1. Alan has completed the new Pain Recovery Program. To read or share it, use this updated link: https://www.tmswiki.org/forum/painrecovery/
    Dismiss Notice

Daniel L. How do I learn to say "no"?

Discussion in 'Ask a TMS Therapist' started by Guest, Apr 26, 2015.

  1. Guest

    Guest Guest

    This question was submitted via our Ask a TMS Therapist program. To submit your question, click here.

    Learning to say NO
    I think a lot of my problem is saying 'Yes' to things when I really ant to say 'No'. Currently I am really worried about a project I have been asked to do at work. It is something that will benefit my superior in terms of personal career advancement but for me will just be a huge, extra workload.
    I am really finding it hard to say no as my superior also has the power to have staff transferred and determines the hours we will be employed. Has anyone got any ideas on how to learn to say no please? I think my 'goodist' nature is not nearly assertive enough which I am sure leads to feelings of resentment.
    Ollin likes this.
  2. Alan Gordon LCSW

    Alan Gordon LCSW TMS Therapist

    Did you really run into him two years later, Daniel? That sounds like a movie ending, captain hollywood...

    I agree with Daniel's response, but would tack something on as well. I used to be a complete people pleaser. I'd stay on the phone with telemarketers for minutes on end, once I even attended the wrong lecture in undergrad; I stayed the whole time because I didn't want the professor to think that I was an uninterested student who walked out.

    For me, it was guilt. My mom was pretty emotionally fragile when I was young, and I learned to always protect her so that she wouldn't "break." I took that perspective with me into the world and treated everyone like they were fragile. The thought of hurting anyone's feelings or making anyone uncomfortable made me feel very guilty.

    I eventually taught myself that people aren't fragile, and to challenge that voice in my head that said, "You're bad for hurting their feelings, they can't handle it." I used the anger Daniel spoke about but aimed it toward that voice in my head.

    I became more aware of that automatic response, and responded, "Fuck off, voice. They're fine. People are resilient. And my needs matter too."

    Through awareness, emotional investment, and repetition, I've become pretty good at owning my own needs. Some might say I've even become too good.

    honey badger and Ollin like this.
  3. Daniel G Lyman LCSW

    Daniel G Lyman LCSW TMS Therapist

    This is a tricky situation. On the one hand you want to take care of your own needs, but on the other hand you feel a sense of obligation to take care of your boss’ needs.

    Learning to be assertive can be a trying process, but what I’d encourage you to consider is that assertiveness comes from our anger. When you recognize that someone is not treating you like you to deserve to be treated, it causes anger. With that anger, we can either stuff it down and ignore it, or do something productive with it. Sometimes “something productive” is exercise. Other times, it’s learning to stand up for yourself and assert those feelings of anger.

    Let’s break this down into steps:

    1. Allow yourself to feel angry. That doesn’t mean that you should explode or punch things - all it means is that you can give yourself permission to feel angry.

    2. Ask yourself: How can I express these feelings in a positive way?

    3. If asserting yourself is not the answer, then I’d encourage going for a run, to a yoga class, or working out at the gym.

    4. If you are able to assert yourself, then think about what you might say to the person that made you feel angry.

    If your anger persists, then perhaps it’s indicative of a bigger problem.

    Here’s a story: Before my career as a psychotherapist, I worked at a talent management office in Burbank, CA. One of my bosses used to call me names (they weren’t horrible names, but it was still highly inappropriate), and because the job was in high-demand, for a long time I didn’t say anything to him. One day, he called me a name to my face and I decided that I’d had enough. I walked into his office, asked him if he’d sit down and talk to me, and told him that I wouldn’t put up with his unprofessional behavior anymore. He got angry with me, of course, and decided to leave for the day.

    After that incident we didn’t speak much, and a month later he actually moved to a different company (for an unrelated manner). Two years later, at a business meeting, I ran into him. We made small talk for a couple of minutes before he said to me, “You know, I really hated you for sticking up for yourself that one day, but honestly, I have more respect for you than any other assistant I’ve worked with.”

    So, there you have it. Asserting myself changed the way he treated me in the short term (he no longer called me names), and in the long run I changed the way that he thought about and treated his assistants.

    In your particular situation, I might encourage you to practice your assertiveness in your personal life before you try it out in the workplace. Good luck!

