Sunday, December 17, 2006


Do you find yourself unable to say 'no' to each & every request that comes your way? Here are some reasons why ...

It’s just a 2 letter word. It takes less than a second to utter. And it’s by far the simplest term in the lexicon. Yet, we stumble helplessly when its time to use it. We moan, we cry, crib & look at people’s backs dagger-eyed, but we just don’t pucker our lips enough to say a firm & resounding ‘NO’! In fact, most of us don’t even whimper a meek ‘no’. We sit with a befuddled expression as our list of things to do extends to the neighbour’s house: we mutter curses under our breath when more work than we can handle is shoved at us; and we daydream about leaving on a jet plane, only to crash land when a distant relative calls up demanding to be a house guest for a few days. Somehow, saying ‘no’ doesn’t figure anywhere in the list of options.

One wonders whether we are just suckers for punishment. Why else would the majority of a populace give the word ‘no’ step motherly treatment? According to clinical psychologist Seema Hingorrany, the inability to say ‘no’ is generally a self-esteem issue. “You’ll find it difficult to say no if you are out to please everybody. It is also a personality problem which may have its roots in childhood. For instance, if you’ve been deprived of positive reinforcement from our parents in your early years, then your need to be accepted is greater in adulthood,” she explains. Saying ‘yes’ means inclusion in a crowd, and saying ‘no’ means being left out in the cold, all by your ownsome lonesome. No wonder we live in a world where adults walk around with a child-like need to be praised & acknowledged…

New Jersey based psychologist Patricia Farrell agrees & adds that the need to please is instilled in us from an early age when we learn to be ‘nice’. Now, being nice, of course, can have several connotations. From accepting party invitations that encourage your feet to sleep to accepting projects that are sure to induce a bad case of nerves, niceness is a rubber-band that can be stretched forever.

According to Hingorrany, people who can’t say ‘no’ have an intense fear of failure. That coupled with the obsession of proving to others that they are perfectly capable of handling everything, makes them say ‘yes’. And thus starts the vicious circle. The more you bend, the more weight will be piled on your back. Till you finally buckle under pressure which will maraud your self-confidence.

“And to rebuild that confidence, such people will yet again start saying ‘yes’,” explains Hingorrany. She adds that it’s basically a matter of conditioning and attitude. If you’ve grown up thinking that by saying ‘no’ you’re grievously hurting the other person, then till your golden years you’ll just be busy saying ‘yes’ to the world. Such people usually put others & their needs above their own self & individuality. Today's world needs such people of course, but at the same time there are so many leeches in our society that such selfless people are bound to get exploited to the hilt. Most of us want to avoid conflicts too, so we just give in without realizing that by doing so, we are inadvertently training the other person to continue behaving in the same manner. The answer, of course, is to stand firm and bellow ‘no’! Though if only life was that easy…


  • Make your no firm & don’t quibble or buckle under pressure
  • Realise that you need to set boundaries for yourself, & allowing others to overstep Is detrimental to your well-being
  • Stick to your plan. If saying ‘yes’ to something throws your other plans to the winds, ask yourself if it’s worth it.
  • Explain why you can’t accommodate a particular request to the other person.
  • Know that you’re not being unreasonable
  • Try to lose the guilt. Guilt-ridden tasks are rarely well-accomplished, so you’d actually do yourself a favor by avoiding them in the first place.
Times Life, December 17th

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