Monday, December 30, 2013

7 Easy Ways to Keep Your New Year’s Resolution

Hello everyone!

I hope that you all had a wonderful holiday and were able to find a little piece of happiness within yourselves.
With the new year only a two days away, we all start to think. We think about 2013 and life-changing memories or events that will stay with us forever. We think about the upcoming 2014 year and the things we would like to change about ourselves or our situations, which of course leads to the cliche "New Year's Resolutions List." Have you ever made a New Year's Resolution? Statistics show that 45% of Americans will take the time to make resolutions, but only 8% actually achieve them, with only 24% making it past the first week. So why is that? Why do we have such a hard time accomplishing goals that we know are better for us in the long-run?

This article from shares 7 Easy Ways to Keep Your New Year's Resolutions!

The statistics are bleak:
  • 45 percent of Americans usually make New Year’s Resolutions.
  • 8 percent actually achieve them.
  • 24 percent of people who make then don’t make it past the first week

I willingly admit that I am in the bottom 24 percent. Yet, every year, I make one (or five) new resolutions that I intend to keep for the next 365 days.
After doing some digging (both in my soul and on the Internet), I discovered what is holding me (and so many people) back from reaching our goals.

The No.1 reason people don’t follow through on their resolutions is that they lack self-discipline. 

This is both obvious and defeating. Of course, I don’t have self-discipline. When I think of the “d-word”, it conjures up images of monks that deny themselves all earthly pleasures. It’s just not for me. I like earthly pleasures – that’s pretty much why I’m here on earth.Though I struggle with self-discipline, I have learned that there are quite a few simple ways to overcome this shortcoming and still keep my resolutions
  1. Choose only one resolution. Multitasking is difficult. I know this – I have 25 tabs open on my browser as I write this. It turns out multitasking doesn’t even make us more productive – in fact, it may even hurt our performance. “If you have more than one resolution, you’re almost destined to fail – and every time you fail, you’re less likely to ever try again,” advises Rory Vaden, a self-discipline strategist and best-selling author.

  2. Call it a one-month resolution. 365 days. 12 months. 525,600 minutes. Big numbers are daunting and scary and make us feel like we’re never going to get there. Which is why you shouldn’t think about any goal in those terms.  According to a recent studythe majority of people (75 percent!) who successfully made it through just the first month of their resolutions continued working on them through the rest of the year.  Challenging ourselves for one month is significantly more appealing anyway. And, it's a good step toward turning this new behavior into a daily habit. In other words, our goal-keeping goes on autopilot.
  3. Tell somebody. Every article I have read about New Year’s resolutions stresses the importance of making goals a social effort.Research suggests, “Sharing with others increases your sense of responsibility to meet your objectives.” After all, we don’t want to let anyone down, right? So next time you find yourself at a big family function or nothing to share on Twitter, perhaps, you can declare your goals for 2014.
  4. Prepare for the plateau. This advice comes from financial guruRamit Sethi, who may be one of the smartest and most productive people on the planet. It’s inevitable to have a cheat day once in a while where we don’t go to the gym or we decide to eat an entire platter of buffalo wings by ourselves. Don’t beat yourself up. “Plan for it,” he writes. If your goal is to lose weight, “there’s no reason to feel guilty about it if you plan for it. What could you do to stay on track?  Keep working out? Moderate your big meals with healthy snacks?”
  5. Be specific. Studies have found that people who set specific goals (“I want to lose 15 pounds” vs. “I want to lose weight”) are more likely to be successful in maintaining their goals. And it goes without saying, that these goals should be attainable. In other words, don’t make it a goal to go swim across the Pacific Ocean, when you have trouble in your bathtub.
  6. Go for small wins. Similar to the one-month resolution above, the idea is not to overwhelm ourselves early on, which makes us more likely to give up. If the goal is to get a better job, don’t feel the pressure to do everything at once. Focus on a small project first, like re-writing your resume. Then, have a friend review it. A small win helps you feel like you actually accomplished something and will motivate you to keep going and make more small wins. You don’t need to completely overhaul your life to make a positive change.
  7. Have a game plan. So, I lied earlier about this advice being all easy. Because making a game plan is clearly not a fun task to take on, unless you’re an organizer-at-heart, which I am not. But figuring out how you’re going to fulfill your resolution is the most crucial step, because then, you’ll actually know how to do it. Think about it. Do we just go on a trip without planning our itinerary? Do we simply start cooking without a recipe to follow? Probably not. Making a game plan for achieving our goals is the same thing. We want to have a guide that will help keep us on track and also monitor our progress. It can be as simple as:
Goal: I want to save $____in 2014 to buy a __________.
Jan. goal: Save $____
What expenses will I cut down to save this money?
Amount saved $_______
Extra expenses: Birthday, holidays, etc.
I know there are a ton of other tips out there that I’ve missed – these are just the ones that really resonated with me. If you have any advice for keeping your resolutions, I’d love to hear them in the comments below

Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy Holidays and an article entitled, "Letting Go"

Good Morning Everyone!!

