Knowing When to Say No

The word “No” has gotten a bad rap. People equate it with something that’s negative. Or pushing away, dislike, unacceptable, disagreeable... you can add your own descriptor. The fact is that learning when to tell your partner “No” can enhance your relationship by creating greater trust and respect. Here are a couple of instances when “No” would've done a whole lot of good. 

Failure #1 Your partner says “Hey, let’s go out to eat at Sally’s Scrumptious Salads for dinner!” You’re thinking “I’d rather stay home and eat leftovers than go there again!” but, afraid you’ll disappoint them, you say “That sounds great! Let’s go!” 

The next month you get a $50 gift certificate from your partner to Sally’s for your birthday. Looking less than enthused about the gift, your partner picks up on the energy and says “I thought that was one of your favorite places!” 

Failure #2  

That night, as a surprise for your birthday, your partner says “I’m going to treat you to a movie! The multiplex is showing Porkies 6, Home Alone 9 and Rocky 13. Which one would you like to see?” 

While at the store earlier, you saw a rack of DVD’s for rent and spotted The Maltese Falcon, a classic 1940’s detective movie which caused you to stop and remember your fondness for the old mysteries. 

Before you could make your mouth and tongue work together to say “Let’s just rent a movie and stay home tonight” you hear yourself blurt out “Home Alone 9, I guess”. 

I wonder what you’ll get for your birthday next year! 

“No” gives our partners the chance to learn something about us. Learn about our preferences, our fears, our hopes and goals. 

Most of the time when we say no, we are conveying something about our preferences to the other person.  Early on in a relationship we are absorbing a lot of information about this new person. Much of that information is what they like and what they don’t like. 

Trying to be “nice” so as not to hurt your partner’s feelings just creates long term problems. And it denies them the opportunity to get to know you a little better. 

Using “No” as a way to express your feelings and to let your partner know what your preferences are builds trust and respect in a relationship. 

Learning about each other is a lifetime effort. I’ve heard too many stories from people who suddenly explode at their partners with something like “You have fixed me pancakes every Sunday morning for the past 30 years and I NEVER HAVE LIKED PANCAKES!” Perhaps if they had said “No” 29 years ago, Sunday morning would’ve been a more pleasant experience! 

“No” is just the start of our conversation with our partner about preferences. Follow it with a statement of what you WOULD like.  

“No, but what I would like better is to go to John’s BBQ for dinner”  

“No, but I saw a great old mystery at the store that I’d like to rent and watch” 

“No, thank you, I’m not a fan of pancakes, but I love fruit and fresh-baked croissants for breakfast!” 

Your partner can learn SO much about you if you will just take the time to express your gratitude that they are thinking about you and let them know what would give you even more joy!

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