Imagine a couple is planning their wedding. Because both come from big, close families, everyone gets involved in the plans, and soon, every parent, aunt, uncle, cousin, and distant relative is weighing in with their opinion on how things should be done. The engaged couple, wanting to be nice and show how appreciative they are for all the “help” they’re getting, accept more and more interference, saying yes to every new person added to the guest list, despite their reservations. They hold their tongues when people ignore their wishes or steer things in a different direction.
You probably already know how this story ends: soon, the wedding doesn’t remotely resemble what the couple originally wanted, and stress is at a fever pitch. Eventually, one or both of them loses their temper and puts their foot down. The families on both sides are hurt and confused. “Sheesh, no need to be rude! If you didn’t like it, why didn’t you just say so?”
If you’re reading this book, chances are you’ve had a similar experience in your own life, and would like to know how to avoid reaching this kind of breaking point again. Good communication, empathy, and knowing how to compromise are wonderful skills to have, but in this book, we’ll be talking about a skill that is relatively undeveloped in some of us: the art of saying no.
Having firm and healthy boundaries that you are comfortable asserting is a non-negotiable part of good mental health and self-esteem. But learning to say no is about so much more than simply putting your foot down with pushy family members to save some drama. The benefits of speaking up to defend your own boundaries and limits go far beyond this.Why Saying No is So Essential Saying no is about respect. Respect for ourselves and for others.
When we say no, we assert our own boundaries, and this communicates to both ourselves and to others that we have value, and also that we have values, i.e. we have principles, goals, and limits that we care about protecting. Saying no is a conscious, deliberate act. It empowers you because in saying “this is not what I want,” you are also essentially saying what you do want, and in so doing, shape your own life.
If you can say no, you take back your own power and agency and correctly balance other peoples’ desires, needs, and demands with your own. If you can say no from a healthy and conscious state of mind, then you know how to set your own intention and direct your life in the direction you want it to go according to what’s important to you. And the more you do this, the more confident you feel in your dreams and goals, and in your right to expect a life of your own, to do with it what you want.