First, I want to wish all my clients and friends a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I am very thankful for all of you and look forward to serving you in 2014!

Second, I want to share this writing with you on "letting go." It's definitely something to think about.  Enjoy!

Letting Go

  • To "let go" does not mean to stop caring; it means I can't do it for someone else.
  • To "let go" is not to cut myself off; it's the realization that I can't control another.
  • To "let go" is not to enable, but to allow learning from natural consequences.
  • To "let go" is to admit powerlessness, which means the outcome is not in my hands.
  • To "let go," is not to try to change or blame another; it's to make the most of myself
  • To "let go," is not to car for, but to care about.
  • To "let go," is not to judge but to allow another to be a human being.
  • To "let go," is not judge but to allow another to be a human being. 
  • To "let go," is not to be in the middle. arranging all the outcomes, but to allow others to affect their destinies. 
  • To "let go," is not to be protective; it's to permit another to face reality.
  • To "let go," is not to deny but to accept.
  • To "let go," is not to nag, scold, or argue but, instead, to search out my own shortcomings and correct them.
  • To "let go" is not to adjust everything to my desires but to take each day as it comes and to cherish myself in it.
  • To "let go" is not to criticize and regulate anybody; it's to try to become what I dream I can be.
  • To "let go" is not to regret the past but to grow and live for the future.
  • To "let go" is to fear less and love more. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Neuroscientists Confirm That Our Loved Ones Become Ourselves

Good morning!

Today is a new week! I would like to share with you an article from Psychology Today entitled, 'Neuroscientists Confirm That Our Loved Ones Become Ourselves.' The article talks about how the human brain groups people into friends/people we know versus strangers. Studies showed that if a friend is under threat, it becomes the same as if we ourselves are under threat. We can understand the pain or difficulty they may be going through in the same way we understand our own pain." It also revealed how we don't feel anything in comparison to the strangers, or unfamiliar faces.

The article also talks about some reasons why we made want to hurt the ones we love and strategies for coping when they hurt us.

Check out the full article here:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Best Gift to Give—Ever! The Gift of "Doing"

With the holidays upon us, I wanted to share a brief article from Psychology today. Have you ever felt tired of going to the malls and endless stores trying to find that perfect gift? Chances are, you have spent way too much energy trying to "please" loved ones and friends with things that they probably already have, or don't want. Well, this article talks about things that you can do for gifts instead of buying material things. It highlights some fun ideas that you and your loved ones can do to create memories. Check it out!


The Best Gift to Give—Ever! The Gift of "Doing"

Out-of-the-box gift ideas
My favorite gifts to give on the holidays are not something to “have” but something my friends and family can “do." Consider this year putting aside the wrapping paper and giving an "out of the box" gift. Think about presenting at least one person you love or a friend the gift of “doing” and movement this holiday.

Here are some ideas (there are many more!). Give a gift certificate, tickets, admission fee or make a homemade coupon. These ideas range in price, activity level and adventure so think carefully about the person receiving the gift. It’s a great way to help people to get moving, active and a little out of their comfort zone this year.

Admission for Ice skating
Ski lift tickets
Tickets to a local museum
Gift certificate to an exotic/new restaurant
A ticket to a historical site
Craft lessons
Admission to a workshop, class or lecture
Tickets to the zoo
Tickets to a movie
A cooking class
A wine tasting event
A chocolate tasting event
A film festival
A boat rental
Admission to local pool
Admission to bowling or golf
Reservation for camping
Gift certificate for horseback riding
Sledding, build a snow angel, snow ball fight
A coupon to walk your dog together or to walk their dog for them
Tennis lessons
Playdate at the playground
A kite to fly
Knitting lessons
Tickets to a food show

Feel free to post your own suggestions or a gift of "doing" that you've received!!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Solutions for coping with mental illness during the holidays

Hi everyone! Here is a very interesting article from about coping with mental illness during the holidays. It talks about a variety of topics including:

-Being estranged from family and friends resulting in loneliness during the holiday season.
-Having an eating disorder and having to face the issue head-on during family gatherings and parties that center around food.
-Dealing with alcoholism or other addiction with alcohol being a main attraction during holiday get-togethers.
-Stress and anxiety that comes along with hosting holiday season celebrations or going to too many events.
-It's the holidays and your therapist or doctor is out of town.

