Love Letters to Humans (no. 63) — on Saying NO

What if we stopped saying YES with obligation, resentment, and dread, and started saying NO with love, gratitude, and skill?

Our YES is precious and our will is worthy of regard. An inauthentic YES doesn’t preserve our relationships, it erodes them.

Our NO is sacred. It does not require an accompanying story of us being unkind, uncaring, wrong, or a bad [friend, boss, parent, child, lover, teacher, person]. Our sacred NO does not require a supporting story of someone else being wrong for asking, oblivious to our needs, manipulative, or a bad [friend, boss, parent, child, lover, teacher, person].

We can have a NO for the request and a YES for the person asking.

NO can certainly be a complete sentence -AND- sometimes it serves our integrity and our relationships to communicate our NO with more generosity and care.

A NO that honors both our wants and the people with whom we desire harmonious relationship has three key elements:

  1. Gratitude and acknowledgment that they reached out to us for connection, care, community, or our experience or expertise.
  2. A clear NO for what we don’t want.
  3. A clear YES for the person asking—often stated as an invitation to connect in another way or at another time.

Some examples:

  • Thank you for the lovely invitation! I don’t really enjoy [parties, sitting still, large groups, fondue, live music, lectures about dung beetles, etc.], so I won’t be there. I‘d would like to spend time with you, though. Perhaps we can get together another time?
  • Thank you for asking. I’m excited for you and honored you thought of me. I currently don’t have capacity for unpaid work. I’d be thrilled to talk about how working together can be sustainable for both of us.
  • I love that you want to connect and be close—I want that, too. I don’t have a want for [sex, play, deep conversation, fondue, etc.] right now. Here are some things that would feel like joyful connection to me in this moment—do any of them feel good for you? -OR- Would you like to have [sex, play, deep conversation, fondue, etc.] another time when we’re both enthusiastic about it?

What joyful connection could be available when you communicate both your NO for what you don’t want and your YES for the person asking?