Saturday, 10 March 2012 00:00

Advice for Women Who Can’t Say No

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Dear Sappho,

I have trouble saying no, especially to my girlfriend. I was raised to be pleasant and a people pleaser and I hate disappointing anyone, especially her. I find myself saying yes or maybe when I really want to say no in the first place. It’s usually no big deal, but my girlfriend has started calling me on it. Do you have some advice or tactic I can use to help me say no to begin with, and mean it?



Dear Can’t Say No,

Have you heard of assertiveness training? It’s like a feminist boot camp where women are not only taught to say no, but Hell No. In my generation woman were also discouraged from saying no, I myself could not comfortably say no until I was about 40 years old. It was about the same time I learned the secret of listening deep inside to what I really wanted. 

Prior to learning how to say no and mean it, I found myself working overtime when I didn’t want to, going to events and parties I didn’t want to go to, etc. Then I learned these ten little words,  “Let me think about it and get back to you.” My intent was to think about it and get back sometime tomorrow, next week, in a few days. This became my cue to think deep, look inside, and see what I actually wanted.

People who try to get you to say yes or quickly agree usually succeed only if they can close the deal quickly before you get a chance to think about all the pros and cons. Thinking about your response achieves several goals, it saves you from agreeing to something you have no intention of doing, and it softens the disappointment of an outright no.

Buying time, most importantly, gives you time to reconsider and assess your true feelings about the issue. It’s your right, after all, to think about any decision for a while before you commit yourself either way. It is reasonable and considerate, to both yourself and others to be honest and authentic in your response. Once you give yourself the amount of time and distance you need to make a honest decision, you won’t feel rushed or pressured to go along. Practice saying,“Let me think about it and get back to you,” you can then proceed to no, and then when you are ready to - O Hell No. You just need a little time to think first, and then you will know the real answer you mean to say. Have fun making them wait.