‘The Power Of No And The Wu Wei
When’s the last time you said, ‘no,’ either to someone else or yourself. Internal ‘no’s can be tricky (just say no to negativity), but sometimes they’re powerful and necessary!
In fact, we usually feel really uncomfortable saying no to things. When we do say no, we tend to explain ourselves and our decision-making process.
We have an uncomfortable truth for you: both your unwillingness to say no and your impulse to explain yourself are eroding your authentic self.
Feeling a little skeptical? Let’s take a mindful moment to explore this idea. Once we flesh that out, we’ll get into the eastern concept of wu wei or doing nothing and how that’s a really meditative thing to contemplate.
The Power Of No: Why We Dislike Saying No
No is a big boundary and it feels very assertive. It makes us uncomfortable because we’re accustomed to devaluing ourselves. It’s really just that simple.
Women in most cultures have an especially hard time with this! We expect women to be giving, open, sweet, and pleasant. If you’re still participating in this mindset, we implore you to do some hard work with yourself about it. It’s a totally man-made concept, literally.
Let’s get a little more specific.
Social Pressure To Say Yes
We hate to say no because we think the other person won’t like us or will feel negative emotions because of our no.
The truth is that friendships and relationships aren’t a game we try to win or a riddle we’re seeking the right answer to. The ‘right’ relationships in your life should be mostly effortless. Of course, you have to work at considering each other’s feelings and sometimes you’ll have arguments and misunderstandings. But true friendships exist in an open and loving space that makes talking things out easy.
They’re built on a foundation of understanding already.
Therefore, your relationships are not conditional. They don’t require that you always say yes. In fact, you don’t EVER have to say yes to something you don’t want to do in a relationship. That’s shockingly honest and gives the other person the true opportunity to move away from you, who doesn’t share their passions and interests, and toward people who do.
For most of us, however, we balance our relationship ‘no’s with some ‘yes’s and call that compromise. That’s cool too. It’s all about how it feels to you overall.
Our point here is, if you’re afraid to say no because you think you’ll lose your friends and close relationships… it’s time to really evaluate those relationships to begin with!
Aversion To Hurting Someone’s Feelings
We’re full of uncomfortable truths today, ready for another one? You don’t hurt other people’s feelings and no one else hurts yours.
NOW, we know you experience hurt feelings as a reaction to things other people do. Likewise, your actions can be a stimulus for that kind of reaction in others. This is why it’s awesome to be kind to people and why most people don’t enjoy sadistic narcissists.
However, it’s really important for everyone to get on board with the idea that we’re not responsible for each other’s feelings. It sounds really awful to say this, but it’s actually a fundamental perspective thing. It isn’t a license to be a jerk.
In order to alter your reaction of hurt feelings when you interact with other people, you’ll have to do some serious inner work about your emotional self versus your higher self, and things of that nature. You may have to trace the seed of your current reaction back to its first appearance.
These are all topics for another day. Let us know if you’d like us to dive into that.
But in the short term, see if the truth of the statement, ‘you can’t hurt anyone’s feelings by saying no’ resonates with you.
After all, why would your no hurt their feelings? Probably because of something in their past that has little to do with you.
We need people in our lives that dig it when we express our honest thoughts and feelings, right?
You’ve Got Some Self-Esteem Issues
Most of us do have self-esteem issues! It’s part of why we get that weird and unbearable feeling when we have to say no! Overcoming this takes some consistent work to reframe our inner thoughts, our self-talk, and concepts we’re holding that don’t work for us.
By the way, you can practice saying no and working on your self-esteem by pushing back on your inner critic with a ‘no!’
The Power Of No: When You Shouldn’t Say No
We really think you should say no with wild abandon whenever the spirit hits you! However, if you’re worried about turning into a selfish monster (you probably won’t!), here are some goalposts to consider.
If you want to say no but aren’t sure you should, what will your ‘yes’ cost you? What will it gift to the other person in the equation? If your give is relatively low and their take is high, this might be a good issue to compromise on and graciously say yes. If your yes results in emotional distress for you, creates problems you have to deal with later, or creates physical exhaustion you can’t afford, stick to your no. Maybe you can help in some other way.
If you’re angry, stop for a second and think about your no. What is the intent behind your no? We can say no in a perfectly valid and aligned way even when we’re angry, but sometimes passions run high and we’re reacting in a way we may regret later. If you can get some time to think about it before answering, take it.
If you suspect you’re being manipulated, you have a choice to make. Manipulation is never cool, but we honestly face it and probably do it every day. Even persuasive speech is a form of manipulation. Anytime we seek to change someone’s opinion, especially through emotional means or for our own personal gain, manipulation could be a factor.
Some manipulation is so mild it might not bother you. Perhaps the manipulator is a child, for instance. They innocently cry over something and you decide this time it’s ok to give in. Kids absolutely manipulate – it’s one of the first survival skills humans learn! It’s extra awesome to try to address this with them when you can! But there’s a time and place for that.
Other manipulation involves things like gaslighting or insults and that’s bad mojo. These instances create a great time to say no.
The Power Of No: Making Excuses
We’re getting a bit long-winded here but let’s talk about making excuses real quickly.
Find an opportunity to say no and not explain. It’s probably going to feel really uncomfortable! Practice it!
Occasionally, we explain because we want to forge a deeper connection with someone else through vulnerability. We invite them into our hearts and minds so they can understand us on a deeper level. That’s beautiful.
A lot of the time, however, we’re explaining ourselves and simply giving our power away. Do you owe the other person this explanation? Why?
Give that some serious thought the next time you’re faced with a no opportunity. There’s some incredible insight in there!
A Quick Note About Wu Wei
If you’re still feeling weird about your no, consider the eastern concept of not doing.
You might be doing something while you’re not doing it, but you’re still not doing.
In other words, you’re acting authentically so everything is natural even if you’re focused on it. You are not struggling. You’re not resisting. You are a pebble in the stream no matter what you do.
Wu wei involves letting go of ideals that we may otherwise try to force too violently onto things; it invites us instead to respond to the true demands of situations, which tend only to be noticed when we put our own ego-driven plans aside. What can follow is a loss of self-consciousness, a new unity between the self and its environment, which releases an energy that is normally held back by an overly aggressive, wilful style of thinking. –The School Of Life
We didn’t plan this segue but we’re gonna go with the unity between ourselves and the environment and just say…
if you apply that mentality to your next no opportunity, it will help guide you in the right direction.