You’ve probably heard about the power of no. “Every time you say yes to something, you say no to something else.” Sound familiar? If not, then you’re welcome, because it’s a great point to consider.
Women particularly struggle with saying no. We tend to worry more about hurting peoples’ feelings, and we are more likely to feel a sense of obligation when approached with a social, professional, or volunteer opportunity. Fear of missing out can be another reason we never turn down an invitation. Whenever guilt or fear drives a decision, it’s an indication it’s the wrong choice.
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Learning to say no has helped me invest my time wisely and avoid guilt-based choices. However, what about the power of saying yes? I recently heard someone talk about how her New Year’s resolution had been to say yes to more things, particularly social invitations. She described herself as a homebody whose default answer was “no” when friends invited her out.
I can relate. I internally debate with myself over skipping out of most social or networking events as I’m getting ready. Recently I actually told Mike, “But I’ll be missing so much time I could be spending reading my book!” I was 100% serious, but Mike laughed and gave me a look that clued me in to just how lame that sounds.
I enjoy people and social events, and I’m usually glad I went. My natural inclination would be to stay home, especially now that I have a dog. It’s the comfortable path of least resistance. The same people who talk about the power of “no” also warn against taking this easier path which surely leads to disappointment and regret.
Saying yes to the uncomfortable expands your horizons. Sometimes, the gut feeling not to do something is God, or your core values, but more often, it’s fear. If I’m honest, I can usually tell the difference.
The motivation behind your answer is what’s important. Fear of the unknown driving a “no” isn’t much different from fear of offending someone driving a “yes.” No can also become a habit, not because of fear but simple convenience and repetition. The more times you say no to something, the harder it is to overcome the habit pattern and start saying yes.
Maybe you’re like me and you need to say yes to meeting new people. Maybe a friend has invited you to church and your default is “no” because you’re not sure what to expect. Maybe your parents keep inviting you over for dinner and your default answer is that you’re too busy. Or maybe you’ve gotten in the habit of saying no to sex with your spouse for no reason.
It may be true that every time you say yes to something, you say no to something else, but this wisdom assumes that your denials are bold and deliberate. Saying no out of habit or fear maintains the status quo, fosters stagnation, and slams a door in the face of opportunity’s proverbial knock.