When saying 'yes' too much is a no-go

Learning to say no

Sacrifice leads to resentment. Giving should be joyful, whether it be financial-giving, lending a hand to another or attending an event.

I wish I’d learned this precious lesson much earlier in my life. For many years, I loved to lavish my “yeses” on the world—and it often led to the unpleasant feeling of sacrifice, robbing me of the joy afforded by giving or participating.

Not only does sacrifice lead to resentment, but it often creates a sense of guilt in the one for whom the sacrifice is offered; a subtle sense of owing or obligation often follows. As my teacher Rev. Dr. Kenn Gordon often cautioned us, resentment blocks prosperity of all kinds.

I used to shame and coerce myself into saying yes. It robbed me of the feeling that arises from a whole-hearted “yes.” These days, I pause and check-in with myself before agreeing to anything. It’s been life-changing, not only for me, but for those I support.

Trying to be liked, to do the right thing and not be left out when agreeing to do something is a trend for many. A sense of obligation or thinking we should do something when we don’t want to is common. It leads to a sense of sacrifice that makes itself apparent in the way we show-up in life; like a perpetual martyr. But really we are only suffering because of our own habit of agreement.

Learning to say no more often, without need to explain or justify myself has also been liberating.

I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard people quip, “I wish I hadn’t agreed to do this.” We can always change our minds, and personally, it’s my preference to be supported by people’s whole-hearted yes, than one steeped in sacrifice and resentment.

As novelist and activist Annie Lamott reminded us, “No is a complete sentence.”

One of the shortest words in the English language is often the hardest to utter, especially without a trail of excuses behind it. As a complete sentence, no helps us draw personal boundaries that are vital if we are to be responsible agents of our own energetic coin.

While I agree with Annie Lamott’s wisdom, putting her words into practice is another thing.

It turns out our human hesitance to say no is rooted in a normal desire to:

• Be liked

• Feel needed

• Avoid criticism

• Avoid losing friends or social relationships

• Be connected to the group

Because we’re social beings, we want to feel liked and needed, causing us to try to please others by fulfilling their requests.

As humans, we have a brain-bias for yes, as no lands harshly in our neurocircuitry, and can trigger a negative response from others. It can feel unpleasant to be the one to draw the line in the sand.

Breaking the habit of yes has required me to pause and reflect before responding, deciding if I am able and really wanting to say yes. Gaining self-insight and getting clear about my underlying need or desire in responding has helped me to understand what was driving my behaviour.

Learning to check-in for a whole-hearted yes has added richness to my life, and saying no has been a skill I’ve had to acquire over time. At first, it may surprise others who are used to you saying yes but it becomes easier over time. I’ll admit, the early times were the hardest, but it feels liberating and empowering.

Saying no, and ensuring I’m in thoughtful agreement had left me feeling joyful and satisfied in my giving and had staved-off the horrible feeling of resentment. It’s slowed the break-neck speed at which I was living, but has increased my enjoyment of those things I value and love.

If saying no doesn’t come easy, you can begin with the baby-step of saying, “I’ll think about it.”

Give it a try.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

An assistant minister at the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, she is a retired nurse with a master’s degree in health science and is a hospice volunteer.  She is also an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan and currently spends her time teaching smartUBC, a unique mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. 

She is a speaker and presenter and from her diverse experience and knowledge, both personally and professionally, she has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people gain a new perspective, awaken and recognize we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts, stress or to life. We are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 44 years and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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