Just Let Me Say No, Dammit

Written by: Emily who is the director of operations at Unpolished Journey.


Why is this not acceptable anymore?  Why do people think of “saying no” as a bad thing?  As far as I’m concerned, saying no can be a very brave and bold thing to do.  Our society today fosters a sense of “you have to do everything” – this internship, be involved in this club, go to social events every weekend, attend every freaking meeting.  And when you say no?  The response?  “Why can’t you come?  Is there a specific reason?  Give me the exact details of why you won’t be there and where you will be instead down to the latitude and longitude coordinates.”  Why is the immediate response to not attending something that you are purposely trying to avoid it?  Why don’t people think of how you are doing or how you are feeling?  For example, if I can’t make it to a particular meeting one week, why do I feel overwhelmingly guilty?  And why do the leaders immediately respond back to my absence saying “make sure you get filled in on what happened at the meeting by someone else.”  Why don’t they respond with “how are you doing?”  Or “is everything okay?”

What if I can’t be there because I’m having a bad day?  What if I can’t be there because I feel overwhelmed, and it would mentally be better for me to go home and rest?  People are afraid to say, “Hey I’m having a bad day.  I don’t think I’ll be there tonight.”  Why?  Because society doesn’t value mental health to the extent of its importance.  People feel awkward and uncomfortable in addressing the issue.  BUT THAT JUST FOSTERS THE PROBLEM.  If people constantly feel obligated to put their mental health on the backburner, of course they are going to feel overwhelmed and stressed.  In fact, I think that people should be able to openly miss a certain amount of days of work or school or whatever it may be (an appropriate amount, obviously) due to mental health, alongside physical.  Both are real and both deserve space.

I also think it’s funny that in a world where everyone is taught to say yes, how are we supposed to know which yes’s are genuine and which aren’t?  Do all people want is a half-hearted yes to be pleased?  No.  I don’t want someone to feel like they’re pressured to join something or do something because that’s not the true intent or desires of their heart.  I want someone to get involved in a group or organization or attend an event because they genuinely desire to.

Imagine a world like this.  What if when you said you couldn’t make it, your friends, your coworkers, your organization, responded with, “Okay.”  And later followed up by checking in to see how you were doing.  Wow.  Imagine how guiltless you would feel if you needed to take time for yourself.  Imagine how much weight that would take off your shoulders.  Imagine how much more welcome people would feel when they did come to the event or organization or meeting.  And imagine how much easier it would be to say no if you were invited to something you genuinely did not want to attend.  Crazy concept right?

Now I realize there are exceptions to this in the sense that some things are obligatory, and we can’t miss an event or meeting or whatever it may be every single week if we want to be involved, make connections, or keep our job.  But if one day or one event or one meeting, an individual expresses a sentiment that they will not be able to make it, say okay and move on.  What I’m saying is stop pushing past people’s personal boundaries.  Respect people’s decisions when they say no.

So please, just let me say no, dammit.

Maybe this is just me, but I really hope not.  Please share out your perspectives on this topic if this resonated with you.

Some questions to think about:

  1. When was the last time you said yes to something you actually wanted to say no to?
  2. When was the last time you felt guilty about saying no?
  3. When was the last time someone pressured you into saying yes?

I would encourage whoever resonated with this to practice saying no without explaining yourself at least once over the course of this next week.

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