Tag Archives: Relationships

Is It Hard To Say or Accept “No”?

 

boundaries

It’s really common for a two year old child to say “no” even if they mean “yes”. It’s age and stage appropriate and any parent would readily say “Yup, don’t I know that one.”

But as an adult it can be just the opposite. How many times have you reactively said yes to someone because you really didn’t want to disappoint them or didn’t know how to gracefully give a turn-down? Did you say yes even though you doubted you had the time, energy or motivation to follow through? I know I have done this more times than I want to admit. I think I have also been a lot like a two year old at times – or at least I’ve said “no” too quickly.

Living in Los Angeles (perhaps Southern California) carries a stigma of being insincere in social commitments. I would like to say that it’s a total myth, but it isn’t. Probably because of overly committed lives which lack margin, we have often succumbed to the label of being flaky. But that is not a reputation we want to carry.

I have a lot of compassion, especially when it comes to (often overly) busy, productive people like business leaders, pastors, entrepreneurs and parents of small children. It’s really hard to turn people down when they have legitimate requests. But it has to be done to maintain one’s balance of life: a.k.a. sanity.

The Solution

I have often used the self-test I call “play the movie forward”. This is where I take a few seconds to predict possible outcomes to my answers. What will be the result of saying yes or no? I want to operate from a foundation of integrity, so I need to consider my answer carefully. It’s hard to tell someone “I don’t think that is going to work” in the moment, but it will preserve your reputation as a trustworthy person.

When it comes to relationships, this is particularly important. I have always felt that Nan has an endless amount of requests. And Nan would agree that she does. They are not unreasonable requests, just more than I can always accomplish in her time frame. So I must be thoughtful in my responses. It is better for me to endure the momentary discomfort of a turn-down, than the future possibility of disappointing her. The trick is to be firm, but kind.

Often the best answer can be a realistic offer of what you actually can do. There have been times when a client has been too specific on an appointment time that they desire. Our reply is to graciously offer any time slots that are open or supply a referral to another counselor that might have that time available.

When You Hear “No”

I would also ask if you are the kind of person that can take “no” for an answer. Are you too persistent or even hostile when met by a turn-down? Do you treat everyone as an equal or do you categorize come people as your servants? I am always horrified by how some people treat customer service representatives or service technicians. We are not to demean anyone, but treat everyone with respect.

I am ashamed to admit, but there was a time (in my pre-Christian days) that I had a measure of contempt for certain people. When I became a Christian I had to correct this. Whenever I encountered that sin within myself, I would say “This is a person that God loves and values as much as He does me.” It really helped to heal a corner of my heart.

If you are one of the people who struggle with saying or hearing no, I suggest you read any of the “Boundaries” books by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. It might really help you feel good about setting limits.

Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one. Matthew 5:37 (NLT)

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Philippians 2:3 (NLT)

Emotional Ransomware

Ransomware

I recently got attacked by an Internet virus in the category called “ransomware”. It installs itself on your computer and encrypts all your files of certain types so they cannot be read. In my case it encrypted all my pictures, word processor, spreadsheet and pdf files. And yes, I went through the stages of grief. It is very insidious because it comes with a promise to restore files that were stolen from you – for a price. The rub, of course, is that you have to trust a criminal to follow through with what they promise. And eventually you will have to arrive at the conclusion: “Not likely.”

I wonder if there are also emotional equivalents in relationships. In the computer version, you believe you are allowing a legitimate program to install on your hard drive, usually in the form of a software or program update. In the emotional version you allow someone to install a program on your heart. And if that “program” has bad intentions or is damaged, it  steals your confidence, your dignity, your choices, or some other quality of life.

What ransom is being asked for by the thief? Perhaps it’s sex. Or it might be complete obedience or exclusivity. Maybe it’s a demand to accept bad behavior unconditionally like anger or criticism or manipulative crying or selfishness.

Breaking it down. What did I do wrong?

First, I was too fast to respond. I didn’t take my time and really pay attention and think through my actions. I ignored a little voice inside of me that asked “Are you sure?” Instead, I wanted to move ahead with the current task and so accepted what was interrupting my screen. Impatience can really get me in trouble sometimes.

Secondly, I was too trusting. I should not have accepted the request on face value without investigating further. I can be naïve. “No one would really try to harm me.” Really? So what are all those security programs for? Just because someone copied and pasted a logo doesn’t mean it’s authentic.

So when it comes to relationships are you impatient? Do you move ahead too quickly out of desire to move from “me” to “us”? As you got older did you feel the time was running out and so now you are not as cautious as you once were? Or maybe you have always been this way and need to reassess.

Are you too trusting and transparent and tend to open up completely when you should be observing and testing. Trust is not just supposed to be given unconditionally. It must be earned over time. Are you swayed by the company a person keeps assuming they are just as reliable? That’s the equivalent of a cut-and-pasted logo. Authenticity is not guaranteed.

A well known verse in the Bible says:

Proverbs 4:23 Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.

I think that’s the best advice of all!

The Road To Relationship

road relationship

I believe the road to relationship is paved with good intentions. All the things we intend to do to find and sustain a wonderful union are usually noble. We will be kind, generous, thoughtful and attentive. And we intend to find someone who is like minded. So how do some relationships go sideways with all these good intentions?

I think some wonky relationships can be traced back to the very beginning. Either our “picker” is broken or our process is flawed. Submitted for your consideration:

Attraction

Sometimes attraction can be almost instantaneous. We have this feeling that “we just know” this is the right person. Translation: My hormones are raging and the reason center of my brain just shut down. I am “crazy” in love. Nobody can talk to me because all I see is a romantic future with this person. I say somebody forgot to install brakes on this bus. Two such impulsive people are likely to be heading off a cliff in the future.

I think attraction is very important. Without it, sustaining a relationship can be quite challenging. Lacking attraction we may choose rationally, based on practical criteria. That’s important, of course, but not the stuff you want to depend on for intimacy. A fat paycheck and a hot meal is great, but it’s not the stuff of deep connectedness.

Character

This is the part of the relationship that takes time to know. Character is discovered over a longer period of time. This is where you watch to see if their words and their actions match up over time and through challenging situations. They “intend” to operate with integrity and virtue, but when things heat up they may melt. When temptation hits, they just can’t quite resist. Nobody can be perfect, but a little bit of infidelity can sour a sweet relationship, and a few little (or big) lies can break trust.

The Sex Factor

This is the fly in the ointment for many relationships. Once this boundary has been crossed, discernment is compromised. We are operating mostly from feelings and not rationality. We “feel” so close to each other. We “know” the other person. They are our “soul mate.” No, they are our sin mate and backing up the relationship becomes difficult. Throw in an unexpected pregnancy and we have just gone from 0-200 mph in 10 seconds flat.

Same Mistake, Different Person

We are generally attracted to the same type of person. This imprint can bite us when our tendency is to make bad choices. I especially caution those that are considering marriage for a second (or third) time to pay attention to this reality. Even if the externals look very different, people often pick the same character and personality repeatedly. This is where listening very carefully to outside counsel is essential.

What is the answer?

Take your time. Have fun the first six months, but don’t get too serious. Once a full year has gone by, it’s time to make a decision. Don’t linger on for years. Most characterological defects can be discovered adequately in one year and the chemical wash to the brain that makes us irrational will subside. Then if you can say “yes” to the person exactly as they are, then move forward. And pray that the good intentions become good follow through.