Saying No Without Apology and Explanation
I’ll admit, I hate hearing the word “No,” but I respect it because it’s a big part of taking care of ourselves and owning our life. Society doesn't teach us, especially women, to say no. Women are taught to please and give to others, and to ask for things in the nicest way possible. We aren’t taught to get clear on what we want and need and ask for it without hesitation, apology, or explanation. Saying “No” is unfavorable, even taboo. But what if we just said “No” without any apology and expectation? It would probably bring most of us out of our comfort zone, and that's what we need in order to grow. This comfort zone would, ultimately, be refreshing and change the negative connotation around the word “No.”
As I write this, I am afraid of this “No” and the idea of us saying it freely when we genuinely mean it because I’ve been socialized to think that when one says “No” to me, then I must feel hurt and offended. Also, I don’t like it when I don’t get what I want, so hearing “No” feels like a door just got slammed in my face. But, I want to move past that and grow. I want all of us to move past that and liberate ourselves from tip toeing around saying No when what we really mean is No. And, I’m not only advocating for us saying No, but for us saying No without apologizing for it and explaining our No. Do we explain our Yes? Do we apologize for our Yeses? Of course not. We need to value No because it’s just as valid as our Yes. Not everything is a Yes nor does it need to be and that’s more than okay. We need to respect our No and when we respect our No, then others will respect it too.
I’ve been in progressive spaces that teach us to say No in the sweetest, least offensive way possible teaching us that when we say No, we don’t just leave it at that, but we offer something else in return. But, this reinforces the taboo of No. It still tells us that we cannot simply say No, period. I’m telling you that you can say No, period. That’s it. Nothing else is necessary. Yes, people will want to hear your Why, Why, Why. You’ll want to hear others’ Why, Why, Why, and maybe they’ll feel like telling you and maybe they won’t. Maybe you’ll feel like telling them and maybe you won’t. But, isn’t it a relief when we ask someone for something and they say Yes and don’t ask for an explanation? This probably rarely happens since we are so hungry for explanations! But, it’s refreshing to hear a simple yes without be asked to explain ourselves. It’s refreshing when we say No and the person receiving that No doesn’t ask us to explain. And isn’t it refreshing to not apologize for saying No?
Why is an apology necessary? We think we’re hurting someone when we say No to them, but we’re hurting ourselves if we don’t. When we’re taking care of ourselves, we’re also taking care of others. Also, if you identify as a woman or have been raised as a woman, how many times have you said “I’m sorry” for just about everything? It gets old. We apologize like it’s our greatest talent in life. We’ve been so conditioned to apologize that we say it without realizing we’re saying it. It just flies out of our mouth before we’ve even had the slightest chance to think about it first. I do it too and after every unnecessary apology that shoots out of my mouth, I feel shame.
I’m ashamed that once again I’ve apologized for something that I didn’t need to apologize for and that I didn’t want to apologize for. Ashamed for continuing that conditioning and not being liberated from it yet. While the shame is understandable, we need to get rid of that too. It doesn’t serve us one bit to feel ashamed of something we’re unlearning. The key is to become more aware of it, then we’ll be more aware of what we really mean and want to say instead. We’ll be more aware of the unconscious thoughts we have and take our power by creating conscious thoughts and decisions. It’s imperative that we be gentle with ourselves in the process because it’s a practice of growth and we deserve to be kind to ourselves. We need that kindness and love to grow. Don’t worry about the apologies or the shame, just bring awareness around them and love yourself as you learn and grow.
Saying No without apology (“I’m sorry, but no”) or explanation (“No, because…”) is a radical concept and practice, and one that is essential to taking care of ourselves and stepping into our power. I’m not saying that power equals saying no. Stepping into our power involves us saying yes a lot too. But, it means getting clear on what we want and need and getting our wants and needs met. Saying No is part of this, and we need to learn how to be confident with our Nos, so that we can truly go after what we want, and so that we can be our genuine selves.
Saying No applies to men-identified folks as well. In my interview with Celeste, we talked about men being able to say no to sex. Women aren’t used to being rejected by men sexually, so it can be hard for a woman to hear her male partner say no if he doesn’t want to. Women’s power in society has also been tied to their sexuality, so hearing No in the bedroom can have her feeling powerless and unwanted. It’s triggering on various levels, which is why it’s also equally important for us to practice receiving No. When we hear a friend or partner say No to us, we can say “Thank you for taking care of yourself” and take their No as a reminder to take care of ourselves too. This is taking responsibility and ownership of our lives and supporting each other in doing the same.
I'm going to practice saying No without feeling the need for to apologize for it or give an explanation. I know that, sometimes, I will want to give an explanation and that's okay. Equally, I'm going to practice receiving No when I hear it from others, and to say "Thank you" in my receiving of it. I invite you to do the same.
Do you have trouble saying No? What do you want to say No to but think you can’t or are too shy to? How will you practice saying and receiving No? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!
Practice >> Find a space where you can be alone and practice saying No about the things you want to say No to. How does it feel when you say it out loud? How do you feel in your body when you say No? How do you want to feel in your body when you say No?
Imagine asking someone for something and them saying No to you. How does it feel to hear No? How would you like to receive their No?