Recently, actor Gabrielle Union was quoted as saying, “My best anti-ageing tip is the ability to say no, no, and hell, no. We run ourselves ragged saying yes to every freaking thing, whether it’s to our family, spouses, or careers. I sleep eight hours a day and don’t let myself stress out. A lot of people call it selfish, but I don’t have any wrinkles.”
Experts agree with Union unanimously. If one is skilled when it comes to politely turning down what is asked of them, they do well in both personal and professional aspects of life. “Learning to say no helps one be in control. If you want freedom and empowerment, then take control, challenge yourself, and learn to say no,” says Dr Madhumita Ghosh, senior psychologist, consultant at Fortis Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi.
Who is averse to saying no?
There are many who will agree that they haven’t mastered being assertive yet. It’s just a two-letter word but has the potential to put one into a conflicting mental situation. Apparently, there are cultural and individual differences that exist, which influence a person’s ability to say ‘no’, and people who belong to collectivist culture as compared to the individualistic culture, are the ones who find being assertive difficult.
“A critical self-image and critical thought patterns, over-empathising behaviour (what will the other person think or feel), the need to always be in the good books, low self-esteem, etc. are few of the reasons why people can’t take a stand for themselves,” says Namrata Dagia, clinical psychologist, The Illuminating Zone, Kandivali (W). She further adds, “Generally, people who are soft-hearted are the ones who are hesitant towards being assertive. Studies indicate that people who are low on confidence and have inferiority complex are the ones who lack the ability to say no as compared to others.”
Apparently, to some extent, women find it harder than men to say no. “Women tend to be thinkers and planners and men are more action- oriented. Also, most of them tend to have a ‘live in the moment’ attitude. Though there are individual differences that exist, the way we are born and brought up, the gender roles and identity are few factors that shape an individual’s capacity of being assertive,” says Dagia.
Parental influences and one’s upbringing also plays a big role in how an individual interprets situations and accepts or rejects tasks. In certain families when kids say ‘no’ to their elders, they are made to feel as if they are being rude, and are sometimes even told off for it. Saying no is kept off limits, with ‘yes’ being the polite, likable and recommended replacement. Those raised with such childhood beliefs may continue to associate ‘no’ with being dislikeable, ill-mannered, unkind, or selfish. Such adults worry that if they say ‘no’, they will feel humiliated, guilty, or ashamed.
“Now that we are all adults, we are mature and capable of making our own choices, as well as knowing the difference between wrong and right. Therefore, saying ‘no’ shouldn’t be an off limits word, but rather something that we decide on ourselves, based on our own discretion,” says Dr Ghosh.