Friday, April 27, 2012

The Power of No: Part I

Part of coming into my personal power has been learning to set boundaries. The hardest part to setting boundaries is saying one simple little two-letter word: No.  In most situations saying, "No" is just fine--I don't even need an explanation. But in some relationships it's brutal. That's my fault. See, I like to help people. I like it SO much that people are actually conditioned and dependent on me to be there for them. This is great for them, but whatever I was getting out of it initially doesn't serve me well for too long.

In one relationship I started saying no and at first it was "okay." I had legitimate limitations, but I tried to help out and was involved as I much as I mentally and physically could. It was still draining. The more I said no, the meaner this person. Every sentence was prefaced with attitude. "See," or "Well," and then one day... came the "Yeah, um..." in an email! It's one thing to have a little hesitation/attitude in person, but to write it out, seriously?!?!? That was it. I'm not going to give to someone who is a total jerk. I had a lot vested in this endeavor, but I basically cut it off right then and there. I cared about the project, but not enough to be treated that way. It was heartbreaking, but I was done. Gone. Poof! And then... a few days later... their spouse got transferred and guess who was really gone? Poof! Within a few weeks I was able to pick up where I left off and continue doing the work that was so dear to me, in a positive environment and the project has never been more successful.

In another relationship, I've been actually using the word "No" for quite a while, but I don't think it's been heard as "No." It's been heard as "can't" as in I can't do something because in their mind something else is in the way. I couldn't possibly just be saying "No" for any reason other than it physically being impossible. It took me months to realize this. I thought I was being strong until I realized that this person, just took my "No" and just kept going with it. I'd get again the comments. "Well, you're just too busy," or "Well, that's because you live so far away from everything" or "Well, that's because you told me XYZ" (and I did not, that's just what this person heard!). [Side note: I'm notice a pattern, with sentences beginning with interjections like "Well."]

During the course of a recent conversation, I once again said "No." And they went on with their version of why I can't do something, go somewhere, be something. So I said no again, and they kept trying to weave a story and convince me to do what they wanted, so I said no again. And twice more, until the conversation turned 360 degrees and they were trying to convince me why I shouldn't do what they requested in the first place. So, I totally broke my rule and said "Yes." The conversation went silent. Awk-kward. About 30 seconds later, they started the conversation back up again and tried to briefly blame something or other on me because I wasn't going to be able to do what they needed. Then the conversation went on, just like it always does. I'll admit, I took it and said nothing. I enjoyed my cup of coffee and scone. There were a few attempts at guilt throughout the rest of the conversation, but I felt so light and free knowing that I wasn't roped into doing something else. I'm sure for a while afterwards, this person wove a story about how I can't help anymore because of a reason that is only true to them, and that's fine with me. I didn't want to be a helper, I wanted to be a friend.

And again, the universe changed. This person, no longer dependent on me, they took some huge steps forward and made incredible progress on their own because they were no longer looking to me to do it for them. Faced with no alternative, they empowered themselves to do what they needed to do. They are thriving. I am so happy. This person is so happy, though not without some stress I'm sure. I wish I had done it sooner for both our sakes. Now when I am approached for help, it's for advice. "How can I do this?" rather than "I need you to do this for me." There is a renewed balance and mutual respect on both our parts and it's a good thing!

NOTE: This post is titled Part I, because I guarantee this little word is going to yield more incredible outcomes.


  1. Even toddlers understand the awesome power of such a little word.

    1. Nah, I think my point was that toddles discover it, children use it, and then as we grow up we tend to forget it :)