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My Answer Is No ... If That's Okay with You: How Women Can Say No and (Still) Feel Good About It
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My Answer Is No ... If That's Okay with You: How Women Can Say No and (Still) Feel Good About It

3.0 2
by Nanette Gartrell
 
  • Are you afraid you'll hurt the people you care about if you say NO to them?
  • Can you set limits when employees neglect their responsibilities? How about with your boss?
  • When friends ask you to do something you don't want to do, do you invent an elaborate excuse?
  • Do you have a hard time saying NO to an invitation even when you're

Overview

  • Are you afraid you'll hurt the people you care about if you say NO to them?
  • Can you set limits when employees neglect their responsibilities? How about with your boss?
  • When friends ask you to do something you don't want to do, do you invent an elaborate excuse?
  • Do you have a hard time saying NO to an invitation even when you're completely exhausted?
  • Do you have trouble even practicing the sentence "No, Mom, I just can't make it home this holiday"?

If any of these scenarios sound familiar, keep reading - you need this book...

No is a very simple word -- two letters, one syllable. Yet many women have a hard time saying it without feeling anxious or guilty. In My Answer Is NO...If That's Okay with You, award-winning psychiatrist and author Dr. Nanette Gartrell takes a fresh look at why even the most powerful, accomplished, and successful women find it difficult to say no and offers a revolutionary approach to setting limits without jeopardizing important relationships.

Today women are bombarded with messages like "put yourself first" and "stop being a people-pleaser." But this sort of advice is useless to women who value the caring and generosity that prompt them to say yes in the first place. Through personal interviews with a diverse group of talented women, including CEOs, celebrities, physicians, and public officials, Dr. Gartrell shows that women's reluctance to say no stems from valuable traits that they should embrace, such as empathy, sensitivity, and thoughtfulness. With humor and wisdom, Dr. Gartrell reaffirms the psychological importance of compassion and feeling connected, which can often lead a woman to say yes rather than no in order to preserve a relationship or spare someone's feelings. Through entertaining anecdotes and insights from her years of clinical practice, Dr. Gartrell teaches women to honor their best instincts while still maintaining boundaries. My Answer Is NO...If That's Okay with You offers creative, practical ways to transform an automatic or reluctant yes into a healthy, respectful no -- and still feel good about it.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

According to Gartrell (psychiatry, Ctr. of Excellence in Women's Health, Univ. of California, San Francisco), guilt-free no's are hard to come by for most women. However, she notes, this doesn't have to be perceived as a negative trait, for women find meaning in caring and being connected to others. All the same, Gartrell writes, showing kindness is not the same as offering oneself up as a doormat. She provides case studies of more than 100 accomplished women from diverse backgrounds to demonstrate how they have learned to be assertive in difficult situations and recommends ways of saying no that allow women to be considerate without jeopardizing their well-being. Practical assistance for a prevalent problem; recommended for all libraries.


—Deborah Bigelow
From the Publisher
"Dr. Gartrell provides you with practical tools and tips for saying no with confidence and grace." — Lois P. Frankel, PhD, author of Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office

"Women need to maintain healthy boundaries while also preserving life-giving relationships. Dr. Gartrell tells you exactly how to do just that. This information is essential for all women." — Christiane Northrup, MD, author of Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom and The Wisdom of Menopause

"NO...So it's only two letters, but that tiny word can make the difference between a small raise and the corner office. The dirty little secret is that when it comes to the workplace you don't have to do everything that is asked of you in order to succeed. In fact, setting realistic expectations for yourself and for the people around you is often the key to professional happiness. My Answer Is NO teaches all of us how to set boundaries and reclaim our self-respect by employing that tiny yet potentially life-changing word." — Caitlin Friedman, coauthor of The Girl's Guide to Kicking Your Career into Gear and The Girl's Guide to Being a Boss (Without Being a Bitch)

"This book is like having a great therapist at your side — smart and compassionate with on-the-spot advice on how to set limits in all aspects of your life. Give this book to your daughters as they negotiate their way through school, friendships, and first jobs." — Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees & Wannabes and Queenbee Moms & Kingpin Dads

"Sound advice and fascinating insights on why we have trouble setting limits as women. Dr. Gartrell shows us that even the most accomplished women in a countless variety of careers are challenged by saying no, and that they, like the rest of us, can learn to do it with conviction and joy." — Patti Breitman, coauthor of How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781416546931
Publisher:
Free Press
Publication date:
01/01/2008
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

My Answer is No . . . If That's Okay with You How Women Can Say No and (Still) Feel Good About It
By Nanette Gartrell
Free Press Copyright © 2009 Nanette Gartrell
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781416546955


chapter one

women's ways of NOing

(introduction)

NO is a very simple word. One syllable. Two letters. A complete sentence. NO is one of the shortest words in the English language, yet one of the most difficult for women to say. We hear "NO!" in our heads while our mouths are saying "YES," "Sure," "I'd be glad to," "Of course I will," or "I wouldn't miss it for the world!" It's often easier to agree than to just say NO.

