Drop “Yes” For Less Stress

Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying yes too quickly and not saying no soon enough. ~Josh Billings

I am a pleaser. I have said yes all of my life. No was not part of my vocabulary. Yes gave me some happiness but much stress in the process. Yes, I used to be a YES person. I never said no. I said yes to everything, not just one request, and had conflicting obligations and little time for myself. I did anything (legal and moral, that is) that was asked of me. I ran around like a crazy woman trying to take care of all the needs and requests of my family, friends, job, church, and community organizations. I did not want to disappoint anyone. I would shortchange myself before anyone else. I don’t know if it was more because I wanted people to like me or if I was just too good-hearted. At any rate, I was stressed to the max.

Charm is a way of getting the answer yes without asking a clear question. ~Albert Camus

I have been “conned” many times into doing things I really truly never wanted or intended to do. I have been manipulated and coerced by guilt to lead Cub Scout dens and coach soccer teams. I have been talked into heading PTA and church committees and moms groups and giving speeches and presentations. I even once had a pastor who asked me to chair a committee, and I replied that I wouldn’t do it because I had done it a few years previous and thought it would be good for someone else to have the opportunity. Yes, I was almost as sly as he was with words. He came back a few days later and asked me to chair another committee of a different name but sounded distinctly like the first one. I asked him to tell me about the committee. It was the very same committee! He changed the name to try to trick me into it. Yes, he did! And I called him out on it, and he just started laughing because he knew he’d been caught. Did I chair it? No, however, he did get me to do another one.

My children learned quickly that I am an easy sell. First they’d try to catch me off guard when I wasn’t clearly listening and if that didn’t work they’d pull out the big guns. The fluttering of puppy dog eyes and sweet whining “pleases”. Then they pulled out the childish charm. They watched carefully and chose their words wisely. They learned to omit what would bring a no from me and sugar coat to force a yes from me when they knew I was going to say no. Often, they won, but much to their dismay, there were times that I refused to give in.

Every time I ever asked to do something growing up, my mother always told me to ask my father. When I asked him he told me to ask my mother. I quickly learned to go to one of them and tell them that the other said it was alright but to ask him/her as well. I leaned quickly that process bought a whole lot more yeses than the other method.

A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble. ~Mohandas Gandhi

When I was in therapy after my hold up, my therapist asked me why I ran myself ragged for other people, for things that gave me minimal if any pleasure or benefit at all. I replied that I couldn’t possibly tell anyone no. She told me that for my own health I needed to learn to say no and not have any guilt for it. My hesitant yeses turned into no that I eventually gave into. After much practice of saying no and still giving in, I tried once sticking to my decision. I found everybody lived through it and they still liked me. Learning to say no and stick with it was the most liberating and stress reducing lesson I’ve ever learned.

Now when someone asks me to do something, if my heart feels like I want to, I’ll say yes. If my gut tell me no, I say no and will not allow discussion. If I’m hesitant, I’ll allow dialogue and ask for time to make my decision. By approaching requests this way, I permit myself to stick to my convictions. Since limiting my yeses, I’ve taken away the negativity and placed them in a positive spectrum.

However, like everything else in my life, the honesty of my yeses is still a work in progress. You can be assured that most of the time I say yes, I really mean it. Sometimes, I’m still too softhearted. And part of me might still just want you to like me.

43 thoughts on “Drop “Yes” For Less Stress

  1. I have a soft heart too, and in my younger years went through what you went through, but years ago I set a thin line between what I will say yes to and no to. I also listen to my heart, because God speaks to our heart, and if we listen then we always make the right decision on the yes and no’s. Also, I have always been the kind of person who believed in “You can take me or leave me for who I am and not what I can do for you.” I am happy to see that you too have learned that lesson. Powerful message in this post.

  2. Wanting to please other people, being selfless and considerate of others are all wonderful characteristics you should be proud to posses in spades. But I also can appreciate how this has led you to overload and stress in life and it is good that you have learned to deal with the want to please and better balance the needs of others with your own.

    As always, a very honest and open post and a great twist on the theme of yes.

    • It’s hard to learn to say no. I guess I was tired of being miserable from saying yes too often. A balanced me is a happier me. And a happier me is a happier whoever that crosses my path!

  3. Your post makes me think if I am a yes person, or not. I can’t say for sure but I think I am a grumble person. I would do what is requested of me after I grumble (a little).

  4. No truer words have been spoken about this topic, than yours in this post.

    I truly feel that we ALL struggle with this.

    “And part of me might still just want you to like me.”

    But like you, I’ve learned….

    “Now when someone asks me to do something, if my heart feels like I want to, I’ll say yes. If my gut tell me no, I say no and will not allow discussion.”

    I LOVE this quote…

    “A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble. ~Mohandas Gandhi”

    You GO, Gandhi!

    Wonderful post, SC! As always!

    Have a great day!

    • Love that quote, too. Being a people pleaser is not how I want to win friends. The people that ask those kinds of things of you are usually not your good friends, but users. I don’t need users in my life. Took a long time to learn to lay down the law. But there is a big difference and being surrounded by lots of friends or hanging with a few friends. I choose friendship any day. And not being stressed out!

