I once read a story about two guys who were trying to figure out what they were going to do that weekend. Bob asked Frank if he wanted to go fishing. Frank didn’t really want to go fishing, but thought that Bob wanted to go, so he said OK. It turns out that Bob didn’t want to go fishing either – he thought Frank did. So they both went fishing and they both were miserable. It would have been great if they both had been honest. They could have had a really good time together if they hadn’t spent so much time trying to second-guess what each other wanted.
I had a friend who stopped by my work one day. I asked her if she wanted to go to a frozen yogurt place for a little bit as I was about to get off of work. She said no, and said we’d need to arrange something later. A coworker who overheard thought this was very rude. It isn’t. She had other plans that I didn’t know about. She was about to go out to supper with her husband. Also, she doesn’t like to eat frozen yogurt right before a meal – both things that I didn’t know. She was taking her needs into consideration. I’d rather her say no than say yes and feel resentful.
To agree to something just to make somebody else happy isn’t honest. If your agreeing to it harms you or is an inconvenience to you, then you have to speak up. Both people’s needs have to be met. Sometimes a compromise is involved. Sometimes neither party will get her way and nothing happens at all.
It is difficult to say no. We are taught to be people-pleasers. We are taught to keep the peace. But it is very important that we don’t become doormats. Better to say no and feel guilty than to say yes and feel resentful.
It helps to analyze why you feel guilty to say no. Were you taught this by your parents or teachers? Were you taught that to speak your mind was bad? Were you taught that to stand up for yourself is bad? Perhaps they taught you this way because their parents or teachers taught them the same thing. Perhaps they feel a need to control others they feel are lesser than them.