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wundayatta's avatar

Is there anyone else out there who has trouble saying no?

Asked by wundayatta (58663points) July 1st, 2009

I realized today, in therapy, that I am afraid to say no, especially to people I am, say, married to. I’m afraid that if I don’t do everything they want, they will leave me. I can say no, but I prefer not to. When I know she wants to ask me to do something that I don’t want to do, I try to make it difficult for her to ask, so I won’t have to say no. I think it comes because I hate it when someone says no to me. If I think someone will say no, I won’t ask the question.

This only works (or doesn’t work) for people I know very well, and who I can read without talking to them. With people I know less well, I have to ask, because I have little idea of what they’ll say. This shame about being told no was not great when I was in high school. It was nearly impossible for me to ask someone out. I guess the shame came from having to think (and others thinking) that I am a loser if people say no to me.

Anyway, if anyone else has this trouble, what is it like for you, and what have you done to overcome this issue?

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18 Answers

Grisaille's avatar

I suffer the opposite. I’m too thickheaded and stubborn to say “yes” sometimes.

jbfletcherfan's avatar

No, I’m pretty good at saying no. I’m not put in that situation very often. But when I am, & I think ‘no’ is the right way to go, I say it.

srmorgan's avatar

@daloon – That first line is a classic, I read it to my beloved and got an icy stare. Some people, say people I am married to, can’t take a joke.
I find that with myself the issue is not so much being unable to say no, but rather a compulsive desire to please people, to ingratiate myself with them, and I do it whether is beneficial or detrimental to me.

As a matter of fact, I could take 90% of your post and use it as my own post. We are that similar.
First off, for merely saying no, your beloved is not going to leave you. Most requests are voluntary, but with a spouse they may be mandatory (sigh). If you asked your wife for a favor or to stop smoking or to change her underwear more frequently and she refused do you think you would leave her? Well with the third one maybe.

Put yourself in her shoes, most requests are trivial and don’t mean anything the day after. Some are important and you have to be ready to hold your ground if you don’t want to agree to do something.

I went through hell once, being afraid to ask a woman to cease doing something because I was terrified that she would break up with me. She did not think she was doing anything wrong and I learned that if you don’t say no, or object to something you don’t like, then you are saying yes and accepting or condoning the behavior.

Look, I am nearly 60 and I am not completely over this mental block. I get screwed at work sometimes because I don’t like to say no in a direct reply to my boss or someone at my own level but I have gotten better.

You know when you want to say no. If you can’t say no, take the Japanese approach and make a deflecting remark which changes the subject and does not compel you to say no. But in the interim you have not said yes either.

Does this make any sense? Of course it does because you won’t say no….

Your therapist is the best judge of why you do this and I would rely on his or her interpretation of what can be a self-defeating problem.


gymnastchick729's avatar

Have you seen the movie “Yes Man”?

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

Not anymore. I burned myself out in my mid 20’s trying to say yes to whatever I felt I was capable of because I thought I had some duty to do as much as humanly possible. Since then, I’ve learned to pick more carefully where to expend my energy and to drum it into my own very thick skull that good intentions and good deeds are not necessarily rewarded and I am not an altruistic benevolent person. Accept that you aren’t a loser or selfish or bad if you want to choose what’s best for you sometimes.

fireinthepriory's avatar

Yes I do! I’m always overcommitted because when people ask me for favors I can’t say no. Especially in terms of people who want me to say, lay out a program for an event or photograph something I’m always more than happy to agree, since it’s flattering to be asked… until I’m giving up my saturday afternoon. In high school my biology teacher famously said to me “You need to learn to say no or you’re going to end up pregnant!” Well I’m not pregnant (although that’s not really a big feat, my being pretty gay) and I am better than I used to be, but I certainly still have difficulty saying no.

Lupin's avatar

Oh @daloon , you’d love Japan. Everyone knows how to say “yes” ”(Hai)” but do you know how to say “no”? Of course not. It is considered rude. Here are some examples that would result in an American “no”, and how Japanese handle it. If I were to ask you “Is this text red?” in polite Japanese you would say: “It is a little different”. (Chotto chigaimasu.)
Or If I ask you to lend me $10,000. You would might say “It is a little difficult.” (Chotto musugashii)
People will even say yes when they mean no. Can you deliver the parts tomorrow? “Yes I understand”. (Hai Wakarimasu) That means “no”!
The word at the end of the sentence: desu, ga, da, ka… completely changes the meaning of the sentence. It can be a statement; a statement ending in “but”; a strong statement; or a question. You start the sentence and watch the other person. If they appear uncomfortable you change the ending to “but”. If they look positive, you make it a statement.
It took me a while to get it, but once I did, the system made perfect sense. You never want the other person to be uncomfortable. As long as both sides understand the code things are smooth. When cultures are different you can have problems.
So can I have that $10000 now?

whatthefluther's avatar

I have had a life-long weakness….I am a sucker for a beautiful woman and can’t say “no.” Fortunately, and at the same time, unfortunately, I have been blessed with a nice number of opportunities where “no” was non-existent in my vocabulary for extended periods of time. @sccrowell caught on to this early in our relationship….I have never said “no” to her in the last five years and am certain I will never, ever say “no” to her for the rest of my life. I never thought, as recently as yesterday, that I would be buying another car, let alone a Mercedes or BMW, but YES, I am shopping to buy one! Soon to be poorer….wtf

Bri_L's avatar

I do have trouble.

ru2bz46's avatar

I have so much trouble saying “no” that I keep volunteering to do more. Lately, through yoga, I have been learning to feed my own needs before the needs of others. It is a slow process. I still put most of the wants of others above my own, though.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

People will take advantage of those who have a hard time saying no.
It’s ok to not have to please everyone. I think “no” is a healthy thing many times.

zephyr826's avatar

I am working on it, having gotten myself over-involved to a point of physical illness. My husband is trying to get me to cut one major commitment a year, so that I’m only committed to things I actually enjoy doing. So far, I quit coaching sports (a good choice for me as I was voted least athletic in my Senior class).

chyna's avatar

Yes, no, well sometimes.

Darwin's avatar

Yes, I have problems saying no. I am trying to cut back on saying yes to others so often that there is no time to say yes to myself, but I am not there yet. My therapist is trying to get me to do a better job.

watdat's avatar


krose1223's avatar

I am definitely a people pleaser. I am overly sensitive in every way. I am not only sensitive to my own feelings but also everyone around me. If I feel like I would be letting someone down by saying no I will do whatever it is just to keep them happy. I tend to get along with people even if they get under my skin, just because I can’t stand up for myself. I too hate rejection, I find myself getting out of things just to avoid rejection. I think I know what you’re saying, and I think I am very similar.
I’m just not as good at explaining as you.

liminal's avatar

you could always try “I do not want to say yes.”

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