If there is someone in your life that you can’t bear to hear the word ‘no’ from,

you have effectively handed over control of your life to that person.
– Dr Henry Cloud 

I Just Can’t Say “No” to …..

How can I say “no” to spending any more time with this person without being rude?

Everyone else is steering clear of him, but he won’t stop following me around at the office!  

My sister really wants to come to this new group with me, and I don’t know how to tell her that I want to do this alone…

I just don’t have time to do those golf weekends with him anymore; life is different now, I have responsibilities!

DO ANY OF THOSE SOUND FAMILIAR?   When we worry about our “no” being judged, there’s a problem!   In a healthy relationship, there is room for someone’s genuine “no.”   And if there’s no room for a genuine “no,” in a given relationship, then, by definition, it’s a relationship that is damaging someone.

WHAT WE FORGET ABOUT OUR “NO:”   As Dr. Henry Cloud so eloquently discusses in his article on this topic of the diagnostic power of “no,” the word itself is a complete sentence!    We forget that often, don’t we?   And the ways we forget that, the ways we slip into autopilot mode and excuse, or blame, or disappear, or do what the group wants us to do, or…or …or….are really signals to us about shifts we need to make in our automatic assumptions and behavior patterns.

HOW WE FORGET ABOUT OUR “NO:”  We may forget it in different styles, but it’s still a forgetting of who we are really called to be in any relationship.   We are always called to be a piece of God’s reality in others’ lives.   Everyone needs to learn how to respect other people’s “no.”   If you’re the teacher in a particular moment, don’t blur God curriculum.    Maybe your “no” is a true act of friendship; it may create some developmental tension for the other person that causes them to build a better set of relational skills.   Or it may just let them know that you are not who they thought you were, and they need to get certain needs met somewhere else, or they’re going to be continually dissapointed!    Here’s the nine ways people tend to forget the therapeutic power of the “No” sentence in relational situations:


Type One, the Reformer: I add things to my “no” instead of noticing:

-that heavy sense of unavoidable obligation that’s getting triggered

-judgmental energy in my resistance

(“Absolutely not!   That’s your job; not mine!  You should have…..”)

Type Two, the Helper: I add things to my “no” instead of noticing:

-that self-abandoning and injecting myself into others’ decision-making

-the manipulative deal-making in my counter offer

(“I mean, yes I guess I can, but I’ve already promised Sally that I’d…..)

Type Three, the Achiever: I add things to my “no” instead of noticing:

-that drive to get status and/or praise out of the interaction

-the competition in my smooth-over narrative

(“Oh, hey, headed to a meeting on the new book right now!  Catch me next time, though!  Try Joe.  He might have time…)

Type Four, the Individualist: I add things to my “no” instead of noticing:-

-that intensification of my personal emotions

-the story in my big, take-up-a-lot-of-space-in-the-room protest

(“I can’t stay here and listen to this!  I really don’t like this!  This really doesn’t work for me because …..)

Type Five, the Investigator: I add things to my “no” instead of noticing:

-that withdrawing motion into the world of thought

-condescension in my conflict avoidance

(“I can do that.   There’s really no reason that needs to be done, however….)

Type Six, the Loyalist: I add things to my “no” instead of noticing:

-that seeking for guidance outside of my own value system

-how I start to test the other person’s commitment

(“Did you run that by Mark?   The last time I listened to you…..)

Type Seven, the Enthusiast: I add things to my “no” instead of noticing:

-that “what-if-I-miss-out-on-something?” pressure in my “maybe,”

-my lack of understanding of, or interest in, what the other person is asking

(“Tell you what, I’ll pencil that in, Cheryl.   And, you know, if I don’t get a better offer….sure!)

Type Eight, the Challenger: I add things to my “no” instead of noticing:

-that push and volume I add to my answer

-how the request itself makes me feel like I’m already in a struggle

(“No!  I told you about the mood I’m in!  Is that what you want?  For me to…..)

Type Nine, the Peacemaker: I add things to my “no” instead of noticing:

-that go-along “yes” that comes out when I want to say “no,”

-my strong desire to accommodate to the other

(“Hmmm….Okay.   Let’s see how we feel when the time comes.    I’m not closed to the idea…)

Until next time, Builders!

Dr. Ronna

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