Why is Saying “No” So Freakin’ Difficult for Women?

Perhaps it depends on the question, but for most of us saying no is almost impossible. We feel guilty if we say no, so we keep saying yes, for fear that we will hurt somebody’s feelings, or disappoint them, or say no to the one thing in our entire lives that we should have never, ever said no to.

For this reason, we are suckers for classic manipulation. Now that I have this awareness, I’m taking on the task of releasing us from guilt.

Just Say “No”

Our first step is awareness. Say after me:

Hi. I’m _____ (fill in name), and I am a sucker for guilt.

Now that we are all aware of our addiction, we need to recognize some of the more obvious sources and the truth behind their manipulation. I just happen to have this knowledge :).

Classic Manipulative Techniques and the Truth Behind Them

Here are some personal and work examples:

Mother Guilt: Remember my friend Alma? She was in a car accident and the medics had to cut her underwear off of her. She was wearing her old underwear with big holes and broken elastic. She was mortified.

  • Truth: Moms start early with guilt as a form of control over how we dress. Counter that if Alma had to have her underwear cut off of her, then the elastic waistband was probably not her biggest concern.

Take Care of Me Guilt: Remember when your Aunt Elsie passed? She called her daughter that morning to ask for help, but her daughter didn’t come because she was too busy with work. Aunt Elsie electrocuted herself by standing in water while holding the coffee pot that afternoon. 

  • Truth: Somebody wants you to help them with something, and she’s threatening death if you don’t. Tell her that Aunt Elsie doesn’t sound particularly bright, and that you’ll take that death and raise her an eternity in hell for attempted manipulation.

Work/Manager Guilt: You know, I had one employee that refused a similar assignment. She was not a team-player, and she didn’t do well on this team.

  • Truth: Someone wants you to do a crappy job that nobody else wants to do. Tell your manager that you will accept the risk of losing your position. Why? Because if you do the first crappy job you’ll become the employee willing to take crap for the rest of your career.

Teenager Guilt: Becky’s mom is really cool about letting her go to this sleep-over. She trusts her.

  • Truth: Someone is going to a fake sleep-over to drink the night away. Tell her that you don’t care about being cool, you’d rather humiliate her. That’s your job, and you LOVE it.

Husband Guilt: I really want to go to the beach/golf trip/ game /work etc., but if you need me to stay around here then I guess I will.

  • Truth: Your husband has just let you know that he’ll stay if he has to, but that you’re being selfish if you ask him to stay. Tell him, “I’d really appreciate it if you’d stay. Thanks for offering.” I tried this once with my ex-husband. My kids and I had the stomach flu. I was throwing up, the kids were throwing up, and he wanted to go play golf for the day. He asked me if I really needed him to stay (I thought all the vomit might have created an obvious answer) and I said, “Yes. I need you to stay.” I repeated this six times. Suddenly, I heard the front door open and shut as he ran to play golf. So this might not work, but at least it will make your husband uncomfortable and provide a good story for a future blog.

We can’t spend our lives taking on guilt that is thrown our way. Once we say yes when we don’t mean it the guilt and resentment builds up. We get big frown lines that never go away, and end up looking like Elmira Gulch, the witchy neighbor in “The Wizard of Oz.”

So stay off of your bicycle by standing up for yourself. Do what is fair and right for all concerned, giving yourself equal value.

And understand that those manipulating you with guilt will take a yes even if you’re vomiting all over the positive response. Literally.