In Danny Wallace’s book, Yes Man (a very funny, daft and uplifting book), the author meets a man on a bus who tells him to say yes more, in response to hearing Danny say he has got stuck in a rut.
He sets himself the challenge of saying yes to everything. It results in many adventures, some amusing, some potentially detrimental. For example, he nearly ended up in a fight and if I recall correctly, taking some pills of dubious quality he bought online.
One of his learnings from the experience is that he needed to be discerning and say no in some situations!
Anyone with ME/CFS would love to be able to say yes more, but are unable to due to extreme physical and mental exhaustion, and other symptoms.
My hope is for everyone with this condition to get to the point where they feel well enough to be able to say yes more.
However, whilst unwell, it may be important and helpful to your recovery and healing to say NO more.
I recently wrote about the Helper trait- so often present in ME/CFS sufferers. You can read the article here
There are other traits, including impatience, being self-critical and perfectionist, that can be unhelpful to a person with ME/CFS.
These tendencies can mean that in situations when you need to say no to others, or themselves, you don’t.
This may include saying yes to something when you have no energy, or wanting to complete a task that really can wait and isn’t as important as having a break.
I did some cat sitting recently, looking after a cat and kitten.
Sometimes the kitten wanted to play, but the cat didn’t. The cat would let the kitten know that it wasn’t in the mood, sometimes in no uncertain terms: ignoring the kitten, moving away or pushing the kitten away firmly.
I’m not advocating that one needs to be aggressive, only that we all need to communicate clearly and that when we say no, we mean it.
5 Steps For Saying No
1. Consider Your Daily Priorities
i. Identify what is important to you
Some days it might be to have a bit of fun. Other days, the priority might be to get enough rest.
ii. Then if someone makes a request, ask your self:
“Does this fit in with my priorities for today?”
“Do I want to accommodate this request?”
“Have I got the energy to accommodate this request?”
2. Practice Saying No
When I had ME/CFS, a friend of mine who also had the condition once said to me:
“You need to learn to say no. Practice saying no to people, until you’re comfortable saying it. When you have mastered saying no, you will be able to say yes more.”
He was right. I did need to learn to say no. The latter statement was also true.
I found it difficult at times to say no because I didn’t want to:
- Miss out in things
- Disappoint people
- Seem like a wuss
I remember working with a client who found saying no really difficult.
So we played a game. She had to say no to anything I said.
I said things like:
“I like your ear rings/shoes/handbag. Can I have them?”
Of course, she said no.
She started finding it easier to say no.
Are you saying no when you need to?
It’s also important to be ok with the times when it would have ben good to have said no, but said yes. Learn from it.
3. Cultivate Trust And Patience
Wanting to finish a task when your energy is waning and ignoring your body’s needs is counter-productive.
i. Acknowledge What You Have Done
Give yourself a pat on the back for what you have achieved. This is really important, especially if you set yourself high standards.
ii. Remind Yourself What Is Important
Keep an eye on the big picture: supporting your health and recovery.
Constantly pushing yourself and over-doing it is not going to help.
Tell yourself that the task can wait and that taking a break is important in the long term, even if it means that something is unfinished.
4. Communicate Clearly
I remember someone saying to me “If you say no and it sounds like a maybe, people will push for a yes.”
In the Simpsons, Bart says to his children “Don’t keep asking! You know if you keep asking I’ll eventually say yes!”
Say no like you mean it and don’t justify. We justify when we feel uncertain.
5. Put The Guilt To Bed
I hated letting people down. However in truth, sometimes I was probably generating more angst than they were.
Consider who is giving you a hard time: is it yourself or others?
If it’s you, you need to learn to be as kind to yourself as you are to others.
If others are making you feel bad, then you need to find a way of not getting involved in that, as far as is possible.
i. Others have to learn to deal with their disappointment
They may find it useful to tell you their feelings. You can then respond and then you both need to move on.
Obviously this is more challenging if you are telling your child that you can’t do something with them that you both want to do. However…
ii. Stressing about it isn’t going to help you in the long term
You need to understand that.
So do they!
iii. You’re Not Being Selfish
When people tell us we are being selfish, is it because we are not doing what they want us to do?
Saying No is important!
You need to put yourself first, as it will support your body’s healing.
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After working in a demanding job as the Director of a Housing Trust, he went off sick and remained unable to work for the next 8 years.
He discovered a pioneering approach to resolving health issues and got back his health, and now trains others using these same techniques.