When You Want To Say No But Can’t

I can’t tell him.  

My client welled up with tears, almost unable to speak. She choked on her words, and sobbed. “I didn’t sleep all night.” Her boyfriend of five years had to move since the place he rented was sold by the owner. She knew she didn’t want him to move in with her.

She also knew he would be very hurt if she told him the truth.

Giving someone “bad” news, before you even deliver it, can wreak havoc on the nervous system if you have a lot of beliefs about Not Hurting Other Peoples’ Feelings.

Never hurt other people. Ever!

This means if they have a look on their face that could be interpreted as sad, upset, irritated, angry, frightened, anxious or devastated….

….then that feeling needs to be eradicated inside that other person ASAP.

Especially if YOU had anything to do with it.

So if you know that the other person is going to cry, or feel terrified, or get disappointed about something you are thinking or something you want to say, then you better be quiet and slip out the back door.

Heh Heh. Not that I can relate or anything.

It is quite terrible to have three opposing thoughts running as very deep, maybe very old beliefs at the same time: 1) It’s terrible to hurt someone’s feelings, 2) I want to say NO, 3) If I say NO it will hurt his feelings.

Here we go round the mulberry bush, loop-dee-loop roller-coaster.

Stop this thing, I wanna get off!

Let’s do The Work.

“I can hurt someone’s feelings if I say NO.”

Is that true?

Yes. I saw his face. I know it.

Can you absolutely 100% beyond-any-doubt know it?

No. It appears that life goes on for most people even when they receive a “no”. It’s a simple answer. They get to move on to the next thing. They take as long as they take. It’s quite complicated sometimes. Maybe it has absolutely nothing to do with me. At all.

How do you react when you believe that he can be hurt by you saying NO?

Bottled up like a cork going around on a Disney Land ride that never quits. Dizzy and sick.

Who would you be without the thought that saying no is hurtful?

Really? Wow. Liberating.

“Give me a peaceful reason to believe this insane idea that you could have that much influence over anyone….As long as you think that it’s compassionate for human beings, and loving, to believe that you can hurt someone….that’s crazy where I come from. I don’t have that power.” ~ Byron Katie

I turn the thought around: I can’t hurt someone’s feelings with my NO. I can hurt my own feelings with their NO.


That person over there, who I love dearly, and who hears my NO is actually filtering this answer through an entire history and world of past experience. I can sit here and cherish them, and know they are fine even though my answer is NO.

Once, a father and daughter came to see me to do The Work. They were remarkable in their honesty and love for each other. The daughter did a worksheet on her dad. She was upset that he said NO to giving her financial support, and he clearly had it to give.

But with a loving heart he spoke what appeared to be deeply true for him. “I love you and want you to find your own way with money.”

They hugged a long, tender hug at the end of the powerful session. The truth was spoken.

Everyone lived.

And then there’s me and all the times I myself got all freaked out when someone said no, or even appeared to say no.

God forbid, they are saying no to MOI? Shocking!

Yeah, I have taken other peoples’ NO’s personally. I thought it meant something about ME. Something bad. Gosh, could it be mistaken thinking?

“When you believe the thought that anyone should love you, that’s where the pain begins. I often say, ‘If I had a prayer, it would be: God spare me from the desire for love, approval, or appreciation. Amen.” ~ Byron Katie

It is not terrible to hurt someone’s feelings. It is terrible to hurt my own feelings (especially by faking yes when I really mean no). I can hurt someone’s feelings by saying YES when I really mean NO.

All those turnarounds are truer!

“God permits you to be happy no matter what or when. Nature permits you to be happy no matter what or when. The only permission you need is yours to be happy all the time.” ~ Bruce DiMarsico

Happy when people say no to me, happy when I say no to people, happy when I say no to myself.

Maybe it is all OK, even if someone feels hurt, even if you have felt hurt. Maybe it is healing, not really “hurting”.

Now go forth and say no! Unless it’s yes.

Much love, Grace

8 Replies to “When You Want To Say No But Can’t”

  1. You are so welcome, Yvonne. How sweet to tenderly hold that person with their yes/no mixup in the empathic way you mention. Much love, Grace

  2. Beautifully said, and inspiring to hear your journey. Thanks so, so much for sharing it. Will be very exciting to see what happens next. Much love, Grace

  3. Yup Yup Yup!

    Sometimes a no hurts less than a yes… Especially in the long run.

    My now ex-partner moved out a month ago, after 2.5 years of living together. Un-harmoniously. He was not very keen (or ready) to move in together, when I asked him to, two and a half years ago. He had recently come out of a 7 year relationship, and it was way too soon for him to be moving in with me. He didn’t deep-down want to. I recognize that now. I should have recognized it then, but I didn’t, because I was so excited to be moving in with him. My Yes was genuine. His Yes was not. His was a No masquerading as a Yes.

