Three tips for turning “No” into no big deal and making “Yes” even sweeter.
This article is part of a series on the implications of Enthusiastic Consent. Go HERE if you’d like to contribute to the conversation.
I’ve been thinking about consent. I’ve been thinking about all the ways I’ve allowed others to influence my life — even in ways I’ve been less than thrilled about, and how I’ve often done the same because we didn’t really understand how sweet enthusiastic consent really is. I’ve kicked and screamed and turned blue from holding my breath — all to get others to meet my needs. That never worked out so well either.
We can strong arm and manipulate people into doing what we want. While that may be a temporary fix, does that really meet our deepest needs?
Can we really feel enthusiastic about this approach to self- love? Can we even call it love if we choose to go this route?
I’ve realized the hard way that I play a major role in whether my needs are met or not. I choose who to allow into my life. I choose how to express my needs. I choose what to do in situations once I realize my needs are not being met.
I’m not perfect at the three step method I’ve shared here for getting your needs met and I probably never will be. However, it has shifted my mindset from expecting others to meet my needs to accepting that they have a choice and appreciating them when they do. Though I talk about this process in regards to heterosexual romantic relationships based on my personal experiences, it applies to all relationships.
#1 — Express needs with love and let them go.
When I was younger, I was prone to trying to get my needs met by complaining or getting upset with my significant other for not doing what I wanted. That usually led to my needs not getting met or my needs being met only begrudgingly, not enthusiastically. Sensing the resistance of the giver only made me needier, which led to more complaining, which led to more resentment and dissatisfaction for both of us. You get the picture, I’m sure, and it’s not a pretty one.
Now my approach is to state my needs in terms of what I would like as opposed to what my partner is not doing. This automatically changes the tone of the conversation. Who wouldn’t want to meet the needs of loved ones when possible if it is expressed as a kind request?
That’s the easy part, and even that takes some practice, a practice that’s still a work in progress for me. The more difficult part for me has been what comes next. After I make the request, I’m learning to let it go. What does that mean? Well, once my partner is aware of my desire, it’s out of my hands. It’s then up to him whether he can or will meet it or not. I’ve done my part by expressing it. The next step is to accept the outcome whether it is in my favor or not. The funny thing is, my acceptance won’t change the outcome, but it will make life much more peaceful for everyone involved. It empowers my partner to completely make his own decisions. It also allows me peace of mind knowing that I allowed him this right and that I have a right to the same.
If my partner is able and willing to meet my need, then we can all live happily ever after — at least for a while. If he is unwilling or unable, then I have some choices to make. Do I want to express my needs again, maybe in a way that’s clearer? Do I want to reevaluate how important the request is to me and whether it really is a need? Do I want to turn inward and see why this particular point is so triggering for me? Do I want or need to terminate this relationship if this is in fact a deal breaker?
I’m learning that there are many ways to healthily express my needs and many functional ways to deal with them not being met at times. Notice, however, none of them involve coercing another person into doing as I’ve asked.
#2 — Meet the needs of others with love — or not at all.
I have long followed the old adage of honesty being the best policy as one of the main principles of my life. So much so that my younger brother jokingly says that I’m brutal. This has probably cost me relationships and caused hurt feelings. However, I don’t think those relationships would have been good for me or the other person if I couldn’t be true to myself. As for those hurt feelings, I feel they would have only been deepened and prolonged without honesty. After all, the things we suppress often come out eventually. Usually it’s not so pretty when that happens in an unplanned, unmeasured way.
This is why I say no to anything or anyone that does not resonate with me. It sounds simple, but it can be difficult at times, especially for those with a people-pleasing personality. However, just like any other muscle, the no muscle can be strengthened with training and practice. If I can’t give enthusiastic consent, the answer is no. Remember, “No” is already a complete sentence. No explanation is necessary, unless you choose to give one.
I’ve found that living in this authentic way has brought about two positive results in my life. First, I am more prone to fully respecting the “No” of others without taking it as personally or being offended. I know that the naysayer is just dong what’s best for him as he should. This makes it much easier to respect that choice when I remember this.
Second, the authentic, enthusiastic “Yes” is filled with so much joy! Once my life is empty of all the things I think I “should” be doing, there is so much time to do things I enjoy for and with the people I love. I can spend my limited time here on earth meeting the needs of myself, my loved ones, and all fellow sentient beings enthusiastically in ways that resonate with me and reflect my true gifts and talents. This type of truly consensual giving is rejuvenating! It’s the opposite of feeling obligated to do something I dread. It fills me up and leaves me ready, willing, and able to give so much more!
Try it sometime! You just might get hooked on saying “No” and saying “Yes” only when you truly mean it!
#3 — Feel gratitude and give praise when needs are met.
Approaching our loved ones in this way makes it far more likely that our needs will be met. Even more rewarding is knowing that our partner did so enthusiastically! There is nothing more satisfying than a win for both members of the home team! Don’t take these moments for granted. Develop an eye for noticing when your partner has met your needs. Make a mental note so you don’t take it personally when he can’t. Take time to feel appreciation for this gesture of love no matter how small it may seem. While you’re at it, don’t keep it to yourself! Tell him how much you appreciate it and how it made you feel! Tell other people, especially in front of him! Spread the love like a wildfire!
Holding on to the joy of someone’s authentic “Yes” to us opens the door for more of them! This is not meant to be some type of manipulation to get our partners to say yes to us in the future, but this approach certainly does make it more likely that they will want to if they can.
I feel much better about this approach to getting my needs met. It’s no guarantee that my needs will be met every time, but:
- I can feel good about HOW I approached my quest to get my needs met and know that I acted according to my values and principles.
- I can rest assured that when my needs are met it’s because someone enthusiastically chose me and chose to do so. I don’t have to wonder if they felt forced, coerced, manipulated, scared, or backed into a corner.
- I can accept the times my needs aren’t met knowing they probably wouldn’t have been anyway had I taken a different approach- maybe temporarily, but not truly and authentically. I can accept these times knowing I still get to choose how I respond next instead of just reacting.
Enthusiastic consent isn’t just about sex. It’s about all areas of our lives. It’s about accepting nothing less for ourselves and from ourselves. Once we’ve given the gift of free choice to ourselves and others, there’s no going back — and there’s no wanting to anyway!