Because most of us like to think of ourselves as nice, thoughtful, and kind, saying no may be something that can be difficult for us. We all seek behavior that is consistent with our self-concept. If we think that saying no makes us unloving and unaccommodating, therefore in conflict with our valued self-image, we will struggle with saying no.
I recently saw the movie 10 Questions for the Dalai Lama. In the movie the Dalai Lama, the leader of the Buddhist religion, turned away interviewers who seemed disrespectful or disingenuous. This was a revelation for me. I was surprised somehow because I believed that he would most likely entertain anybody who asked. It was personally liberating to see that he didn’t suffer fools gladly. He quickly sent away those people he felt were wasting his time. In other words, he said no.
The Buddhist nun Pema Chodron calls compassion that essentially leads us to say yes when we need to say no “dumb compassion.” I am a big believer in compassion as a powerful force of love in the world. Yet, when we are extending ourselves in a way that is detrimental to ourselves or others, we are exhibiting dumb compassion. To enable others with our “yes” and condone, sanction, and assist others in behavior that hurts us or them is an example of dumb compassion. It isn’t more benevolent to say yes when we need to say no.
If we have said “no” three times and they don’t seem to respect our “no” we can be assured they are trying to control us. We may need to walk away if we aren’t being listened to.
Certainly, if saying “no” is okay for the Dalai Lama, whose name means monk with wisdom as big as the ocean, it is undoubtedly okay for you and I.