Say no - and be authentic
Such a nice boy
When I was a child, I often heard neighbours say to my parents about me,
“Oh he’s such a nice boy. Always does as he’s told.” I got rewarded for
that! But that’s how conditioning sets in.
For so was born the “Mr Nice Guy” exterior. To fit in I always strived to
do as I was told, even if at a cost to me, and to please other people, when
sometimes I wanted to please myself. I said “yes” when I ought to have
said “no!” There were times when I overwhelmingly always put others’
needs first instead of my own. Don’t do that folks!
Nothing wrong in being “nice” so long as it is a conscious choice. But when
it is an automatic, default response to others, you can in the long run, pay
the price for being nice! Make it a song, Remind yourself. “I pay the price
for being nice!”
Over time I had to unlearn the bad habit of always saying “yes” or giving
in to others automatically. It was a habit that would lead to dreadful feelings of resentment (for something I had chosen to do!) conflict and wasted energy. It contributed to a habit of blame and complaining, and whining! And of finding stomach-churning ways to get out of what I had committed to, even, through lying!
None of that was good for my health. It is a life of stress and stress leads to ill-health.
And it was not honest on others or fair to them.
So, without writing a book on this side of my life, let me just summarise what I did to overcome the habit of being inauthentic, of saying “yes” when “no” was what my soul wanted me to say.
I realised that in changing a habit, I may have to swing too much the other way, of allowing myself to be too selfish, before I could get the right balance. A pendulum doesn’t suddenly swing back to the middle ground. It goes back and forth until it settles. Expect sometimes to swing too far the other way.
I committed to becoming aware of my pattern and what was driving it – the need to be liked and the desire not to be rejected. I learned that being respected is much better than being liked and that if someone rejects me because I speak my truth, that is in fact their issue, not mine. After all, others can play on and manipulate the “be nice, say yes” personality. What are your patterns and how do they work against you? Is it time for change?
I set myself the goal to be clear and honest in my dealings with others…but the starting point was being aware, and being clear and honest with myself. How aware are you of you, your thoughts and feelings, and why they are there?
I set out to learn more about grace and humility. In my family of origin, we either sulked or argued. And neither worked or was comfortable. Sulking and arguing did not offer the possibility of creating positive physical, mental, emotional or spiritual health. Again, what is you pattern, to sulk, argue, or offer grace?
By “grace” I learned to communicate with respect – for myself and for others, by communicating in a way where the compliant or angry tones were replaced with more compassion, by communicating in a way so that others really wanted to listen to me. This meant truly listening to them, not just their words but also their body-language and their tones and emotions. How good a listener are you? How do you know? Do others think you listen well and actively?
It meant learning not to react at the slightest thing, but to take time and choose the moment, as far as one could. And that meant, checking the appropriateness of the moment with another especially if I were going to say no. Do you consider the timing of when to speak and when not to?
I leaned of the art of mental, physical and emotional preparation for the conversation so that I was calm and cool and could say what I was experiencing without blaming the other person or exaggerating what had happened. Do you shoot from the hip or take time to consider what to say?
It also meant being humble enough to accept that I may not have understood everything about the other person’s perspective and that I must ask them to explain further and that, again, in asking, I had to turn listen into silent – and listen! How often do you really, I mean really, put yourself in someone else’s shoes?
I had to accept that being honest meant just that, not just about little bits of truth and concealing the bits I thought would hurt the other. I had to allow them their reaction, their feelings. To not do so was to rob them of a learning opportunity to grow. Are you selectively honest?
I had to acknowledge that sometimes people might justifiably get upset or angry with me but that I could learn to be patient, to listen and not rush to defend my own position. This took practice. To heed my own agenda (to respect my decision and be authentic and honest) whilst at the same time heeding the other’s agenda (that they may be annoyed, angry, or feeling a thousand and one emotions at my saying “no” or not being “nice!”) Are you willing to let others deal with their own emotional response?
I learned the value, with potentially tricky and difficult conversations, of running through them in my mind, anticipating responses, and further anticipating how I might respond to those, of visualising successful outcomes for the greater good of me and for others. The aim was not to rehearse, but to be in the right state where I would not be blown off course. How easy is it for you to get into the right state to deal with an issue? Do you even bother
The moment comes though, when one faces the music, so to speak. So here are some guidelines.
No guns - never shoot from the hip or react in the heat of the moment.
Timing – consider timing, is this the right time for you and the other? How do you know?
Agenda – whose agenda, in any given moment, is more important, yours or theirs?
Permission - get their permission. Grace would have you signal to the other that you need a conversation and to request it, not impose it, that you ask the person if it’s a good time and give them the freedom to choose if and when they have the time to talk with you. If they hesitate, now is not necessarily a good time.
Responsibility - explain briefly and succinctly your issue, without blame eg “you made me feel ….” the situation/context and your goal. Be clear on your goal. This is a huge part of grace, being clear as to why you want to have the conversation and what you hope to achieve by it. If you can’t find or don’t have something positive to say here, you aren’t ready.
Accept your part – there are always two people at least in any inter-personal conflict. Be clear as to the part you have played, eg you may be quick to judge and slow to listen and that may create barriers. So be prepared to acknowledge or even apologise for your part in the dynamic eg “I have realised I am not the easiest or most tactful of people to rub along with and I want to change that.”
Put the other at ease – similar to previously, own your part in the conflict upfront. It’s disarming but it also helps make the other person feel like you aren’t simply pointing fingers or spewing for another conflict.
How do they seem - check, by asking, or noticing body language, posture, and tone, that the other person is at least willing to give you time. This is you practising on-going awareness. Do it throughout.
