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Saying No

There are times in life when we really want to say “no,”  but feel uncomfortable doing so, telling ourselves that saying “yes” would be the right and proper thing to do.  Those voices in our head niggle at us and we feel conflicted.

How, then, do we decide?  Based on the work of Marshall B. Rosenberg, we might pose the question, “If I am saying 'no' to X, what is it that I am saying 'yes' to?”  Put another way, how does it serve me to say “no?”  What need will be met?

Looking at this question gives us insight into what is alive inside of us.  It gives us a clue to our priorities, perhaps not yet fully explored.  More information may help us to make an informed choice.

For example, Marie's elderly mother asked Marie to come and spend the weekend, saying that it had been over a month since she had seen her daughter.  Marie felt torn: she thought that it was a reasonable request and that, in fact, she ought to go.  She didn't like to think that her mom was alone so much of the time.  On the other hand, if she said “no,” she would have time to relax, straighten up the house, read the book that she bought two weeks ago, and catch up with friends she hadn't talked to in a while.  As she weighed the options, she identified her desire to connect with and support her mother.  She also identified a need for rest and self-care after a tough week at work.

Whether she chooses one of the two alternatives or comes up with a few other options, she is less likely to beat herself up for the choice she makes because she understands how each choice will meet her needs.  Understanding the forces that are pulling her in opposite directions, she is in a better place to set priorities and to assure that all of her needs will get met.

She may ask the questions:

  • How else can Mom get to spend quality time with

               someone she cares about?

  • If I don't get some R&R this weekend, when can I charge

               my batteries?

  • If I don't visit Mom this weekend, when can I commit to


  • How can I both relax and spend some time with Mom?

  • How can I get some help in straightening up my house?

Identifying the needs, she can expand the options and feel good about doing it.

If there's something that you're wanting to say “no” to, take a look at what you would be saying “yes” to.  How can you get all your needs met?  (HINT:  Think outside the box.)

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