August 26, 2019
Word of the Week: Honesty
There’s something I need to say “no” to that I’ve been putting off. I’ve been avoiding making a decision on this thing for months. Back in April, I was so proud of myself for buying a few more months to make the decision by saying “I’ll get back to you in the fall.” If I’m being honest with myself, this was just a procrastination tactic to avoid what I know I need to say: “no.”
I catch myself doing that a lot. Don’t we all? We give people half-ass answers like “I’ll keep you posted,” “I’m not sure yet,” or “maybe” when deep down inside we know it’s a “no.” We go through a whole exhausting process of weighing the pros and cons, consulting our friends and family, and agonizing over what the “right” decision is. And if that isn’t tiring enough, we decide to not make a decision at all and leave things floating around in the mysterious “maybe” category.
As a society, we aren’t very good with “nos.” We are so focused on not wanting to hurt other people’s feelings or unwilling to admit we can’t do #allthethings that we put decisions in the “maybe” category and hope they will magically work themselves out. According to Existential Therapy scholars, people have a hard time making decisions because they don’t want to accept the fact that saying “yes” to one thing means saying “no” to something else. In other words, people don’t like accepting that making a decision requires them to give something up.
The thing is, having things in the “maybe” category feels icky for everyone involved. I remember when I was moving from CA to NY and my hubs organized a going-away party for me. We sent out an email to a bunch of our friends in the area as well as a calendar invite. We got a few “yeses”, a few “nos”, and a ton of “maybes.” Let me tell you, getting all of those “maybes” didn’t feel good. “Maybe” felt like: “If I can’t find anything better to do, I guess I’ll come hang.” Ouch. We didn’t know how many people to expect, how big of a space to reserve, how much food to order, etc. The “nos” felt so much better because there was a feeling of completion. I knew where things stood and I didn’t have to keep thinking about the person or situation.
I’ve been working hard to be more upfront with my “nos.” Even if it’s something I’m excited about but don’t have the capacity for, I’ve been trying to be real with myself and the other person so we both have a clear sense of where things stand. Instead of making up an excuse or deflecting things until later, I’ll say things like:
It’s a whole new way of being in relationship with someone. Sometimes people will get triggered and think they’ve done something wrong to warrant a “no” from me. But most of the time, people will respect my boundaries and feel empowered to be honest with me whenever something doesn’t feel in alignment for them. I’ve found that the more honest I can be with myself and others, the better I feel and the stronger our relationship is.
Connection is not built off of people-pleasing. Connection happens when you can be honest with someone and they are secure enough in themselves to respect where you are at. It might feel uncomfortable at first but I promise you, honesty is the key to true intimacy.
Ask Yourself: How easy is it for you to say “no”? Do you tell someone up front, make an excuse, or talk yourself into doing something you don’t want to? Is there anything lingering in the “maybe” category that you can make a decision on?
Weekly Mantra: I can’t be all things to all people