Have you ever said yes when you meant no?
Ever stayed at a party longer than felt good?
Or went along with something because you didn’t want to upset anyone?
I know I have.
Speaking and honoring our yes’ and no’s isn’t something we’re inherently good at. Growing up most of us were rarely given permission to explore what it means to know and be in our truth.
All too often, we found that when we shared what we wanted, we were told it was wrong, we were wrong, or that our desires or preferences were inconvenient for those around us.
The expectations, disappointments, and judgment that plague so many modern relationship dyanmics, be they platonic, romantic, professional, or casual, are often the byproducts of systems of upbringing based more on control and domination than of connection and empowerment.
This causes all kinds of challenges for us as we grow old and attempt to socialize with other humans who also have similar woundings.
It seems vital that we begin to create a culture that when someone says yes or no, we recognize they are taking care of themselves.
This may seem trite, but as we dive deeper into the subconscious realms of our human experience, we can see how often what we do is an attempt at making ourselves, situations, and those around us more ok.
The challenge we face in today’s modern world, is that many of us are uncomfortable with even the idea of putting ourselves ahead of others. We are told that it makes us selfish, self-indulgent, and certainly not the kind of people we want to grow up becoming.
Without realizing it, we end up putting our emphasis on taking care of the external, and as a result we find ourselves with an internal deficit. One that ironically, due to our past conditioning, we usually attempt to fill with external actions or validation from others.
We may be familiar with the idea that when flying in a plane, emergency instructions dictate that we put on our own oxygen masks first. This is highly practical since if we help others first in that situation, we will lack the internal resources (aka air) to be of use to others.
Of course, there is a balance to this.
If we become someone who does take care of themselves first but without consideration or compassion for others at some point we may, in fact, find ourselves alone, our cup empty, and with no one around to share our experience with.
So there is a fine line to walk. One that I experience as continually moving and shifting. Sometimes the best action is to take care of others first and sometimes it is vital to make myself the priority.
Sometimes these two actions can seem contradictory, but in actuality, they can be one and the same when looked at from a broader perspective.
How does this play out in relationship and connections? What happens when two people share depth and experience with these deficits and a lack of internal consideration?
What usually happens is a loss of trust and connection.
Whether we consider ourselves energetically or emotionally sensitive to others or not, when someone isn’t in their truth and says yes when they mean no, we feel it on subtle and unconscious levels. The incongruences can show on the face, in tone, or in a shortening of breath; all of which our animal bodies pick up on even when the words spoken are clear.
Sadly, this is often the norm in modern relating. These incongruences cause us to recoil from one another and create distance that builds over time until we find ourselves caught by surprise as to how far our hearts are from each other.
The question it seems is how can we unravel the deep conditioning that causes us to hesitate and speak what’s comfortable instead of what’s authentic?
As with all good things, the process of rewiring our empowerment circuits takes time, and the best way is slow and steady.
Here are some simple processes that can be used to help create an environment that nurtures authenticity, both for ourselves and those around us. Every situation is unique and there are nuances to these kind of tools that can be customized so use this as a helpful framework to get you started.
If you are in a relationship what I recommend is to begin by setting some ground rules with your partner. Let it be a fun experiment with the intention of creating more trust and joy at its center.
Set aside time to talk about this topic
Create an agreement that the focus of the experiment is personal and interpersonal growth. That whatever is shared during this time isn’t meant to be personal and that it’s ok to not be sure or even to make mistakes.
Each person takes a turn and shares how it felt during a time when they heard a yes or no but later found out their partner really meant the opposite. Be sure to focus on the feeling, not so much on the story or even the exact situations.
Often just hearing the impact of not speaking our truth on our partner can be transformative, especially when we realize that our partner also experiences something very similar when we aren’t in our truth.
Beginning from that moment, create an agreement that it’s ok to disagree, to see things differently, and that it’s ok if sometimes one person or both people don’t get exactly what they want.
Also, create an agreement that you will negotiate softly and clearly. Often once the intensity of sharing our truth and hearing our partner’s authentic desire passes, we find ourselves in a space where we can co-create something that meets everyone’s needs, and of course, sometimes that doesn’t happen.
And that’s ok too.
Breathe again, together…
I recommend doing this inside a container of time, small at first (such as a week), then as it becomes comfortable and familiar it can perhaps become the norm within your relationship.
Honoring the inner truth of our partners doesn’t mean we have to do whatever they say. At its core, we are gifting each other the rare time and space to rewire internal patterns that for many of us are decades old.
Be slow and gentle with each other. Give wide permission for making mistakes, for being not sure, for needing time to feel, and perhaps even for tears of relief and grief to surface as the voice of our innocence finally gets a chance to speak.
For those who may not be in a relationship (as well as those in them), remember that our primary partnership will always be between yourself and your inner voice.
Start with simple things that don’t involve others, such as where to go for lunch, which errands to run first, chocolate or vanilla.
Make an agreement that when there is such a choice to be made, to slow down, breath three times, and then wait and listen.
In the beginning, we may not get a clear answer, or there may be no answer at all. That’s ok.
Again, start with simple things that don’t require any time pressure or substantial consequences.
By gently asking and listening to your inner world, it will be as if we are coaxing our authentic voice to come out. The voice that all too often was silenced and has been afraid to speak.
Sometimes even after a few breaths and stillness, there is no answer. To me, this means that perhaps the question or what I think I want actually isn’t that important either way and that I’m perhaps meant to simply do something else entirely.
The biggest challenge with all of this is that often, we don’t want to do what our inner voice is asking for!
That’s ok too.
The point of this exercise isn’t to figure out which choice is better or worse. The objective is to begin the process of recognizing our yes’ and no’s, so that when it comes to something important, we have the experience of knowing our true north.
When we begin the practice of recognizing and following our inner voice, the more it will feel safe in knowing that it will be heard. As we allow its wisdom to seep into our lives, the stronger it will become, and the more it will guide us towards gateways of certainty, connection, and alignment.
Regardless of whether a relationship is romantic or platonic, being in our truth can be the difference between a long-lasting connection where trust and connection lead to rich freedom and empowerment or potentially toxic dynamics influenced by shadow and mistrust.
It isn’t always easy to be in our truth.
It isn’t always easy to disappoint for the sake of our authentic voice.
And yet it seems to do otherwise, leads to nothing more than a dimming of our light and love in this world.