Take a minute to remember how it felt the last time that you were told “no.”
• “No tables left on the deck, but we can seat you in the corner inside.”
• “No, we actually don’t have your size and aren’t getting any more in.”
• “No, we have no more rooms available.”
When is the last time that you thanked someone for telling you, “No?”
• No deck seats and it’s such a beautiful day outside. Thank you very much.
• No more of the style I like in my size? I can’t thank you enough.
• Wow- I won’t be able to stay right in the conference hotel then. Thank you.
People generally hope and expect that things will go their way. They don’t want to do without, lose a chance, or not have their needs not taken seriously. Yet, when our needs aren’t met, it presents an opportunity to grow. We detach from the thought that things must always go right and learn to appreciate times when they do. Being told “no” helps us place aside our pride and our sense of entitlement and focus on experiencing what we know–disappointment is not only inevitable, but also necessary.
It reminds of something we sometimes forget in a world where we have friendships at our keyboard fingertips and extended store hours at our convenience — we are not in control. Not getting your way is good for you. Acceptance strengthens us. It reassures you that you can delay gratification. It slows you down enough to consider how you can manage when life is neither convenient nor comfortable. It helps re-establish clarity between what we want and what we need.
It strengthens our identity as strong, resilient, and resourceful. Being pushed outside our egocentrism zone helps us get in touch with humility and brings the background of others into focus–setting us up to understand, tolerate, and reciprocate. If you receive a holiday present that you didn’t want, something that doesn’t fit or that you can’t use, write a mental “no” thank you note for the reminder that life is about connection, rather than insta-contentment. And the next time you’re told “no,” finish with “thank you.”
Virginia DeRoma, Ph.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist