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The Power of No!

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to discuss the power of saying “No!”
The Power of No!

First a quick update:

“What a woman wants – and how to give it to her”
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Now, let’s talk about the power of saying “No!”

In the 2008 motion picture “Yes Man”, loosely based on a true story and book, Jim Carrey plays Carl, a withdrawn and depressed man who hides in his apartment watching DVDs and avoiding friends, invitations and outings.

One day, a friend invites Carl to a “Yes” self-improvement seminar. Carl attends and makes a covenant to say “yes” to everything. As the movie unfolds, Carl does say yes to every invitation and request, no matter how bizarre. Carl’s life changes for the better and he even begins a relationship with a woman who steals his heart – Allison, played by Zooey Deschanel. But one day things turn sour. Allison walks out on him, after learning that he is simply saying yes to her invitation to live together because of his “yes covenant.”

Eventually Carl returns to the motivational trainer and requests that he be set free from his covenant. The trainer points out to Carl that he took the “yes” concept to an extreme. Carl gets the lesson and returns to Allison to speak his heart. He tells her that he loves her but isn’t ready just yet to live together. Their relationship strengthens and Carl gains self-respect and confidence.

A key point here is balance; knowing when to say yes and when to say no. Many people live out of fear, choosing to become prisoners of their own comfort zone, thus turning down opportunities to live life and create new adventures. On the flip side, many people live out of fear and thus are unable to say no and be true to themselves.

Jane is a 35 year old married mother of three children. Whenever her eldest daughter asks Jane to do something, Jane says yes and does it. But the next day, Jane feels ill, weak and lethargic or she seems to become irritable, frustrated and flies off the handle easily. Why?

Jane isn’t being true to her feelings and desires. In most cases when she says yes, she really wanted to say no. And every time she fails to speak her truth, she either weakens and becomes depressed (turning her anger inward) or becomes irritable and enraged (turning her anger outward.) Of course, Jane is actually angry at herself for not having said “no!”

Why do people find it so hard to say “no”?

  1. Fear of rejection
  2. Fear of loss
  3. Avoidance of confrontation and criticism
  4. Peer pressure – desire for approval and acceptance
  5. Low self-esteem and self-image
  6. Lack of belief in oneself and one’s abilities
  7. Lack of training; not having been encouraged and taught to speak up for oneself or to express oneself
  8. Psychological conformity: “fear of being different and the anxiety of uncertainty of what to do” – the phenomenon of agreeing with the majority

With regards to the last point, decades of research reveals that people tend to go along with the majority view, even if that view is objectively incorrect.

In 2009, Vasily Klucharev, postdoctoral fellow at the F.C. Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging in the Netherlands, led a study that reveals that when people take on an opinion different to others in a group, a part of the brain associated with learning produces an error signal. A part of the brain that registers mistakes often referred to as the “oops area” sparks, and the “reward area” slows down, thus making us conclude and feel that we are being too different.

“We show that a deviation from the group opinion is regarded by the brain as a punishment,” said Vasily Klucharev. Consequently, most people will change their mind and opinions.

In the cited study, female participants were asked to rate on a scale of one to eight the physical beauty of 222 faces. Afterwards, researchers told each participant either that the average score was higher or that it was lower than her rating. Some participants were told the average rating was equal to her rating. The researchers then chatted with the participant before suddenly asking the participant to do the rating again. Most subjects changed their opinion toward the average.

Why do people tend to conform? Some people look to the group because they’re unsure of what to do, while others go along with the norm because they are afraid of being different. That response can then lead to following orders, even if those orders entail harming another person.

American Social Psychologist, Stanley Milgram, conducted experiments in the 1960s and 1970s in which most people obeyed orders to deliver gradual electric shocks and eventually electric shocks of 450 volts to an innocent person in the next room – in spite of the screams of agony from the person receiving the shocks. The participants caved into social pressure, almost resulting in blind obedience and thus going against their own previous moral convictions and conscience.

Interestingly, the participants began by obeying orders to administer small voltages that increased in small doses over time. And it is that incremental approach that is a powerful way to change attitudes and behaviors. In other words, the more often you continue to say yes when you wanted to say no, you are actually reprogramming your mind, habits and behaviors and eventually you will automatically find yourself responding in a manner of submission and against your integrity, beliefs, morals and values. This is the way that abusive people break down their partner or family members – physically, mentally and emotionally – resulting in blind obedience, extreme and crippling fear & anxiety and total submission.

A similar example is that of children of alcoholic parents who may have been raised with fear, always walking on egg shells, afraid to speak or do anything in case the alcoholic parent broke out into violent or abusive rage.

One of my clients Steven had a similar experience, although his father never drank. Steven was afraid of his father because his father (the authority figure) was stern, cold, harsh and uninterested. And when Steven’s father did speak, he would do so in a loud, booming and condemnatory voice, criticizing little Steven. The result is that when Steve first came to me, he lacked self-confidence, was afraid to express his opinions and had little idea of what he really wanted in life because no one had asked him for his opinions or feelings and he felt that those feelings and desires didn’t count. Obviously then, Steve found it hard to say no to people around him, particularly people in authority because he feared confrontation and condemnation.

Learning to say no:

  1. Become aware of why you are afraid to say no (see above list); what do you fear will happen? Who taught you to act this way?
  2. Take small steps and say no to small things
  3. If you find it difficult to vocalize the word “no” or to face the person, then start by writing it; state it simply without excuses or justification i.e. “I won’t be attending the event but thank you for the invitation”
  4. Become aware and accept that it is a natural response to feel strange or uncomfortable when going against the majority opinion
  5. Be willing to use anger at first to must the strength to stand up for yourself and say no until it becomes natural for you
  6. Respect others at all times and respect that others may not like your “no” and that they may even criticize you or be shocked because you are doing something new and something they don’t like

When to say no:

I have taught in relationship training seminars that if a person does not know what he or she wants in life, then he or she becomes easily swayed, confused and misled. In other words, it is critical to become clear about what you want, what is important to you and what you will and won’t accept. Make a list of the things that you refuse to accept in your life – things that you don’t do (lying to cover someone else, giving your car out to others or whatever it is that you decide.)

Finally, remember the more often you practice empowering yourself to say no, the more self-respect you will create, the higher you will raise your self-esteem and confidence and the better quality people you will attract into your life; people who will respect your “no!”

If you want more confidence to say no and be true to yourself then download now and use my hypnosis audio program: “Supreme Self-Confidence”.

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & Clinical Hypnotherapist

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