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For years I have been coming across the statement: "I won't say NO because I will hurt them." 





I got intrigued by how such situations may look from the inside - who hurts whom or if it is hurting anyone a question here at all.


To be able to see it more clearly, I decided to break down the exemplary situation into prime factors.


  • Someone wants us to give or do something for them.

  • We don't want to give or do it for them (we have our reasons).

  • Yet we decide to give or do it reluctantly as we are afraid our refusal “will hurt them."

  • Someone gets something we didn't want to give them.

  • We get angry at them for "making" us provide or do what we didn't want. We also blame them for making us feel bad and behaving a certain way, that would make us feel selfish if we refused.

  • We also get angry that we have betrayed ourselves.


What are the possible consequences of such a solution?


Someone got something from us, but we didn't provide a clear message that we didn't want to give or do that for them. We are dissatisfied with ourselves, but deep inside we blame the other party for "forcing" or “manipulating” us to agree. However, as we don't admit it openly and pretend everything is fine, because we are afraid to be otherwise called egoists, we "pollute" our relations with insincerity and distance ourselves, holding grudges. However, this is us who created the whole situation by being not very honest from the very beginning.


Let's imagine a situation in which we make a different choice.


  • Someone wants us to give or do something for them.

  • We don't want to give or do it for them (we have our reasons).

  • We decline politely and honestly, saying NO to their request (I won’t give it to you, I won’t do something you’re asking me for, etc. - for reasons we do not need to discuss and we have every right to it).

  • The person is dissatisfied and/or angry at us. It's not so bad if they are open about what they feel as there's a reference point for discussion and potential clarification, but when they pretend to be ok, the atmosphere gets poisoned as we feel that’s exactly opposite.

  • We feel like egoists and the person’s behavior enforces this belief, but at least we have the satisfaction of remaining loyal to ourselves.


What makes both situations different?


In the first one - we gave or did something against ourselves, we are dissatisfied with someone as we believe they forced us to act this way, if we are not open about our feelings, we "pollute" the relation with our insincerity (even if we say everything is fine, dishonesty is felt in the atmosphere), we are dissatisfied that we have betrayed ourselves.

There are no pluses (+) here.

Minuses (-) are everything here.


In the second one - we said NO to the request (we chose to be loyal to what we felt), our friend is dissatisfied and/or angry and gets distant, they "pollute" the relationship with their resentment, we "pollute" our relationship with our guilt that we “hurt” them, and hidden grudges, feeling bad to be treated this way for staying loyal to ourselves.

The plus (+) is that we decided based on loyalty to ourselves (good for us).

Minuses (-) are the remaining elements.


No matter how many minuses in both situations, it seems that loyalty towards ourselves prevails as long as we find ourselves in a relationship in which we can’t have both freedom of choice and warmth at the same time.


Why do we feel guilty in some relationships when we say NO to requests and remain loyal to ourselves?


There is a quite common unconscious belief that especially in close relationships, we should provide with our time, property, money, attention and so on, as its obvious element, and we should be willingly sharing the above mentioned at every request. Accordingly, saying NO is treated as an act of disloyalty and exposes us to guilt and/or someone else's resentments. We tend to choose pleasing someone as we don't want to be considered selfish and disloyal. If we sometimes happen to be loyal to ourselves and decline requests, we have to accept we wouldn’t have a nice atmosphere following the decision. 


Interestingly, we hear that we have the right to refuse because we are free people. Does this, however, confirm in reality?


If we have the freedom to say NO in a relationship, it should not affect closeness and get the parties distant in any way. However, if that happens, a doubt arises as to whether the parties actually have the right to it indeed, or rather only one of them has it, or none of them, although it is claimed otherwise.


Is the request that leaves no room for refusal still a request or rather a hidden command that can only be answered YES, so as not to fall under the asker's disfavor?


Can be a relationship in which there is no place for an honest refusal, a friendship? Can we honestly say there's room for both parties to say NO and our relationship will remain unchanged and still friendly, frank and cordial regardless?


Do the above issues concern only friendship and relationships based on emotional closeness, or should they characterize any interpersonal relationships, regardless of the degree of intimacy?


Which relationship is better - nice or honest? Can it be genuinely nice when it's not sincere, and it just seems like it? Do we have to choose? Can't we have both qualities at a time?


Or perhaps, when the relationship is honest, there is at least solid ground for niceness as a natural result of the authenticity and willingness for connection on both sides, and even if it's rough sometimes, it's just a stage to clarity and flow.


Why do we feel bad sometimes when our friend (or anyone) refuses to betray himself to fulfill our request? Why are we afraid sometimes that pleasing our friend (or anyone) on the way of betraying ourselves will hurt them?


Where do we get the relationships in which we can enjoy being loyal to ourselves, supported by the other party, and reciprocate? Or maybe we already have such? Or possibly we will have to start to be faithful to ourselves and allow the others to be faithful to themselves from now on so as we don't have to choose between freedom of saying NO and warmth and closeness, but to have both at the same time.


When we say NO to a request honestly - do we really hurt anyone?


If it turns out that we "hurt” a stranger - well, s*** happens. Not everyone has to agree with us. Let's move on, celebrating our sticking to ourselves loyally.


If it turns out that we "hurt” someone close - it is worth taking a closer look if we possibly succumb to the closeness illusion since being disloyal to ourselves to please someone here is what's required from us to keep our relationship's status quo.


If we "hurt" ourselves, it is worth thinking about how much we are kind to ourselves, as this essential relationship may require a significant renovation.


About saying NO and friendship (and other relationships)

People called wrongly energy vampires only trigger reaction of involuntary giving or guilt in case of refusal. What steals our energy is violating the law of justice, which is built-in in every human.

Healing by Force of Nature

Agnieszka Pareto