Is saying ‘Yes’ when you mean ‘No’ causing you stress?

Is always saying ‘Yes’ at work causing Stress? – Here’s some information that will help – You’re OK to ‘Please Yourself’.

Perhaps you have values around being kind, providing a great service or not ‘making people feel bad?’ Because you enjoy harmony rather than conflict at work and seem to always know what people need you have a reputation as a great team player who brings the whole squad together.

These values are positive. They may have got you this great career and, if you have enough energy to keep them up, that’s fine.

As a therapist though I know that each of these worthy values comes with some ‘internal messages’ like  ‘What I need isn’t important’, ‘I’m not important’ or ‘Don’t say “No”’.

These internal messages are quite demanding and can result in internal pain or internal stress (You may have external stresses too like a new team, a new manager, a new home or a recent loss).

In our early family taking these values very seriously (e.g. kindness, consideration, making sure we all feel fine) was likely to have been a way to stay ‘OK’ around a parent-figure. This parent-figure may have even modelled the values themselves.

Do you have an idea of who this parent figure might have been? Who was it who –

  • Avoided conflict
  • Was reluctant to say “No” if it might not go down very well
  • Wanted us all to feel OK together
  • Guessed what other people would need, and seemed to do this quite accurately
  • Put others first, and expected you to put others first

Being ‘OK’ around this parent figure may well have been a useful strategy for receiving ‘positive strokes’, avoiding criticism, or even staying safe. But those days are gone. If ‘saying “Yes” when you want to say “No”’ is causing you internal pain then things need to change.

As human beings our resources are limited and this limitation needs to be accounted for.

It’s really hard on yourself to expect to ‘Please Others’ all the time, and looking after everyone else without attending to your own needs may not bring you the most effective outcome.

In most cases effectiveness is maximised by listening to others and responding to what they are actually saying they want (rather than what you believe they want). The nature of this response is negotiation based on their stated needs and your own. So ‘Pleasing Yourself’ is not a selfish ‘getting it all our own way’ – it’s a negotiated outcome that includes our own needs and accounts for their importance.

Some Challenges

How would it be to listen to others carefully and respond to what they are saying they want rather than to your guess of what they want?

How would it be to not be so ‘nice’? Can you say what you believe without intending to punish or hurt the other?

If others imply or appear to think that you’re not important or that your needs are not important then this is not accurate. How might you be inviting them to think this? Suppose you took on the same stance and tone of voice as your GP or dentist, holding your head in the same way as they do – how would others respond to you then? Can you develop a sense of your own value and autonomy?

If you work in retail, on reception or a helpline thank you for bringing your values to work. But do you need to bring them to deciding your Christmas schedule or to negotiating with your builder? Your needs are important and Pleasing Yourself (i.e. negotiating an outcome in which your needs are included) is fine.

Making Changes

For a more complete picture of what your ‘driver behaviours’ might be, take a look at my page entitled ‘Experiencing Stress at Work?‘ and complete the ‘Driver Questionnaire’ which is available there.

If you start experiencing something uncomfortable when you allow yourself to ‘Please Yourself’ then revert back to your values for a while.

Everyone is different and any self-help process can only offer ideas in general terms.  It may be that going against these old ‘internal messages’ means some deeper work.

Why not book an initial assessment session with a counsellor/therapist who is registered with a nationally recognised professional body (such as BACP or UKCP in the UK)?

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