Saying "No"

The Problem of Poor Communication

There seems to be a pattern in my life whereby communication between me and other people seems to be lacking. It literally feels difficult, as though there is a weight pushing against my chest that prevents a certain extent of self-expression.

Why is this? It seems that no matter how much “self-work” I do that doesn’t change much.

In general, over time it has become more natural for me to disclose more information to others. Yet that doesn’t change the fact that we still leave words unsaid and shroud each other in silence.

It happens on both ends. I leave people in the dark. People leave me in the dark. Communication between us just isn’t pleasurable.

Sometimes relationships get even more toxic as you try to get closer to the other person. It doesn’t matter how inviting they seem to be—the two of you just don’t function well together.

What’s the reason for this? Are there fear and negative expectations on my end? Is it just too hard to get along with everybody? Is it karma, whereby I get what I am? Do I just have poor discernment abilities, and tend to talk to people who I’m bound to not resonate with?

You could say I’m making too big a deal out of this and should just enjoy each of my connections with people as they desire to be. But that’s the thing: in one way or another, it seems that many of the connections in my life would rather not exist at all. Whether it’s a lack of desire on one end, ill intentions, or just difficult communication, this pattern of connections either being mediocre (with the majority of people) or gone awry (with someone who I was close to or attempted to be close to) has shown up rather frequently in my life.

On the one hand, things generally and steadily get better over time. It generally becomes easier and easier to communicate with other people. On the other hand, the general pattern of shit hitting the fan seems to remain.

I would guess that shit doesn’t quite hit the fan—rather, the shit was there from the start. We were doomed at “hello.” The only way to change that would be to attempt to consciously re-relate to one another, but most of the time that just doesn’t happen.

What shall I do when that is the case—just leave? But if I do that there will be no one left.

It’s possible that I “sell myself” in an inaccurate matter. Perhaps I convey myself as something I am not without even realizing that I’m doing so. I could see that I do that here and there, but I don’t think it’s much. I don’t think that’s really my problem.

I could also see that I yield, in relationships, when I really would rather not do so. I say “yes” when I would prefer to say “no,” and pretend not to have feelings or an opinion or an idea when I actually do. Of course, saying “no” the things I would rather say “no” to tends to entail that the relationship would not have much activity in the first place. So, again, we’re back to having no one around.

I definitely don’t want to go dark and be suspicious of every person I try to get close to, and be ready to say “no” to every person I talk to. Even though I’ve said “no” to people a great many times, it still stings every time that I do. It crushes me. But I can’t always say “yes”: time simply does not allow for it. Plus it’s silly to say “yes” when I would rather say “no” anyway, because when I do that I sell both of us short by tainting our shared experience with bitterness.

It’s quite possible that the solution here is quite counter-intuitive. Maybe instead of trying to give a little bit of “yes” to everyone, I ought to be clear and firm about what I would rather say “no” to. The point isn’t to say “no” to an entire person, but rather to aspects of our connection that don’t work. Say “no” to criticism. Say “no” to anything that limits the freedom of either one of us. Say “no” to feigning interest.


The Sweeping “No”

Sometimes you do have to say “no” to a person entire. For whatever reason the connection is largely unloving, and venom is spewed. Even if it sorta looks good sometimes, the relationship as a whole is detrimental and definitely not worth maintaining. Of course, saying “no” in such a big way feels even more painful than saying “no” to little things. But there doesn’t seem to be a better solution: any amount of “yes” just invites the poison back in. There’s no way to say “yes” without also getting the things you want to say “no” to.

So far I’ve found that when this happens- whether I’m the one saying “no” or the one being said “no” to- the “no” remains indefinitely. Whenever I’ve been the one to say “no” to another, I don’t necessarily want that sweeping “no” to remain for all time.

Interestingly, this type of thing (an unending “no”) tends to happen only in my closest and most conscious relationships. In looser connections such a solution is never necessary, because we don’t interact enough with each other to begin with. I don’t think I’ve ever had to make note to avoid someone who I have a loose connection with: such connections tend to either naturally fade at some point or another, or they just remain occasional and casual.

Because the sweeping “no” only happens in my closest relationships, there sometimes is an attempt to redeem ourselves and re-relate first. Generally this only happens when I’m the one to initiate the big “no.” Whenever I’ve been the one who has been let go of, on the other hand, I’ve never been given another chance after things go to Hell.

And perhaps rightly so. Perhaps this is an intelligent decision on the part of my rejectors. Maybe they sense that any amount of “yes” would be impossible without inviting all the crap back in, too, and they just don’t want to put in the high level of maintenance that would be required to make our connection work. So they just back out entirely. Perhaps this indeed is a smart move to make.


The “No” Solution

Who knows: maybe saying “no” where you really want to say “no” commands respect. Maybe it even helps you to re-connect with people in ways that actually work. That makes sense, because there’s no way a relationship could work as long as both people are operating under the delusion that there is a “yes” where in truth there is a “no.”

Perhaps “no” is a challenge to connect with one another deliberately, as opposed to just floating along unconsciously and timidly with whatever we pose to each other. That certainly puts relationship issues into a constructive perspective.

My suspicion is that once you get into a habit of saying “no” when you really mean it, the tide will turn, and you’ll be available to invite more yeses into your life. I could see all that no-saying being difficult to get accustomed to without first being a bit too harsh. However, you would calibrate over time, and get good at doing it naturally and with kindness. Overall, if it’s a functional solution, that process of turning solution into habit is worth undertaking.

Do you run into plenty of relationship-malfunction yourself? Might it be that you’re saying “yes” where you ought to say “no”? Could you elevate the level your relationships operate at by approaching them more deliberately? Might the introduction of some no’s raise the level of consciousness of your relationships?

Let’s find out.

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