Are You Saying Yes When You Really Mean No?

“Friends are enemies sometimes, and enemies friends….”

Are you saying “yes” when you really mean “no”?

This powerful line from Rumi’s poem, Checkmate, always sounded Shakespearean to me.

As in, people can secretly hold grudges, scheme plots to overthrow kingdoms or stab someone close to them in the back.

Those aren’t really friends.

They’re enemies, obviously. They’re tricking innocent victims in their own vicious lunge for power. They care nothing, truly, for other people unless those people help them climb higher.

Danger! Enemies on the loose! Watch out for those evil dastardly people!

But I realized something far closer, and much more subtle about this poetry awhile ago.

And how it applied to my own life.

A man I knew, every time we ran into each other, would shower me with positive oooohs and ahhhhs at the marvelous accomplishments I reported happening in my life. He would ask me all kinds of questions.

“Oh….you’re writing a book? Wow, fabulous. I want to know all about it. Who’s your agent?”

“We MUST get together to swap business building techniques!”

“I’d love to have you join me to present a program to the tech company who just hired me…..I think we could expand beyond the company with all your followers, you really draw a lot of people.”

I had an uneasiness every time we spoke.

I couldn’t put my finger on it.

When people took pictures, he’d quickly put his arm around my shoulder.

Every single thing “seemed” normal. Nothing was really weird.

Except….I didn’t like him!

In fact, he drove me freakin’ nuts!!!!

Have you ever seen that cartoon of the male french skunk Pepe Le Pew who is constantly grabbing the female skunk who is trying to squeeze out of his “loving” arms?


It was like that only teensy eensy tiny.

Now here’s the thing.

I would think over and over, “What’s wrong with me? Just be nice. You only see him once or twice a year at the same event. Just chill.”

Then, when reading this poem at a retreat, his face came to mind.

And I got it, suddenly.

Who would I be without the belief that I need his approval? I need to be nice? I need his friendship? I need to be polite?

Who would I be without the belief I have to figure out why I don’t like him, or analyze myself, or get myself to be more accepting?

And also, who would I be without the thought that he’s creepy or weird or slimy, either?

I would just have a simple “no”.


No agonizing over what’s right or wrong. No confusion, or wondering, or trying to find a good reason to say “I’d rather not get together for any business-building conversations. I’m not interested.”

I wouldn’t be trying to look up in the imaginary rule book in the sky what the Nice Thing To Do is, in this situation.

As if I couldn’t trust my own gut.

I wouldn’t even be in a position to have the urge to avoid him. I’d be up front and direct.

I wouldn’t have to find MORE things that bother me about him, or dig up something, just to justify saying “no thanks!”

I’d honor myself.

So I said “no thanks”.

And felt the relief permeate my whole body.

No idea what it will be like next time I run into him.

“Honest communication begins with you communicating with yourself. It means responding with what is true for you, regardless of how someone may react to your answer. First you have to discover what is really true for you. A dishonest yes is a no to yourself.” ~ Byron Katie in I Need Your Love–Is That True?

I feel grateful for this person, who may or may not show up in my life again soon. I love that there’s no danger.

There’s no knowing.

If worry appears, or anticipation….that’s OK too. It’s exciting. I know I can trust myself to respond. Later. When it’s required.

Right now, the future isn’t actually here. DOH!

That’s true love. True love to me, true love to him.

The rest is none of my business.

Much love, Grace

7 Replies to “Are You Saying Yes When You Really Mean No?”

  1. Great Gracenote!
    Here is another angle that may help clarify for others…something I discovered about me. I tend to actually be attracted to (in an addictive kind of way) to *what I’m FAMILIAR WITH* from my traumatic past—really pre and perinatal days. So the folks I think I would be *good* with me, are actually the worst possible fit…and I do tend to go back there in my choices. I often unwittingly go to them, and think I’m being discerning about it…someone who is the worst possible choice of character. It is from having very inadequate models from the beginning of life, but systematically going inside (to your somatic feelings) to trust your physical feelings AS each transaction takes place, will get you past those deceptive grooves of FAMILIARITY. That sound’s awful doesn’t it–you keep going for what you don’t want. You appear incongruent and inadvertently, you are! Presence in your own core moves you past it.

  2. What a touching comment to read. So sweet to hear from you and yes….Checkmate. Always, wow. I read it again at Breitenbush this year. Much love, Grace

  3. I remember when I heard ‘Checkmate’ for the first time; you read it to us at the breitenbush retreat last year and it touched me to the core. Beautiful poem to remind me of, beautiful Byron Katie quote and most importantly, beautiful writing! I love your newsletters, they are so fluidly written, a joy to follow, and always come at the PERFECT time. In this case, your writing reminded me to get back on the work grind!! The good kind :)

  4. Oh so very welcome. It’s so sweet to catch that “no”. I find it also takes away all the resentment! Thanks for your note, much appreciated. Love, Grace

  5. Thank you so much for this, Grace. I’ve been bothered by a few things with a friend recently and this really clarified things for me, where I have been stifling my “no”, I have not been honoring myself. Just reading this gives me clarity and sanity. You’re wonderful. xo

  6. Hi Grace,
    Thank you for this post. I’ve had this happen and you explained it so perfectly what goes on in your mind when someone like this shows up. Once again I am reminded to trust “me” and what I feel. Thank you!

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