All day, every day, we are inundated with advertisements wanting us to say yes to things. The ads, products, services, fundraisers, salesmen, and pitches we see or hear in a day are in the thousands from radio, internet, TV, social media, posters, and billboards. It is also difficult with friends, family, kids and our community events that seek our time, money and talents.
Generally, people in recovery or counseling, regardless of what the issues or addictions are, have a difficult time saying “no.”
Why is it so difficult for us to say “no?”
I have heard many reasons and many of which I am guilty of.
“I want people to like me. I know what it is like to go without. I do not want to disappoint people. I do not want to hurt them more. I do not want them to feel pain.”
These are all good and valid; but oftentimes, they themselves go without.
Generally, these are people who still owe them $200 dollars and have not paid them back in months and now are asking for more. They are the people who borrowed your car and returned it with a new dent and an empty gas tank.
Many people feel obligated, guilty and ashamed when they say “no.” Yet, when they say “yes” to everything, they become angry, bitter, and resentful with themselves and others, as now they do not have the time, money or resources for themselves.
The main reason I have observed that addicts and codependent people have a difficult time saying “no” is that they have such big hearts and feel very deeply. They can see and feel the pain of others. They know what that feels like, and they want to rescue everyone from the pain they are experiencing.
As a parent of four, my children have taught me well. I have learned that I can say “no” first, think about it, sleep on it, or talk to my spouse about it. Then, I can come back with a “yes” later.
This is far better than saying “yes” upfront and then coming back later only to take it back with a “no,” which is much more painful and difficult. It also makes me out to be the jerk.
I have found this simple tool to work in all of my personal and professional relationships.
Growing up on the plains of South Dakota, I learned that fences make good neighbors. Fences and boundaries keeps my cattle out of your cornfield. In the city, it keeps my dog out of your yard. Boundaries are a good thing, as they tell others where my property ends and where theirs begins. The same is true in relationships. There is power in the word “no.”
3 Lies people believe about boundaries and using the word “no”
- Boundaries Hurt People – The truth is that boundaries are not about hurting people-they are about protecting your time, money, talents, abilities and God-given gifts.
- Pain is Bad – The truth is pain is a gift. Pain tells me my leg is broken. It helps me determine that I need to go to the doctor, get it looked at and potentially set and put in a cast, so it can heal properly. When I rescue people from their pain, I am robbing them of the gift that the pain is trying to tell them, especially the changes they need to make in their lives that will help them more than I can.
- People will not Respect me if I say “No” – The truth is once you start saying “no,” you are respecting yourself. People will also start respecting you for saying “no.” As you set your boundaries and protect your assets, you also become less bitter and resentful, as you now have resources for yourself and your family. You are worthy and worth saying “no”. Take care of yourself and your assets. Nobody but you can do this.
For the next 90 days, I challenge you to practice saying “no” to all the extra things people are asking from you outside of the norm. After 90 days, you have secured your fence line and can now build a gate. Then, you can start saying “yes” again to the things you really want to say “yes” to.
This can be very difficult for some of you since many of us need a reason or excuse to say “no.” So, for the next 90 days when you have to say “no”, I give you my permission to blame Cory in Colorado.
Practice with the smaller things and then work your way up to the bigger things. You will be amazed – when you have a reason such as yourself, your schedule or other commitments that do not allow you to say “yes”, – saying “no” will become much easier for you. But remember, you have to practice.
Cory Schortzman is an author, speaker, teacher and licensed mental health professional. Since 2008, he has served as the Executive Director of Transformed Hearts Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, CO. He is the founder of SARA, the Sexual Addiction Recovery Association. Cory is passionate about helping couples and individuals overcome sex addiction. He is also passionate about bringing awareness to the public and supporting the elimination of sex and human trafficking. Cory has been married since 1998 to his beautiful wife, Kerry, and lives in Colorado with their four daughters. He and Kerry have been seen on the CBS Early Show, Inside Edition, and ABC Good Morning America, Fox 21 News, and TLC/Discovery discussing the harm of sex addiction and the joys of recovery. He has also been heard on numerous radio programs.
Cory’s books include: Out of the Darkness, Into the Light the Workbook, Into the Light the Steps, Ashes to Beauty the Steps, 301 Dating Ideas, 301 Conversational Ideas, 301 Ways to Say I Love You, 301 Ways to Love Your Children & 301 Recovery Tools & Tips.