngest willing to use her gas money, and time to keep friendships going – which in a couple of cases I think there is no mutuality – just someone using her need to be liked and appreciated.

    I sure had to learn the power of NO the hard way…but wow does it make one feel better about themselves ….I like feeding myself healthy food too because I am worth it.

  9. Hilary Says:

    Hi Patricia .. you are so right .. and thank goodness you did say no. I’ve recently said yes to an old gent in the Home – nothing fancy .. but I just simply haven’t got time for me .. let alone sharing a lunch with him – I’ll do it next year .. but for now – I’ll explain the situation. His wife has had a stroke and is there.

    I’ve always been a ‘yes’ person .. but have had to say No too .. particularly at times to my uncle when he was alive – but he understood, regretted it! .. but understood!

    So I do think you’re right – sounds a very difficult situation & you cannot afford timewise or otherwise to be saddled .. it’s unfortunate – but so be it: you have a life .. and your life to you is more important.

    I love that left turn story – it is brilliant .. thanks for bringing it to our attention again .. cheers Hilary
    .-= Hilary´s last blog ..Tales- Sagas- Stories we can glean from our vegetables =-.

    Patricia Reply:

    I have been de-mythologizing the family connections for years… I just wonder how people did it when families all lived close by and the historic expectation was to care from birth to death.

    I thought that left turn story was just so perfect for my time and space – not only because it reminded me of my truth, but because it made me smile and chuckle.

  10. suzen Says:

    Hi Patricia! I was raised in a NO household. Upon “escape” I became a YES person. That is, until all my yes stuff left my heart and mind in the wrong place – resentment, regret with a sprinkle of whine and a bottle of wine! Had to go thru a re-birth or something to get to my REAL self and find the peaceful road.

    I seem to know when to say yes and if I’m in doubt I just ask for a little time to think about it because I want my heart and mind in sync, not in sink. I have come to realize that in some rather abstract way, even though I may tell someone no, I have said yes to myself, yes to my own self and that it is not such a bad thing!

    I don’t envy you the decision you had to make. It’s not entirely a no since you said yes to you!

    Patricia Reply:

    YES YES it was a YES to me….I think the hard part was saying this NO to a family member….the freedom of this NO came from her death. That actually is another YES to me!

    I appreciated your comment – you just said it so well…


  11. Talon Says:

    I’ve been wanting to comment, but for some reason I kept getting an error message when I went to your blog, Patricia. I’m glad I could finally get here :)

    It’s funny how often our first response to any question is “Yes”. I’ve learned to say (for big things) “I’ll have to think about it.” Taking the time to make a considered response instead of an instant one takes practice, but it’s definitely worth it. In this instant gratification society we forget that we have the power to slow things down when we need to.

    I’m glad you’ve made the right decision because that’s what it comes down to – not a “yes” and not a “no”, but the right decision for you.
    .-= Talon´s last blog ..Feather and Fur =-.

    Patricia Reply:

    I think the error message was because we are in the calm of a huge wind storm, which is bringing lots of rain, colder temperatures and repetitive power outages We even had an earthquake yesterday morning.

    Also I am having computer ageism problems right now, but think that is more my problem than the blog problem.

    Sorry for the inconvenience and thank you for coming back to comment – your words are appreciated.

    Yes it was the right decision for me – and I do try to take my time of these big “uns” -still having a few moments of quilt, and working on figuring out how to connect in positive ways.

    It is worth it.

  12. J.D. Meier Says:

    I find that saying no to the right things makes more room for me to say yes to the right things — it’s always about trade-offs.

    Patricia Reply:

    Yes it is JD! Yes it is!

  13. Tess The Bold Life Says:

    No, that’s not going to work for me. Repeat as needed with no stories or excuses attached. Works every time.

    Patricia Reply:

    Oh Tess this is a good response – I was so trained to give a reason why….that I will hurt someone’s feelings….

    I have found just listening to someone’s story can be the most powerful advice too and it gives them courage to move on…releases them to their own good.

  14. Val Says:

    I find saying ‘no’ fairly easy. I have to say ‘no’ to people when it’s needed to preserve my dignity and self-esteem. People have to know that they are not the only important people in the universe, I’m important too!

    Patricia – I love that link to the ‘no left turns’. As he’s not from the UK, I’d never heard of that journalist before and his tale of his parents was lovely. And did you see the photo of his father? Click on it – he was a handsome guy!
    .-= Val´s last blog ..Bittersweet – Valerie Valera =-.

    Patricia Reply:

    I loved that story about No Left Turns…I was drawn to it because left turns are so hard for me to do and judge distance.

    I was trained to be a “yes” girl….it is hard to undo, but I am working on it

    Yes his father was a very handsome fellow – I saw the picture.

  15. Davina Haisell Says:

    Good for you, Patricia. :)

    When someone tells you “yes”, when you know they mean “no”, it feels very awkward. As many of the others have said, as I get older, I get better at saying no when I need to, and being prepared for the response to the no.
    .-= Davina Haisell´s last blog ..Misstakes Dew Happen =-.

    Patricia Reply:

    I think no’s are easier as one gets older. I wish though I had been a bit better at them when I was younger, and happy I am doing it now – getting better

  16. Steven Says:

    Sometimes I exercise my “No’s” a little too much. I love being able to choose how I spend my time, but in return I decline a lot of social invitations. This sometimes leads people to think I don’t really like them. It takes balance!
    .-= Steven´s last blog ..Change Without Trying =-.

    Patricia Reply:

    Steven – it does take balance and I was too tipsy towards the YES category – I think more women attempt to please.