    He didn’t want to hurt me by saying “no”. So instead, he hurt us both by saying yes.

    Had he just said no, he would have saved us both a lot of heartache. And time. A “no” would have been fine. I would have been ok with that :) Disappointed, but life would have gone on. We probably would have continued dating. We probably would have realized that we weren’t a good match. And it probably would have been much easier to end the relationship, a while ago, rather than drag it out because we lived together.

    I don’t believe in living with regrets, so I’m not regretting having moved in together. We both grew tremendously, learned a lot about ourselves, and it was great in many ways. But it never felt right, it never felt sincere or honest. It felt as though he was there simply because he had been too afraid to say no. And that isn’t healthy for anyone. Or fair, on anyone.

    I’m guilty of having done the same thing in a past relationship. I moved in with a partner, when I didn’t fully, truly, whole-heartedly want to. He was very keen, and I was very hesitant. It never sat right, and it wasn’t a peaceful way to live, for either of us.

    We always know when we want to say No.

    I’m now free of that kind of falsehood, and looking forward to the future, when I’ll someday exchange a hearty and heartfelt “Yes!!!” with someone, when the idea of moving in together comes up :) Until then, no more Yes-es that deep down are really No’s. We can always tell the difference. We always know.

  4. Yes, what a great observation Cate. I do indeed think that different steps in The Work fit most beautifully and eloquently into the process. You never know where an A-Ha is going to open up, or some tiny awareness. I love your example of the rock being thrown. Yes, the rock blow causes pain (although everything, even that, can be questioned–not to deny anything, more for the amazing answers discovered). There are things I might say to someone that I know would be painful for them, and I choose not to say them because the most loving path would be not to share it, as there is no reason for it.

    I love what you ask, and additional questions. Every situation is unique. Indeed that is perfect to look at everything that might be triggered, including the anticipation of the other person’s actions. I find that if I anticipate another’s reaction, though, and try to prevent it, feel fearful of it (I am thinking of the scenario where someone might end the relationship because of my own no) then I am seeing myself as far less than I really am. I am seeing myself as someone who can be “left” or who is afraid of a relationship ending. I am believing I need the status quo, the “intact” relationship. I am even thinking I like having hope, or to hold those dreams pretty vividly for the future. It is so powerful to really deeply question that I have to try to make something happen because I would like it better (like stay together). I am finding that oddly enough, the more hopeless I become, in a good way–like this sort of strange detachment about whatever happens–willing to go through anything, the less fearful.

    Thank you so much for writing, thank you for sharing.
    Love, Grace

  5. Grace, Do you think that sometimes that one of the 4 questions of inquiry and/or the turnaround are more helpful than others? When I read your post, I thought that because most of us much of the time are less the fully reality-based (self-realized) people we seek to be, and because our emotions stem from thoughts that are accordingly not reality based, we are often hurt in such situations as described in this post. As you indicated, you could relate to the situation and, I would guess, most of us could— the dreams dreamt together or alone about a future in relationship is broken at times by one or the other and it hurts. As dreams, they are not real, but they are full of hope. At such times, we know our actions in relationship can hurt the other, and that isn’t a bad thing. (If a rock is thrown at me, I can perhaps transcend the fear and other thoughts related to the event, but the rock blow hurts nonetheless.) So pain doesn’t become nonexistent because of its origins and state of awareness of the holder of the pain, when it comes into being. Acknowledging the reality of such pain, of course, doesn’t negate that each of us controls our hurt and feelings by how we think about them and the world.

    What is powerful about the Work in this and other cases, it seems to me, are the turnarounds, as you demonstrated. It is more hurtful when someone fools another about what they really want; we might also believe as the truth that another wants to live with us, and find that isn’t true at all. So honesty is always better in such situations, but not because we won’t inflict pain. We might be 90% sure we will cause pain to another (Is it true?), and still need to be honest. This inquiry also seems to beg for more questions, such as is the woman afraid of hurting the boyfriend or is it possible that she is afraid of what the boyfriend might do, such as end the relationship? I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks.

  6. Thank you for this. Much of it really resonated with me, and this line in particular: “It is terrible to hurt my own feelings (especially by faking yes when I really mean no).”

    As I read it, I felt an instant understanding of someone who years ago said yes to me about something when she meant no. The outcome of that yes was what at the time I believed to be a string of broken promises, about which I felt resentful .
    Over the years, I’ve let go of much of that resentment, yet some residue remained – or not maybe resentment, but a sort of defensiveness perhaps. And suddenly reading that sentence of yours, I felt deep empathy for the other person.
    Thank you.

  7. You are so welcome! Thanks for your comment and let me know how it goes with who you are without believing the thought!–Love, Grace

  8. OMG, Grace. This one is especially powerful for me. I have had this belief for a long time. For as long as I can remember in this lifetime. It’s lovely to do the work around them. :) Thank you!

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