    • I was going to copy and paste that Gandhi quote because I think it is so true. Sometimes if people are trying to please others so they say yes then go around being negative about it because they got “talked into” doing something, then it is just contributing to the negative. Or sometimes when someone says, “yes” to everything because that is their habit, then then end up over-committed and someone ends up hurt or disappointed. So there are a lot of reasons so say NO.

      Glad you are learning them. Good for you.

      And friends will love you and understand it even when you say no.

  5. A friend of mind is a real “master” of saying “no”. He’s polite over it, but he simply says “no” if he doesn’t want to do something. It’s an art I think. I had trouble with saying “no” all my life. Or if I say “no” I feel obligated to give a lengthy and sometimes less than totally honest reason for saying it. My friend has no such compunctions. I really do think it’s an art form.

  6. Now I know why I like you – we are both people pleasers! Problem was, I didn’t know it until my husband pointed it out to me after we met.

    He said “what has your friend Bridget ever done for you?” This was supposed to be my “best friend” for whom I would drop everything if she needed a ride, a babysitter, etc.

    After I thought about it – I realized nothing! I finally confronted my friend and asked why were were friends when it was so one sided. She said “because you would do anything I needed, no questions asked.”

    That was 9 years ago and I haven’t talked to her since!

    • wow, hubby opened your eyes didn’t he. One-sided relationships is another thing I’ve let go. Life’s too short to be taken advantage of all the time.

  7. I feel you on this one. I did the same thing for many years, but like you, I found my way to say no when I felt it best.

    Go us…and let us not forget to continue this needed practice.

  8. I was waiting for someone to write a post like this! The “you” you described from a while ago? That was me. Always saying yes. It took me until just a few years ago to learn how to say “no.” As you said, “A balanced me is a happier me.” Amen to that!

  9. Ooh, I love that Gandhi quote.

    I am *SO* with you on this, Suzicate. Our society trains us to say yes with a smile and nod, even when we really just want to say no. Why?! We all need to be better at saying no when we need to, at being honest and true to ourselves. And accepting no from others. Not judging or pressuring.

  10. Yup, me too. I join many of your readers here in saying that what you’ve written describes me to a T. It also applies to so many of the women in my life. (Did you read Big Little Wolf’s post today, by the way? She also wrote about people pleasing. I really appreciated reading both of your posts and the ways in which they reinforced each other.)

  11. I think that both no and yes play an important role. Always saying yes will get a person no where, as will always saying no. I think if we use them when needed, it could save us a lot of trouble.

  12. This is great! I always love how I relate to you. It pained me to say no for soooo long. I am much better now. I don’t mind being selfish with my time. It’s a beautiful thing. Congrats!

  13. Learning to say no is tough. I have learned with practice to say no and I am much less stressed and feel in control. There are times, when I sense that I may not want to do something but there is good reason and then I rise to the challenge.

    Learning to say no is part of growing-up

  14. I, too, am getting better (with age) at saying no and not saying yes. I believe it has to do with having more respect for myself and my time. Not that so many things aren’t worthy, or that I wouldn’t like to do them if I had endless time, but I don’t and somehow it seems I have less to prove now. So, good for you! As always, great quotes and thoughtful commentary.

  15. I’m with you that dropping the Yes from my vocabulary will cause less stress. And it’s not just for me. It is for all involved.

    I used to think that it was “kind” to say Yes. Now, I’m wondering. It feels selfish sometimes. Because the repurcussions of my Yes have consequences. Like Big Little Wolf says, our No comes out anyhow…in cigarettes, (mine in grumpiness) and other vices.

    So to offer a Yes just so that people will like me sometimes back fires. It’s taking me a long time to learn this. Because I, like you, feel drawn to say Yes again and again and again.

  16. This is great! I once said Yes to everything, too, and landed in a big pile of burnout. I swung to the opposite end of the spectrum and said no to everything, landing in a big pile of lonely boredom. It’s a balancing act, for sure.

    Great post!

  17. ‘I found everybody lived through it and they still liked me”

    This struck a chord with me. I am afraid of conflict and tend to tell people what they want to hear just to avoid the banter. Plus I don’t want people to dislike me. Why I care so much is beyond me. Good post.

  18. The best thing I was ever taught as a grown-up? NO is a complete sentence.
    I would say no and give reasons and then my reasons would be discussed and eventually I was doing what I didn’t want to do. Or I’d say yes because of ego (it LOOKED good), but my family was suffering because I was always running out at night and not getting enough sleep. Even if I worked it out to be totally convenient for everyone, I still got so little rest that I was grumpy. My physical health even began to suffer.
    I am forever grateful to have learned was to say no and to take a night (or two) OFF.

  19. For me, too, saying yes is so often intrinsically tied to getting people to like me. Why is that, and why should it matter?? Good questions you pose here.

  20. I used to suffer from the Yes illness. I’m now a recovering people pleaser. Just stand in front of the mirror and repeat in your most saccharin-laced voice, “Thank you, but I’m not the right person for that job.” Repeat if necessary. Good luck!

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