Saying no skillfully.
Updated: Aug 14, 2022
Human beings are a funny lot aren’t we? I am often asked by my children, my clients and participants on programs the question “what shall I say”?
People (and I include myself) often feel really frightened of asking for what they want, changing their mind, saying no or disappointing someone. I have learned over the years that the truth is usually best. But what does that mean? You’d think it would be easy to tell the ‘truth’ and it can be, but it might involve digging a little deeper and feeling more vulnerable. That is not always so easy.
What intrigues me about people is that we sometimes avoid the truth and will only give it when all else fails to get us what we want. Yet the truth is nearly always more acceptable than the white lies we tell to cover our tracks. The tricky part can be working out what your truth is. We are so used to protecting ourselves that real truth can be outside our awareness.
Let me give you an example.
My daughter had agreed to go somewhere with her girlfriend but changed her mind. She said to me “What shall I say”? She was mulling over excuses - headache, too busy, not well, can’t use the car etc. – all white lies, to get out of going.
I asked her why she had changed her mind. She told me that she felt pressured by assignments and did not want to use her time wandering around the shopping centre with an assignment due on the following Monday. She did not want to let her friend down and felt afraid that her friend would feel angry so she was looking for an excuse that her friend would accept more easily.
So we talked about the ‘whole truth’. The whole truth was that she felt terrible about pulling out at the last minute because she really values her friend and she made a mistake by agreeing to go when she had so much study to complete. She agreed to go because she loves spending time with her friend and had not even realised how much pressure it put her under until the time was approaching. She felt sad that she had conflicting commitments and wanted her friend to forgive her and make another time where they could feel free to have fun together.
You see, the whole truth was that she loves and values her friend but forgot her other commitments when impulsively agreeing to go when she really needed to say no. Once she got clear on this, she included all of the above and it was easier to say what she needed and ask for understanding. I think it when something along these lines…
“I stuffed up and now I am under pressure. I want to hang out with you when I have no pressure so we can have fun. Could we make it another time? I am so sorry I said yes but I didn’t realise how much study I needed to complete before Monday. Is that OK with you?”… Of course her friend was disappointed, but at least my daughter did not have to add lies to lies.
If she had said she had a headache, her friend may have turned up with flowers to spend a couple of hours with her. Would this have helped? No. It would probably have prompted more lies.
So I invite you to consider the whole truth. Our motives are not usually malicious or mean. We make mistakes. We do care about others and the truth is we stuff up, agree to things, change our minds, need something different and we do not like offending or disappointing others. I recommend you include all of that!
So next time you go to tell a white lie, take a moment to consider the deeper, fuller truth behind the issue and include the whole truth. It may make life simpler. Let me know how you go.
Love for now.