Check it out here:
For people with mental illness, the holiday season can be challenging. Here are solutions for coping with mental illness during the holidays. - HealthyPlace

Have a wonderful day!

Inner Passages

Monday, November 25, 2013

Open Life's Flow with Gratitude, An Article by Dianne Eppler

Happy Monday everyone!

With this week being Thanksgiving week, I wanted to share an article with you that came to me in a newsletter that I thought would be appropriate for the Thanksgiving-theme. The article is by Dianne Eppler and is entitled 'Open Life's Flow with Gratitude." This article is brief yet eye-opening and draws attention to some easy mistakes that we all can fall into when thinking of what we have versus what we don't...

Enjoy & have a wonderful holiday!

Inner Passages

Open Life's Flow with Gratitude 

Be thankful and filled with awe and appreciation even if what you desire hasn't yet arrived. Even the darkest days of your life are to be looked on with gratitude. Everything coming from Source is on purpose. 
~ Wayne Dyer, The Power of Intention

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to focus on what is missing or not quite right in life? Much of my life was spent focusing on what wasn't there: not enough money, not enough friends, and not enough time. You name it! All that was good was disregarded while I focused on the bad.

Then I discovered the magic of gratitude. By opening my view to encompass all that is in my life, it became apparent that all the while, my life had been a wonderful stream of people and activities, each offering me a little more happiness, more abundance, and more possibilities.

How does that work? Since thoughts create, my thoughts of "not enough" continued to produce just that, and I continued to find areas of my life that fell short of my expectations. I perpetuated my own unhappiness.

By the same token, when I realized the power of thoughts to create, I experimented with consciously seeking to notice all that was good in my life while feeling thankful and expressing gratitude for what I found. Guess what? More good showed up! I found even more reasons to be thankful!

Here's a simple exercise that will increase the flow of good in your life. Every evening, as you are about to fall asleep, review the activities of your day with a focus on gratitude for all the good that has happened. Don't take for granted the little things. Include them as well. Then observe how your world changes.

If you really want to boost the love in your relationship, sit down with your beloved and share the things for which you are grateful in the other person. It can positively recharge a relationship that has fallen into a rut. Try it!

Remember, what you focus on expands. Focus on gratitude for all that you have and you will be flooded with more. Happy Thanksgiving, all year long!

[Excerpt taken from Dianne's book, Conscious Footsteps: Finding Spirit in Everyday Matters.]
Your comments are always welcome at 

Dianne Eppler Adams provides spiritually-oriented, mission-driven individuals personalized astrological road maps that give them vision ahead, deepened self-awareness and help to step forward with confidence. If you are ready to more gracefully manage the ups and downs in your life, visit her website at  

Monday, November 18, 2013

Coming Up Next: Emotional Healing Workshop Feb. 21-23 2014

A Center for Relationships



Emotional Healing Workshop
As adults, many of us carry unresolved emotional memories and negative relating skills that we developed in childhood. We might have had a severe trauma or chronic dysfunction in our early years. We could be carrying unresolved memories of a major trauma in adulthood, such as war or another assault on our sense of survival. Or, we may be experiencing the stress of major life changes such as the loss of a loved one, divorce, or an unwanted career change.

Often we recognize ways in which our pain from childhood or adulthood is interfering in present day relationships and activities. Sometimes, we are unaware of how we repeat with others what was learned long ago. Some people shut down emotions altogether, while others act out their emotions in destructive ways. Usually, we blame the other people in our lives for the repetitive pain we are feeling.

No matter where we are, however, the emotion or lack of emotion is ours and only we can stop the repetition. This pain pattern is the leading cause of poor choices and dysfunctional relationships or withdrawal from relating.  The workshop will encourage recognition of repetitive patterns of pain or shutdown, will allow for emotional healing, and will engender cognitive understanding as well as development of new behavioral choices. “Transforming Negative Messages” will be the particular focus of this healing workshop.

The gentle, natural approach to processing emotions will teach you how to resolve stressful feelings and heal underlying issues affecting your life. Learning to release stressful feelings from the present or far past will allow you to make better choices to live a happier, healthier life.  The workshop will include cognitive treatments, structured visualizations and dyad processes. 
In a relaxed, non-confrontational environment that respects your own pace and privacy, you will learn to safely resolve current and repressed feelings, allowing important, healthy, positive changes to occur.  The workshop will be led by Lynn Turner, PhD, LCSW with Elizabeth Anderson, LCSW, ASBP Fellow; Pauliann Long, LCSW; Rick Benson, CCGC; and Marian Horton, MSW. Sign up online.

