Brain neurologists tell us that if “NO” is repeated emphatically 5-7 times, the signal sent from the anterior cingulate to the frontal lobes of the brain, greatly diminishes creativity and logic. HORRORS! Just think of all the creativity that I have inhibited.
Now before we get too far down the guilt path, let’s stop and think this through rationally.
“No” helps establish protective boundaries We teach our children to say “no”: to the enticements of strangers; to the inappropriate investigation of the human body; to behavior that violates civil, school and home standards; and to the seduction of flattery. We want them to know when “no” is a steel fence around the sacredness of who they are. We want them to understand that they are like one of the crown jewels that is to be guarded by a functional security system.
The outlaw steps outside the law and puts all their creativity to work at committing the perfect crime. The absence of consistent boundaries or the unwillingness of the parent to enforce boundaries, creates insecurity in the child. They keep pushing against the parent trying to find out where the boundaries are.
In the late 70’s, there was an experiment conducted in several Los Angeles primary schools. The fences around the school property were taken down. When that happened, the majority of the children gravitated toward the center of the school playgrounds. When the fences were re-erected, the children dispersed over the whole of the playground. Healthy boundaries establish security, release creativity and engage logic.
When the boundary of the fence is properly established, it helps to inhibit the creativity that looks for a way of getting under, over or through the fence. In my opinion that is a good thing.
Most of us don’t have a problem seeing the application of this as it relates to children. However, when it comes to our personal life we start losing the power to say “No!” and start to cave into the pressure to say “Yes.” We hear a request as an order and before long our stress meter is at the explosive level. The inner drive to please people soon precipitates resentment and sometimes hostility. We start to see people as leeches who are demanding more than we can give. This leads to broken promises, broken relationships and a cesspool of guilt.
How we master the art of saying “No!”
Saying “no” begins with a healthy view of one’s own self. We live within community at a variety of levels. We were created to be social beings. Having said that I must recognize that I am a person separate and distinct from the community. We need to hear the words of Shakespeare, “Know thyself, and to thyself be true.” None of us have unlimited power, can be in two places at the same time, or possess all knowledge. So how does this work? The boss comes in, places a folder on my desk and says,“I want this back on my desk by 4 pm tomorrow.” Under the fear of losing his approval, and potentially our job, we cower to his request. OR we could say,“I know this is urgent to you and I want to fulfill your request. This is what I am currently working on and what needs to be done by the end of the week. I have already made commitments for this evening. What do you think should be adjusted to accommodate your request?” I know that I do not have unlimited capacity and I am placing the responsibility of his request back on his shoulders. “Show me how the priorities of my work should be rearranged to accomplish your request.”
Saying “no” requires that I separate performance from value. The fear of rejection is a strong motivator. Being valued for how I perform is like counterfeit currency—it has no value in the market place of life. It is a wicked task master that keeps driving my life. Poor performance may be tied to several factors, but it is never indicative of the true value of who I am.
Saying no requires understanding the boundaries of my responsibility. Write out and prioritize the responsibilities of your life. These involve home, family, work, community and Church. Along with that, list the 10 most important people in your life. Conclude the exercise by writing out your personal life goals. Filter every request through that list. How does the request affect my relationship to the things that I value most?
This word “NO” has a broad application: it will limit our time on the internet; turn our back to temptation; eliminate the trivial; put a fence around the phone; and help us in the pursuit of those things that are meaningful and precious.
Have a wonderful New Year and a rewarding time exercising your responsibility to say “NO!”