Saying NO for women can be a genuine struggle because of our deeply rooted need for connection. To be considerate without jeopardizing our well-being or livelihood, and assertive without losing the relationships we value -- these are two of life's most compelling challenges. Sometimes, out of a desire to be helpful or charitable, we choose to say YES even when it's difficult. At other times, we discover that we're too concerned about being liked, loved, or respected to be able to say NO. If we muster the courage to speak up, we tend to be cautious: "my answer is NO...if that's okay with you."

This book grew out of my realization that women's reluctance to say NO comes from traits that we should value -- empathy, sensitivity, thoughtfulness, and compassion -- rather than suppress, as we are often advised to do when saying NO. These traits are necessary elements of human connection and preservation. When I think back overmy own life, I find that the paths I took to NO, however circuitous, often helped me grow. Like most women, I have sometimes held on too long to relationships that I knew I'd be better off without. But I would never trade a guillotine-style NO for what I learned through my unwillingness to let go.

The idea for this book emerged one morning when I was having breakfast with TV journalist and surgeon Nancy Snyderman, who told me about a former employee who had repeatedly asked for special favors. "First she asked for time off to get a haircut," Nancy said. "Then she needed to run errands." Even though the employee took advantage of Nancy's generosity, Nancy tried to accommodate these requests. Why? The employee was a single mom, and Nancy empathized with her situation.

I could certainly relate. I'd been despairing over a research collaboration that had gone sour. A colleague who'd volunteered to help with a major project had missed deadlines and dropped the ball on numerous occasions, always with a mile-long list of excuses -- health problems, dying relatives, car accidents, and the like. I couldn't think of a way to get tough without feeling like a completely insensitive jerk.

As a surgeon, Nancy is accustomed to making decisions with authority and conviction. Assertiveness is mandatory in life-and-death situations. My psychiatric specialty involves teaching patients about boundaries and limits. Role-playing how to say NO is a routine part of my clinical work. So, after thirty years in practice, I should be able to say NO when I need to, right?

Wrong. When I'm not with patients, I'm often reluctant to use the NO word because -- well, frankly -- I don't like to disappoint people. Is this a serious shortcoming? Many assertiveness training books say it is.

I disagree.

For most women the prospect of being less sensitive to the needs of others isn't appealing, even though attending to others' needs can result in personal sacrifice or hardship. We'd rather weigh the pros and cons of helping out, and struggle to find the best way to take care of ourselves as well as the many others who are dependent on us. That's how women's brains are wired: we have an aptitude for compassion and connection.

Why, then, do we get down on ourselves for not being more assertive? How can we avoid criticizing ourselves when we are bombarded with the message that there's something terribly wrong with the way we say NO? "Listen to your own needs," we're told. "Put yourself first." "Stop being a people pleaser." "Quit worrying about everyone else." This is advice that Daddy Warbucks parodies in Annie -- "You don't have to be nice to people on the way up if you don't plan to come back down."

But do we really need more self-centered people on this planet? Most women would never trade compassion for insensitivity. If women as a group became substantially less concerned about the general well-being of everyone around us, the consequences for children, the infirm, the disadvantaged, and the elderly would be disastrous! After all, where would we be without empathy? Or the generosity of spirit that sustains the planet and nurtures the soul?

Our strength as women is grounded in the ability to reach out and lend a helping hand. We consider the thoughts and feelings of others as we conduct our own lives. We can be firm when we need to be, though usually, we prefer to be kind. Saying NO can feel alienating, distancing, and harsh. It clashes with our belief in being generous. Very often it involves a loss. And dealing with loss is a recurrent challenge for most women.

Each of us is familiar with the experience of being told "NO." Throughout our lives we are denied things we want. We feel frustrated, sad, hurt, angry -- even heartbroken -- when we are refused. Sometimes the compassionate NOs are easier to swallow than the thoughtless NOs, or the brush-off NOs, or the how-dare-you-ask NOs, but in many cases, the experience of NO carries disappointment with it.

So when it's our turn to do the nay-saying, we are attuned to the feelings of the person asking, and we empathize with the pain of being turned down. Saying NO involves putting our own desires and needs above the wishes or expectations of others, which isn't always an easy thing to do. Some people become spiteful or rude when we don't give them what they want. Since being liked and appreciated is important to women, we're always on the lookout for the moment to say NO that has the least risk of incurring wrath or loss -- modeling our own NOs after those we find most helpful and considerate.

