Is Your "Yes" Button Stuck?
So frequently I see adults whose first impulse is to say yes to their friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors. By in large, they are generous, lovely individuals who have big hearts. Many of these men and women are very community minded. They are the first ones to offer to help a family in need, to volunteer their time, to agree to make 150 sandwiches at a church supper, or to clean up after an open house. To others, they are the bedrock of their communities.
These adults are held in high regard at work too—as they should be. Their community minded spirit is widely perceived. They think about others before they think about themselves. This trait is held in high regard by all of us—because it is good.
But when these folks come to see me, it is because their “yes” button is stuck in the “on” position. They can’t turn it off, even when they want to—even when they know they should.
It’s this “stuck button” that’s the problem. This is when a basically positive trait turns negative, not for others, but for the good-hearted person themselves!
Mary gets home at 10 pm on a Wednesday evening after helping on the clean-up committee for a community function. She worked a full 8 hour day first, but now she folds a huge pile of laundry, puts it away, before she puts a pile of dirty dishes in the dishwasher. She is about the drop into bed, totally exhausted, but then remembers she has to iron her work clothes for the next day!
The next morning, up at 6am, breakfast for the kids, clean up the dishes, packing lunches for everyone, her daughter Sarah asks her if she can drive her to mall after school. Without skipping a beat, Mary says (you guessed it!), “Yes”. Say good morning to another unrelenting day in Mary’s life.
Yes—Mary does like the approval she receives from others. She does like the accolades she receives at work. She does like the appreciation she gets from friends.
But what about her needs? Who is taking care of her? Why can’t she ask for help?
There are times when she feels depleted, needy, and unappreciated. When that happens, she feels discouraged and depressed. Moreover, she is frequently exhausted! There are many reasons for why some individuals can’t say no. Sometimes, they were the children of selfish parents—so they pledged to themselves that they wouldn’t be like their mothers or fathers. Others grew up with a parent who always said yes—and they modeled themselves after that parent. Some individuals may be fearful that if they say “no”, others would think less of them. They are terrified that someone might think that they were “selfish”. Still others grew up in alcoholic families, where they were the responsible child who took care of everyone and everything. There is a long list of diverse reasons for this problem.
Let’s consider ways to get this “Yes” button unstuck so that it can be turned off, regardless of why it is jammed!
Pause before saying yes. When your friend asks you for a favor, take two long deep breaths before answering. Ask yourself “Do I really want to do this? Do I have to do this? What will I have to give up in order to do this? How important is it?”. Then take another deep breath—then decide yes or no.
Practice saying no. Start small. Say no to some small requests. Notice how your feel. Pay attention to your own reaction to saying no. Notice how others react.
Ask for help when you need help. Next time you could use some help, ask a friend or family member. How did that feel? Give others an opportunity to be helpful too!
Put your needs at the same level of importance as other’s needs. Hmm. This is easier said than done for many with stuck “yes” buttons. Your needs are no more or less important than any other person. Be as kind and generous to yourself as you are to others—no more and no less. Taking care of yourself is not the same as being “selfish”.
Share your success stories with saying NO when you used to say YES!