Describe your concerns … using notes you have pre-prepared if necessary. Speak for you. “This is what it seemed like to me” or “in my experience,” or even “I could be wrong, but what I remember you saying was X.” As you move the conversation on, another technique is to use this format, “When you (be specific) I felt (be specific) and what I would prefer is (be specific.) But also brief!
Ask for their perspective. And listen. Listen with the intention of truly learning and seeing it from their perspective. This is not all about you. Maybe you are misremembering or you don’t understand why they did what they did or are totally clueless that your behaviour or attitude may have triggered their dynamic in the first place. Listen and learn.
Some useful phrases include :-
“How do you remember it?”
“What am I not understanding?”
“What am I not getting?” (You may understand but sub-consciously refuse to get or accept!)
“What do you think happened and why?”
“How could it have been different between us?”
“How are we going to prevent this from happening again?”
Don’t be glad or relieved you got it all out! This is not about spilling the beans.
What was your purpose? What did you want to achieve?
Agree a way forward - decide on “contracts” for the future whilst accepting the other person may not want to, or be able to, promise anything and there may have come a point where you have nothing left to offer. But aim to get some structure and accountability going.
But at least be clear that if the present situation continues, you have to enforce new boundaries, limits to what you will put up with or can work with. Sometimes the conversation has to include, “Whilst I would prefer that you XXX, then if you can’t, I shall be unable to / I will ….!” But do not threaten and do not impose something you know you will break straight away.
Keep it simple, even if it doesn’t feel easy.
Acknowledge it takes practice but imagine the benefits.
Remember your aim – to be authentic
Where and with whom do you need to be more authentic, wiser, more honest? Eg spouse, child, doctor, colleague etc
What’s stopping you?
Where and with whom do you let yourself down by saying “yes” when you should be saying “no”?
What’s your biggest fear? Remember FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real.
Draw up a strategy for how you will now deal with things differently eg
Shifting attitude -from fear to love
In being authentic
In filling your conversations with grace, humility and wisdom
Think of a recent experience with a spouse, a partner, friend, family member, or colleague or boss where you wanted to be authentic, to be honest, to state your case, but weren’t.
Now, in your imagination, pause this video at the height of this interaction and ask yourself the following questions:
Right now, in this moment, what am I afraid will happen if I share my experience right now with this person, if I share how what I am thinking, what I am feeling, what is going on for me?
Take time to explore the above.
Then ask yourself, in your imagination, “How will feel if I don’t share what I’m thinking and feeling? What might I regret? What might happen?”
If I weren’t afraid, what would I most want to say to this person right now?
Imagine yourself now doing it, saying what you think and feel, what you need and want.
Use meditation over time to be more resourceful, to help you listen to the internal and external pressures that help you make the right decision.
When we meditate, we tap into what matters to us.
You grow your authenticity daily by loving yourself enough to take the risk to show yourself, warts and all, to colleagues, bosses, friends, family, clients, and, indeed, the world.
Fessing up and saying “no” or at least setting boundaries, can be really scary sometimes and fear often shows up right right at the moment when you need to speak your truth. Let fear be your friend, your guide, not your oppressor.
Fear will say, “What if others don’t love or accept this part of me?”
Well, they may not, but no one is ever going to love or like everything about you; how can they when you don’t love or like everything about you. When you love yourself fully without conditions, others will do the same!
The consequence of not being real and genuine is that you live only from a very narrow world view, putting the rest of you that is awesome, bright, and a little silly at times in the closet. That serves no one and does not fulfill you.
So do away with the closet, at least get out of it, decide to be bold, to be open, to be authentic, to be you.
You cannot please all of the people all of the time – so why try?
Read this poem by Kip Mazuy, world renowned spiritual teacher & one of the leading composers of meditation music for over 23 years.
"Surrendering does not always mean
letting the outward happenings be as they are.
You may find yourself in a situation
that is not good for you.
Someone maybe expecting something of you
that is not good for you or even
your own opinions/desires/fears maybe pushing in a direction
that is not good for you; that hurts the very depths of your being.
And in these cases it is good to say ‘no.’
It is good to move away from situations
that you feel deep inside you
are in conflict with peace & awareness.
The essence of this moment is often
communicating to you.
There is a flow of peace that is this moment
and you have the ability to feel
if you are moving deeper into this peace
or you are in conflict with it.
Everyone has had a feeling that said ‘don’t do this’
or 'this is no longer what I should do'
even though their mind
was convinced there was no reason not to.
And you do the thing anyway
and find out why the hard way
why it was not good for you.
This is the learning process.
If you can learn in this way that is good.
If you keep doing the same thing that hurts you over and over
even though you know it hurts you, that’s not so good!
For most people, the mind is far stronger than awareness.
The desires, fears, opinions and concept of who you are
clouds the ability to perceive the flow of peace that is this moment.
Many seekers use the excuse ‘I feel this is not right’
when it is just their opinion, their ego dictating that feeling.
But there is a flow of peace
and the more you give your attention to peace or awareness,
the more you will recognize the times you have to say ‘no.’
The times when you have to retreat
into yourself and remain in the peace
rather than do what others expect of you,
or what your desires or fears or ego push you into doing.
Our society, our family, our own sense of ‘me’
all impose a certain idea of how we are supposed to be
that may not be good for us or them at all.
The peace that is this moment
may push you in the very opposite direction
from what others say, from even what your own mind
tries to convince you of.
So part of allowing this moment to be
might be saying ‘no’ or ‘enough’
or choosing a completely different path
and surrendering into that truth.
The real rebels of this life
are all of the Saints and Sages
that have chosen enlightenment over beliefs.
That have chosen what they feel deep inside of them
is the path to peace and freedom.