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  • Corinne Yeadon

Can't Say No?

The disruption and chaos caused by Storm Ciara this week prompted many to make decisions about travelling and not fulfilling existing personal or professional commitments. A cognitive and emotional wrangle ensued for many. Looking at this objectively, surely personal safety comes first? If this were genuinely the case, then why the indecision? Often the perceived consequences of, “letting people down” far supersedes any other consideration, even that of risk to personal safety.


As specialists in addictions, a lion’s share of our work is encouraging people to assert refusal skills in order to conquer addiction and maintain recovery. An integral part of working with concerned others who are impacted by a loved one’s drug or alcohol use, is the prioritising of own needs and the assertion of healthy relationship boundaries.


Saying, “no” extends to other unhelpful habits, irrespective of an addiction, it can be linked to eating or spending money. The feelings of guilt and shame that follow episodes of overeating or impulse buying can be as severe and debilitating.



One of the key skills to positive self care is saying, “no.” Over commitment at work or home can leave someone feeling overwhelmed, undervalued and exhausted. There is generally positive intent behind saying, “yes,” a belief that the gesture or act will be reciprocated. If this doesn’t happen it can create feelings of being unappreciated and escalate to feelings of resentment.


Why is saying “no” so challenging for us? Our programming often means we grow up with the belief that saying, “no” is uncooperative, selfish and downright rude. From childhood there seems to be a jumbled connection that refusal suggests defiance and being impolite. In adulthood there seems to be an inference that it will reflect badly on our capacity for generosity or reliability. These conflicting messages only serve to tinker with our ability to protect ourselves and feel comfortable with our decision making.


The beauty of beginning to use refusal skills, is that it rapidly becomes evident that it doesn’t make you an unkind person with no friends or an unreliable employee or colleague. There may be some people who have expectations because of historical compliance but the only way this will alter is by doing things differently, people adjust! If a person continues to react against your non-compliance maybe thought needs to be given to the nature of the relationship and if the reason for its success or failure is dependent on compromising yourself?


As with any positive change, refusal skills become easier than you think to implement. A new way of thinking and behaving becomes a new way of being. The advantages are feeling more in control and less consumed by what others may be thinking and feeling about you. More importantly it strengthens view of self, impacts positively on self acceptance and nurtures all aspects of self care.

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