Avoid disappointment and frustration by learning to say NO
Are you a people pleaser or a submissive person? Maybe it’s time to say no, without remorse.
One of the most important elements that defines emotional intelligence is assertiveness, understood as the ability to honestly express our rights, beliefs and needs without denying those of others. It seems easy, but relationships are not always so.
Almost all of us have had difficulties in expressing ourselves freely or setting limits to unwanted behavior.
That’s when we put aside our plans to attend to others, for example. Or when we receive a comment that we dislike and we swallow it for fear of starting a conflict or that others stop us from appreciating.
But not expressing what we need is a sure formula to feel eternally dissatisfied, because our needs will always end up in the queue, postponing them again and again until in the end, even we end up forgetting about them.
But if our life is so full of other people’s demands that we no longer have time for what matters to us, or even worse, if our physical or mental health is at risk because of it, maybe the time has come to start making some changes.
The first thing we must learn is the difference between assertiveness and aggressiveness. Being assertive does not mean giving free rein to bad education or legitimizing us to be hostile or to mistreat others just to achieve our goals.
An assertive person is a person who knows what they want and what they do not want. It is a person with ability to discern and decide, and who knows how to express it.
He knows to say no without suffering and defends his vision without arguing. The keys to this ability is self-esteem and respect.
So, why is it so hard for us to do it? Often for fear of rejection, to the anger of the other or, simply, to the uncertainty that causes us to imagine how they will respond to us.
As on so many occasions, the root of this behavior is usually found in childhood.
If they raised us to be “good”, if they praised us only when we “helped mom”, if we were afraid that our parents would scream or hit us, or if they did not pay us the necessary attention, except when we pleased others, it could be that we have learned to prioritize the needs of others over our own.
The emotions of anger and fear are almost always involved in the origin of this common tendency.
Our culture and education that we receive tend to deny the existence of the emotion of anger. The emotion of undigested rage hides under the umbrella of formulas that elevate things such as courtesy and politeness.
The first step to be assertive is to identify what we really feel.
When we talk about fear or anger, we face preconceived ideas that hinder their recognition: Any emotion of anger and the anger continuum is considered the ugly duckling of emotions and is then hidden under the “be polite” umbrella.
After identifying what we feel, it becomes necessary to differentiate the emotion from the behavior. This is fundamental since we are children. Limit the behavior, but do not deny or censor the emotion.
At this point some reader may think that nothing happens when prioritizing others, and even this seems a desirable feature. But experts believe that compulsively pleasing others can even become a form of manipulation.
Have you ever met one of those people with a reputation for being generous and dedicated and have been able to prove that when they do not get what they want, they may show a completely unknown, aggressive and ruthless face?
When you do not set limits, it’s because you’re afraid, fundamentally, of being rejected. If my tendency is to control, then I will not put limits, I will swallow and swallow, without chewing, without digesting and eventually, it will turn into a gigantic ball.
Sooner or later I will vomit or will have a verbal or behavioral diarrhea. Fear and my beliefs will feed my inner feline, and instead of manifesting in the form of a cute kitten able to set limits and identify desires and needs -assertiveness-, it will manifest as a ferocious lion.
When we do something that generates discomfort or disgust, our body reacts.
If we repress that feeling, it will generate a cavalier mood, resignation and disappointment, with what will move us away from love and generate frustration.
It can even generate a vicious circle that enhances dependencies or critical attitudes: cynicism, and irony, among others. To avoid this, adults should communicate in the way children do.
Youngsters say what they feel without filters or fears convinced that it is what it must be. It is the education that we give them what will make them act with filters and under the yoke of fears and consequences.
The question is how to start setting limits if we do not have the habit of doing so? The first thing is to lose fear of saying “no”.
To say “no” to something or someone, paradoxically, contains a great positive power, because in doing so we are saying a big “yes” to ourselves.
If we are not able to say no, then our yeses have no value. If we say yes to everything, we lose ourselves, we end up disconnecting ourselves from our needs and even begin not to be able to recognize them.
It is also important to remember that we are never responsible for the emotions of others. What we are responsible for is the use of assertive communication, which can be done by using an objective description of facts and speaking in the first person.
What other possibilities, what other “yeses” are open to you when you are able to set limits and connect with your own desire?
Maybe more respect for yourself? More time to spend with your family or to pursue your passions? More mental health? More rest?
On the other hand, the risk of not respecting ourselves can even influence our physical health. It affects the immune system, the digestive system, blood coagulation, body temperature, the genitourinary system.
From oriental medicine, emotions are associated with certain organ functions. Fear, for example, to the genitourinary system, and rage, to the gallbladder and liver.
Remember: An assertive person knows how to say no without suffering and defends his or her vision without arguing.
If we swallow what we dislike without saying it, we will generate resignation, disappointment and frustration.