    Any advice or information provided here does not and is not intended to be and should not be taken to constitute specific professional or psychological advice given to any group or individual. This general advice is provided with the guidance that any person who believes that they may be suffering from any medical, psychological, or mindbody condition should seek professional advice from a qualified, registered/licensed physician and/or psychotherapist who has the opportunity to meet with the patient, take a history, possibly examine the patient, review medical and/or mental health records, and provide specific advice and/or treatment based on their experience diagnosing and treating that condition or range of conditions. No general advice provided here should be taken to replace or in any way contradict advice provided by a qualified, registered/licensed physician and/or psychotherapist who has the opportunity to meet with the patient, take a history, possibly examine the patient, review medical and/or mental health records, and provide specific advice and/or treatment based on their experience diagnosing and treating that condition or range of conditions.

    The general advice and information provided in this format is for informational purposes only and cannot serve as a way to screen for, identify, or diagnose depression, anxiety, or other psychological conditions. If you feel you may be suffering from any of these conditions please contact a licensed mental health practitioner for an in-person consultation.

    Questions may be edited for brevity and/or readability.

    honey badger and Ollin like this.
  4. Ollin

    Ollin Peer Supporter

    Beyond the excellent responses from Daniel and Gordon, I can only say that you should already congratulate yourself on recognizing how your inner goodist contributes to your feelings of resentment which is likely to cause your TMS symptoms. In addition, you are in an unresolved conflict situation where on one hand you want to keep the job, but also being treated with respect and fairness, which creates lots of ongoing inner tension.

    It's really tricky sometimes to talk honestly to someone in authority when there isn't an obvious case of discrimination or bullying (even like being called names), but rather professional exploitation. The boss has probably too much at stake if you raise the issue with them directly by saying what you think is going on, so need to be diplomatic. Perhaps you can refer to your role description to set some boundaries, or argue on the basis of your current responsibilities being incompatible with the proposed project. Or maybe negotiate part-time involvement. Would the boss' project require you to work overtime? There are HR guidelines for this. Explore some avenues about the practical aspects, even talk to your coworkers if you can trust them, find some support.

    But for the healing purposes, don't stop asking yourself important questions like what exactly is going on emotionally for you. Why do you think you're a goodist, can you identify the root cause for this behaviour? And if you had a 50/50 chance of winning by standing up for yourself - would it be worth it? How would you do it? How would you feel while doing it and afterwards - depending on the outcome? Rehearsing it mentally can be empowering and healing, and might even pop some good ideas for your real life situation.

    I also have a goodist tendency, which stands from my limiting belief ingrained in childhood that I'm not good enough, not as good or likeable as other people, and need to compensate for it by working extra hard to please others. And then, being very sensitive myself, I want to avoid hurting other people's feelings by imagining myself in their situation. But usually their actual situation is different from what I imagine, and I'm learning that e.g. politely but firmly refusing a telemarketer doesn't really hurt their feelings (though the 'best' ones are real manipulators and may act like their very disappointed - don't fall for that!). Once I recognized situations and individuals that exploit my vulnerability and goodwill, but otherwise have no power over me, I get furious and never let them bully me again.
    Forest and Ellen like this.
  5. honey badger

    honey badger Peer Supporter

    I know these posts went up some time ago, but in case you're still reading ... and for future readers, I thought I'd provide a great link that has helped me a lot with saying 'no.' I think those of us who are "goodists" and "people-pleasers" (the latter of which, thanks to Alan Gordon, I now know is linked to anxiety avoidance) have trouble putting our own needs first, and taking care of ourselves before we serve others. It's all about setting personal boundaries. I've recently discovered that I'm not so good at it, and boy oh boy, am I making up for lost time!

    Here's the link: http://liveboldandbloom.com/08/life-coaching/want-to-boost-your-self-esteem-10-ways-to-establish-personal-boundaries (How To Set Boundaries)

    You'll find ways to set boundaries but also ways to recognize when you're in need of a personal boundary. The number one sign on the link's list of knowing that you haven't set a boundary with someone is not being able to say no when you mean no, or yes when you mean yes. It is super liberating to be able to recognize when you need to set a boundary. To me it has now become a way to recognize that I need self-care, and need to put myself first. Hope this is useful!
  6. honey badger

    honey badger Peer Supporter

    I DREAM of the day when I too may feel like "I've become too good" at owning my own needs. I wish! You're an inspiration. Thank you for sharing this part of your journey.

Share This Page