Saying Yes when you’d rather say No? Here’s what to do

child no

“The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything.” – Warren Buffett

Do you ever find yourself saying yes to the things you’d rather say no to and no to the things you’d rather say yes to?!

And do you find this ends up causing feelings of resentment, feeling rushed, feeling like your life is not really your own?  Guilt, fear of repercussions, fear of hurting others feelings, indecisiveness…?

This is a pattern that took me a long time to shift and I must admit, I still get caught out by it now and again.

There is actually a very simple explanation for why we get caught in this situation time and again.

It’s called childhood conditioning.

Over-riding our No

From very early on, we are conditioned to over-ride and disconnect from our natural instinct and intuition and instead comply with what Mummy and Daddy say.  When our sense of autonomy is starting to emerge around age 2, it is often quickly shut down.

Instead, we learn that Mum and Dad know best, even when our body is telling us something different.

For example, just start to notice how you over-ride your bodies simplest signals.  Do you eat when you’re hungry, nap when you’re tired, drink when you’re thirsty and go to the toilet when you first feel the urge?  Or do you ignore these signals?

Just like we over-ride our bodies physical needs to the point of being completely unaware of them, we also over-ride our emotional needs.

We often ignore our fears, suppress tears, clamp our jaw when feeling angry, brush off criticism and even don’t let ourselves feel too much joy or happiness.

And because we are over-riding the expression of our emotions so that we don’t truly feel them (that would be too painful) we lose touch with how we feel and what we want.  And so, we don’t offer ourselves true comfort when we need it either.  The comfort of being heard and seen.  The comfort of love and soothing in the presence of difficult emotions.


Because that was what we were taught.

Disconnection from Needs

For many of us, we learned early on that it was not convenient for us to have needs.  We cried as a baby and got ignored or growled.  We threw a tantrum as a toddler because we were freaking tired and it got met with exasperation, anger and “not yet, we just have to run these 10 more errands”.

And hey, I’m a parent, I’m guilty of it all myself.  But it’s how we learnt to parent, right?  Because we were ignoring our own needs.

So what happens?

What happens is, in order to maintain the attachment relationship with the parent, we disconnect from our own needs.  We learn it is easier not to have any needs of our own and often, and here’s the kicker:  WE SUBSTITUTE OUR NEEDS FOR THE NEEDS OF OTHERS.

That’s right, we actually start to completely focus on meeting the needs of others, in the hope that our needs might also be met.  This is a survival choice, a way we adapt to our environment as a child when it is not safe to express needs.

Often when you meet one of these people (I’m one) they might appear to be one of the most loving people you’ve ever met.  So accommodating and attuned to you.  And they are.  But it is coming at a very high cost to them.  And usually, they don’t even know it.

So if this sounds like you, what do you do?

What to do?

  1. The first step is always recognition and awareness.  Ask yourself “do I have a pattern of automatic compliance?  Do I find it hard to say no?  What am I afraid of if I say no?”
  2. Start to reconnect to your body’s most basic signals first.  Take a few minutes several times a day to check in with yourself doing a scan.  Notice what your body needs.  Notice how you’re feeling emotionally.  And ask yourself “what do I need right now?”  And do it.
  3. From this, you should be able to find out if the problem is with identifying your needs or whether it is in following through on them once they are identified.  See if you can distinguish between the two.
  4. If it is the latter, then this in an indicator that there is undischarged fear in your system.  You can either work through this fear on your own or, if it is more unconscious, get some help.  I can help you resolve this.
  5. If it is the former then it is starting to strengthen your ability to notice what you need and reconnect to your intuition.  Nine times out of 10 you will find, if you think back, that you did know what you wanted  but you over-rode it.


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