10 Oct Living the Four Agreements: Your best NO!
Last blog I wrote about yes; this blog we will explore getting to love NO, both giving and receiving.
Author Byron Katie shares a brilliant observation about “no:” When you say no to someone else you are saying yes to yourself.
Yes and no go hand in hand. For each yes, there is a no, for each no there is a yes. To live a full yes, we must be able to give a full no.
Part of doing our best is learning to give 100 percent no’s. Not maybe no’s, not “is it okay if I say no”, not a justified no, but just plain old no. The challenge is that most of us are terrible at saying no. And even worse at receiving it.
We humans have created a lot of suffering around such a tiny, two-letter word. The word “no” has been linked to being rejected, not getting love and acceptance, and being closed. No is filled with negative meaning assignments, which means that we tend to take no very, very personally.
It is a great practice to explore where and why you have a hard time saying no in your life. Is it because you are afraid if you say no you won’t be liked? Or that you will miss something? Or that you don’t have any right to say no? Or that the only way to love others is to always say yes, even when it goes against you?
I used to do everything in my power to avoid telling other people no. I had a false belief that if I always said yes to any request, from advice to labor, work projects to social visits, I’d be a good girl. Eventually the insanity and stress in my life overwhelmed my desire for everyone to like me. I learned to say no, at first awkwardly, but after lots of practice with grace and ease and an open heart.
I still have to watch myself, as my old belief that doing my best is always saying yes to everything still creeps in. I am much more aware, and I know the tell-tale signs of a lack of good no’s in my life; irritability, overwhelm, and constantly postponing projects that are really important to me.
The other aspect of learning to say no is learning to receive a no without taking it personally. As I wrote in a previous blog:
… The flip side of giving a robust yes is the courage it takes to ask for a clear yes or no from others. If you fear what the answer will be, you might make due living in an ambiguous situation. This can easily lead to making assumptions and writing stories about the other person’s experience. Not much fun. So be brave, be open, and ask, inviting the truth of yes or no.
Now it’s time to explore any place you have a hard time receiving no in your life. What beliefs do you attach to someone else’s no? That they are rejecting you? That you have been bad? That everyone should always say yes to you, even if it goes against them? List all the reasons that you cause yourself to suffer when someone says no to you.
I had a recent experience when someone I cared about deeply said no to being in communication with me. At first I took it very personally, and my feelings were hurt. As I sat with myself and watched my reaction to their no, I realized a few truths. One, when I honored their right to say no, and when I didn’t use it against myself, I felt better. I didn’t have to take their no personally – it was about them, not about me. And that their no was for right now; it was possible that their no would change one day. These truths dissolved my angst, and let me simply love my friend unconditionally for their no and their yes. This is respect, of self and other.
This week’s practice: Watch to see where you withhold your no, or where you are afraid to ask someone else for their yes or no. Practice making clear decisions, and put your energy and actions behind saying no. And in places where their is unclarity in a relationship or agreement, do your best to ask with love and no expectations for their yes or their no.
Heather Ash’s apprenticeship with don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements, began in 1994, and she now teaches with the Ruiz family. She is the author of The Toltec Path of Transformation and founder of Toci, The Toltec Center of Creative Intent. www.toci.org