Why Do You Say Yes When You Really Mean No?

It’s more than a fear of rejection.

Will you bake a dozen cookies for the Brownie meeting?
Can you get that report in a day earlier?
Would you invite my aunts and uncles for Thanksgiving?
Can I keep my stuff in your basement?

Yes, for some, it is a fear that if you say no, you’ll be rejected by someone you care about. Or that you could lose your job. Or someone will get angry with you.

But there are other reasons as well.

With ADHD, if the request comes in when you’re not ready to hear it, i.e., when you’re busy doing something and can’t give it immediate thought, your answer might be an automatic yes.

Many with ADHD are slow processors. You may find yourselves in a flurry of indecision because you haven’t thought it all out, yet. You may WANT to do x,y, or z, but need extra time to see if it might interfere with other plans.

Here are some other reasons you may say yes when you really mean no:

  1. You are afraid to disappoint people. It’s often part of our baggage- disappointing parents, teachers, friends, lovers. So we’ll go the distance to avoid that from happening again whenever possible.
  2. You over-estimate how your brain works. It may be easy for one person to have 30 over for dinner, but for you, it may be an absolute nightmare (I’m raising my hand here). Read other articles of mine on Executive Functioning.
  3. You have not accepted your struggles. So you hide. You pretend. You wear the happy, “I’m super confident” face. But oh, do you pay the price for that, eh?
  4. You are a people pleaser. (See #1). But there can be other reasons for that. Many with a trauma background will do anything to make people happy, for fear (generally unconscious) of you needs being rejected, like they were as far back as very early childhood.
  5. You are inconstant in your abilities at times. You may be on top of your game this week, but completely fatigued and stressed out the next.
  6. You are impulsive and jump to “yes” before considering whether you want to do it or not.

What You Can Do About It

  • Get into the habit whenever possible, to offer the person requesting something of you to consider their request. Say: That sounds very interesting, but…give me a day or so to get back to you. That takes the pressure off of having to give a yes/no answer on the spot.
  • Ask yourself: do I really want to do this?Sometimes the answer is right there but you held back because of a fear of upsetting or angering the other person.
  • If you really don’t want to do something but still want to be of help, say: I wish I could bake the brownies for the Girl Scout troop- I can’t this time, but tell me what else I can do to help out. (or something along those lines).

The Bigger Picture

It may be time to assess your need to say YES all the time. Re-read the top of the article and see how your ADHD might be playing into this. Or low self-esteem. Or anxiety. Or depression.

If you’re still stuck in this pattern, it could be for a more complicated reason and working it out with a psychotherapist might be the way to go.

How about you? Do you say yes when you often mean no? Please share some thoughts in the comment section below.

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