The Art of Saying “No”

Do you say “no” when you mean it? Or do you often end up saying “yes” instead and then feel resentful about doing something you didn’t want to do?

I found saying “no” extremely difficult in the past; as a result I often agreed to do many things both at work and in my personal life which I really didn’t want to do. I could sense in advance what the other person wanted me to say and I didn’t want to disappoint them.

On my recent flight from the US to Europe, I got a great opportunity to practice saying “no”. My flight was 3 hours delayed even before we started boarding. When I finally got to my aisle seat on the plane, it was late evening, I was tired and relieved that I could  finally relax. My luggage was located in the overhead bin above me and I just figured out where to store my travel pillow and magazines. And then it happened.

A young woman took the seat next to me. Without much introduction, she asked me: “Do you travel alone?” I didn’t understand, so she asked again. And added: “I am traveling with a friend and we didn’t get seats next to each other, so I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind changing your seat.” And pointed way to the front of the plane where her friend was just taking a window seat.

And now what? I’ve been always very supportive of helping other people get seats next to each other, when I got asked to change my seat. I usually travel by myself but when I am with a friend or family member, I know how much better it is to be seated next to them. And, it is not such a big deal to change the seat anyway, or is it? The rational mind was giving me a lot reasons to say “yes”.

But what did I actually feel? I felt I really did NOT want to get up, give up my aisle seat for a window seat many rows ahead of me, not even considering my luggage in the overhead bin, which probably would be very difficult to take with me (the plane was full) and this could cause additional problems when leaving the plane. I was tired and I needed to rest. I felt I didn’t want to change my seat. And so I said so.

For a brief moment, I had a voice in my head trying to persuade me that I should have been more nice to people. But the voice of my soul was telling me that I needed to be nice to myself in the first place in this situation. To be true to myself.

To my surprise, the woman didn’t accuse me of not being helpful and turned out to be  friendly later during the flight. And so I ended up feeling really good about honoring myself and being truthful. There are times when it is absolutely appropriate to help others and give up our own comfort. But there are times when it is equally appropriate to respect our own needs and say “no”.

To decide what is our true answer in any given situation, we need to focus inwards and ask ourselves: “What do I really want?”. The answer will always come, usually as a feeling or a sensation.

Saying “no” can be difficult. But the more we respect our own needs, the more we can be of help to others in a long run.

More blog posts on this topic: The Art of Healthy Sacrifice, If You Want To Be Happy, Be Honest With Yourself











This post is also available in: Czech

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