Being decisive about what you don’t want to do, or what you don’t want, in Life, is far more important than knowing what you want or may want to do.
A young friend, who is barely 20, and is an adopted child of her foster parents, recently reminded me of this opportunity in staying decisive. She said her foster mother asked her, when she was seven years old, if she wanted to meet her biological mother. My friend says she decided back then that she did not want to meet her biological parents. Reflecting back on her choice, my friend says that her decision remains unchanged. “Why would I want to visit my biological parents? This is my family and I have the best parents in the world,” she declares without a trace of dilemma.
That clarity in thinking is as infectious as it is inspiring. Many of our relationship issues exist in the first place because of our inability to say ‘no’ to people over what they say or do to us. Worse, we end up saying ‘yes’ when we need to be saying ‘no’ – and we often say ‘no’ when want to say ‘yes’!
Why do we struggle to say ‘no’ to people who are being unreasonable with us? One of the primary, often subconscious, considerations is that we don’t want to ‘hurt’ them. Also to speak your mind to someone is often a disconcerting thought. Nobody wants to be seen as cold, in-the-face and inflexible. So, at the cost of our own discomfort, we end up trying to nice to people. Which is why we never say ‘no’ to people who end up being rude to us, to people who are opportunistic with us and to people who take us for granted.
Sometimes, in close family relationships, we end up having to face emotional blackmail – played out willfully or subconsciously. A mother, who is congenitally manipulative, may insist that her children overlook her divisive nature because she has toiled hard to deliver and raise them. Or a sibling may say that he deserves to be treated better – and may even seek material benefits – because he was deprived of them when he was growing up. A spouse may say that she has sacrificed more for the family than her partner has and so she will demand that her partner recognize – and reward – her in a more demonstrative way than is being done.
We can go on analyzing why we don’t say ‘no’ – and, honestly, we will go on discovering and inventing newer reasons to justify ourselves. But the way to look at this opportunity is to actually consider the value that saying ‘no’ to certain people can bring to our lives.
First, saying ‘no’ to someone means you are defining who you are and are setting out a framework – a code of conduct, if you like – for the way you wish to be treated. Second, this clarity, combined with you not having to forsake your real self, spares you the suffering. For, when you are living Life under restraint, not being who you truly are, behind all the glossy and “accommodative” exterior, you are suffering deep within. Third, when you are not suffering, you are free and happy! It is as simple as that. I am not sure my young friend employed these criteria, in such a structured manner, in making her choice not to see biological mother. But, from what she is feeling now – at being loved for and cared for by her foster family – her choice is indeed governed by what’s making her happy! That’s where the nub lies for you too – if saying ‘no’ will make you happy in any situation, with any person, simply say ‘no’. Don’t think. Just say ‘no’. Because, happiness also comes from being able to not do what you don’t want to do!