Do you believe that relationships are built on doing what others want you to do? Many emotionally sensitive people believe just that, though they may not be aware of it.When you believe that, you act as if saying “yes” is the way that you keep people in your life. Or maybe you worry about friends, family, and strangers experiencing pain or discomfort and don’t want them to be upset, so you say “yes” to most requests when you really want/need to say no.
Have you loaned money when you didn’t want to? Said “yes” to going out when you wanted to stay home? Said “yes” to doing a project at work that you didn’t have time to do?
Karyn Hall, PhD is the owner/director of the Dialectical Behavior Therapy Center in Houston and www.DBTSkillscoaching.com, an online educational program. She is a trainer/consultant with Treatment Implementation Collaborative (Ticllc.org) as well as a therapist and certified coach.
Editor: Saad Shaheed
If you’ve been living this way, it can be difficult to change. You probably only notice it as a problem in extreme situations and that doesn’t motivate you to try something new. If something is okay, you can tolerate it, why risk changing it? After all, it might be worse to change it.
It’s almost like your breakfast cereal. If you like it and have been eating it for years, why bother to try something new that you might not like, even if your current cereal has too much sugar? Our minds like to simplify (repeated patterns are simpler than new behaviors) and like predictability.
Below are some reasons to consider practicing saying “no” when you want/need to do so.
1. Relationships are built on being genuine with other people, open about how you feel. That builds trust and trust builds intimacy. When you aren’t being open and honest, that limits how close you can be to the other person. You won’t notice this if you’ve never done it a different way. You may be aware of feeling a distance with others and not know why.
2. When you don’t respect yourself and your needs, relationships can be draining instead of supportive and rejuvenating. If you find being with people fatiguing, consider whether you are trying to please others most of the time instead of being yourself.
3. When you are always giving to the other person and they don’t have the opportunity to give to you, that is not a reciprocal relationship. Relationships are built on reciprocity. You go to a play you don’t particularly want to see and the other person reciprocates by going to a restaurant that doesn’t sound appealing to them.
What about you? Is saying “yes” too often to others interfering with your relationships?