Thursday, July 05, 2012

Saying No

I've been thinking a lot about saying "no" this week. About the hows and the whys.  About the actual experience of it. About how context affects this.  About how hard it sometimes is.

I've had two opposing experiences and I find myself pondering them.

Early in the week I said no to something I very much wanted to participate in - the kind of thing I actually dream about participating in.  The reality is that I can't manage to participate in this activity right now.  That my schedule and mind and heart are already stretched thin, and that even though this activity is seemingly made for me, I couldn't give it the sort of time and attention it deserves.  Even with all of that, though, it was easy to say no.  It was in the context of some trusted friends, people who I knew would understand immediately, and who I could be confident wouldn't feel rejected, wouldn't read anything into my answer, and wouldn't judge my character.

Yesterday I said no to something I really had no desire to participate in right now, for exactly the same reasons.  My heart and mind and schedule are stretched thin, and even if I had a stronger desire to participate, I couldn't.  But saying no yesterday I wrestled with.  I wrestled with it because it's in a context of someone who doesn't know me well, and who I don't know well.  I wrestled with a desire to please this person, to be recognized and esteemed by them.  I wrestled with wondering if they would pass judgement on my decision - if I would be somehow less in their mind - because I said no.

I can honestly say that today's post is more about pondering the contrasts in these situations than about having solid answers.  I find myself thinking that I want to create opportunities that come without fear or judgement, like the first one this week, rather than opportunities that come with a weight of guilt.  I find myself recognizing my own ongoing worries about how I'm seen by other people.  And I find myself just a little bit proud of the fact that I'm at a place in my life where I can recognize, however hard or easy, when I need to say no.

What about you? What are your experiences in saying no? Is it a positive or negative thing for you?


terri said...

so glad you were able to say no in both of these situations and that you felt freedom in that first situation (i know what you're referring to there, and even though i really wish you could have participated i'm rejoicing that you chose to attend to what you need here). saying no has always been difficult for me and it has cost me a lot of stress and regret.

i'm glad i said yes to letting you into a special place in my heart. :)

christianne said...

Terri's comment is so sweet and cute. :)

And yes. Oh, yes. I know you know this is an area that's also hard for me.

What strikes me in your post here is your movement from your experience of saying no in these two contexts to think about the kind of opportunities you want to create for others to have freedom in saying no. Instead of saying, "I wish I could have more experiences like the first one I mentioned," you said, "I want to create more experiences like the first one I mentioned for others." What a beautiful heart you have.

I can so relate to how different the "no" feels depending on the context or person we're saying it to. And I find myself wishing there wasn't a difference -- that I could feel confident in my own response no matter how the other person responds. (Isn't this about boundaries somehow? Reminds me of a definition of boundaries I heard once where someone said, "I'm responsible for what happens on my side of the tennis court, and the other person is responsible for what happens on theirs.")

But maybe because we care about people and their feelings, as well as how we are cared for and perceived by others, having a consistent inner response to saying no, no matter the context, isn't very realistic for us.

Thanks for asking these questions, Lisa, and for sharing your experience. xo