Even so, guilt-free NOs are hard to come by. In a life-or-death situation -- to protect a child, for instance -- "NO!" is instinctive. When operating from a clear sense of purpose or principle, setting a limit is easy. In other cases, however, saying NO involves sorting out your priorities, narrowing your focus, or sticking to a specific goal. Developing a set of ready-made responses gives you an edge on saying NO when you need to. Yet try as you might, there's no getting around the fact that your choices may deprive others of what they want. And it's always more difficult to set limits when you are conscious of others' hardships.

Just this morning Terry, a photographer, told me a story that illustrates this point. Several times a week, Terry drives to a senior housing complex to take Lulu, the beloved dog of an elderly man whose health is failing, out for a walk. Recently, Terry invited the gentleman to lunch. As he politely pushed the food around his plate, every now and then nibbling on a tiny morsel, the gentleman explained that he wasn't expected to live much longer and that he had no one to care for Lulu -- would Terry be willing to take the dog after he dies? Terry was in quandary about what to do. She couldn't keep the dog, but she didn't want to break the poor man's heart. I suggested that she offer to keep Lulu until she found a loving home for her. This solution worked for Terry. She told the gentleman that he could rest assured that Lulu would be well cared for.

One caution: when we lend a helping hand, let's not call that "co-dependency"! Caregiving is often devalued, trivialized, and pathologized by calling it "co- dependency." Kindness is NOT the same as being a doormat. There is a world of difference between being an enabler to an addict or an abusive partner, and being a considerate, compassionate individual.

In the chapters that follow I present the challenges we women have to face when saying NO to family, lovers, friends, employers, colleagues, subordinates, strangers, healthcare professionals, and even to people on their deathbeds. I examine why it's difficult to say NO, and I explain how the desire to connect and the fear of loss figure into our reluctance to set limits. I show how our goals, needs, values and life experiences influence our willingness to let go, and suggest creative ways to handle situations in which we feel stuck. I recommend ways to say NO that diminish the discomfort of disappointing others and give pointers on how to turn a knee-jerk YES into a consideration, and a consideration into a choice. And I explain how learning to deliver a knockout NO -- if you're assaulted -- may not only save your life, but empower you in other areas as well.

Along with examples from my own life, I have incorporated interviews with a diverse group of more than one hundred talented women whose stories capture the complexity of our efforts to set limits in a world that values simple assertiveness and cocksure NOs. These women reveal what saying NO means to them, and how the goal of maintaining connections with people who matter to them influences their ability to set limits. They describe how they learned to say NO, and how they struggle to be compassionate even as they enforce boundaries. Many of the stories are inspiring, some are funny, some sad, some deeply disturbing. All will help you understand better how and when you can say NO.

The women I interviewed share one important characteristic: each is very accomplished in her field. They differ in age, education, socioeconomic class, racial/ethnic background, and sexual orientation. Some are identified by their real names, others by a pseudonym. As this book will demonstrate, being powerful, savvy, or talented has little bearing on a woman's ability to say NO. Police chiefs, politicians, military officers, martial artists, judges, and CEOs all contend with the same issues. And having boundaries in one arena -- such as work -- may be unrelated to the ability to set limits with lovers, family, or friends.

Dip into this book anywhere you like. Pick a topic that's timely for you. Step into the shoes of other women as they describe their limit-setting dilemmas and achievements. Each chapter contains information that I hope will be relevant whenever you are struggling to say NO. At some point this book will speak to you, and you'll discover that you're not alone.

After reading this book, you will have a better understanding of your own reluctance to say NO. You will also learn how to say NO without losing the connections that you care about the most. I encourage you to value empathy but to use it selectively, taking pride when you choose to be generous. Above all, I hope that you will appreciate how a NO to one thing is often a YES to something else, as you enjoy the freedom that saying NO can bring.Copyright © 2008 by Nanette Gartrell, MD

Continues...


Excerpted from My Answer is No . . . If That's Okay with You by Nanette Gartrell Copyright © 2009 by Nanette Gartrell. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Nanette Gartrell, M.D., is a Williams Institute Visiting Distinguished Scholar, UCLA School of Law. Dr. Gartrell also has a Guest Appointment at the University of Amsterdam, and she was previously on the faculty at Harvard Medical School and UCSF. She is a psychiatrist and researcher whose groundbreaking investigations have been published in professional journals and cited in the media. Dr. Gartrell has appeared on network television (including PBS, Good Morning America, CNN, NBC, CBS, and Fox News), and on public, talk, and Sirius satellite radio. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, Ladies' Home Journal, and The Christian Science Monitor. She lives in San Francisco with her spouse.

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