February 21 - 23, 2014

   Friday 7pm-10:30pm, Saturday 10am-6pm, Sunday 10am-1:30 pm
                  $390 New to this workshop                    Register and pay online
  $360 Experienced                          sssssssss
                  Insurance applies                               Next workshop: October TBA

A Center for Relationships

316 Commerce St. Alexandria, VA 22314
Email or Call (703) 549-9554 x 7 for more information

Monday, November 11, 2013

Why Do We Cry When We're Happy?

Why Do We Cry When We're Happy?

Sad tears. Frustrated tears. Stressed tears. But happy tears?

It's been awhile, Brain Babble-ers. But I have an excuse! A good one, I swear!
I got married to the love of my life on August 10—who I, of course, met in a neuroscience lab a few years ago.
Something inexplicable has been plaguing me the past few months, though.
Getting married, including the months of stressful planning and nightmares leading up to the big day, was the happiest time of my life.
I reveled in choosing dresses and shoes, booking vendors, and constructing centerpieces. I saw my family and friends a lot over the past few months. And, after all, I was celebrating one of the purest and most joyful things that can be celebrated in this crazy, mixed-up world: love.
But, for some reason, I found myself crying a lot more. Not out of sadness or frustration or hopelessness, though.
I mean, I couldn't even keep it together while walking down the aisle—something every girl, growing up, likes to daydream about...right? (See pathetic photo.)
Most of us have heard that crying, in essence, is good for us—that it relieves us when we're sad, releases stress and toxins, yadda yadda.
So what was with my sobbing on what was inarguably the happiest day of my life?
Here's the thing: my teeny-tiny almond-sized hypothalamus can't tell the difference between me being happy or sad or overwhelmed or stressed. Yours can't tell the difference, either. All it knows is that it's getting a strong neural signal from the amygdala, which registers our emotional reactions, and that it must, in turn, activate the autonomic nervous system.

The autonomic nervous system (the "involuntary" nervous system) is divided into two branches: sympathetic ("fight-or-flight") and parasympathetic ("rest-and-digest"). Acting via the hypothalamus (left), the sympathetic nervous system is designed to mobilize the body during times of stress. It's why our heart rate quickens, why we sweat, why we don't feel hungry. The parasympathetic nervous system, on the other hand, essentially calms us back down.
The parasympathetic nervous system does something funny, too. Connected to our lacrimal glands (better known as tear ducts), activation of parasympathetic receptors by the neurotransmitter acetylcholine results in tear production. (Fun fact: tears flow through canals that drain into the nose, which explains why your nose gets all gross and runny, too.)
As I walked down the aisle—spotting my handsome groom, friends and family, and fruits of my labor before me—I distinctly remember the feelings of sudden, intense relief. Of happiness. Of weightlessness. Of my heart rate slowing and my parasympathetic nervous system taking over. And, apparently, of acetylcholine synapsing onto lacrimal gland receptors, and of tears pouring down my make-up'd cheeks.

But from a psychological standpoint—beyond the neurotransmitters and stress and hormones—why do we cry at all?
A decade-old theory by Miceli and Castelfranchi proposes that all emotional crying arises from the notion of perceived helplessness, or the idea that one feels powerless when one can't influence what is going on around them.
Whether from frustration and suffering or overwhelming joy from receiving good news, emotional crying may be a reflexive response to the uncontrollable world around us. I mean, let's be real—it would have been a little odd if I'd turned around and walked back down the aisle, even though I did want to keep moving forward. But, really, I was expected (by myself, my guests, and society) to keep walking.
A more recent theory by Hasson suggests that crying is a social cue designed to show vulnerability, solicit sympathy from bystanders, and advertise social trust and a need for attachment. Looking back, I didn't feel uncomfortable crying in front of everyone—though I would have, on any other occasion. Seeing others' red-rimmed eyes in the audience (when I finally managed to look up), in a way, seemed to validate my feelings, creating an unspoken emotional bond between myself and the guests.
So why do we cry when we're happy? Sad? Stressed? Frustrated? Lots of different reasons, and nobody seems to know exactly, biologically or psychologically, why.
Now, if you'll excuse me as I begin crying helplessly at my computer—perhaps it'll generate enough sympathy from my husband to bring me some chocolate ice cream from the freezer.
Hasson, O. Emotional tears as biological signals. Evol Psychol 7: 363-370 (2009).
Miceli, M. and C. Castelfranchi. Crying: Discussing its basic reasons and uses. New Ideas Psychol 21: 247-273 (2003).
Mitchelson, F. Muscarinic receptor agonists and antagonists: Effects on ocular function. Handbook Exp Pharmacol 208: 263-298 (2012).

To see the original article, click here:

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Power of 'NO!' an article by Judith Sills, Ph.D

Good afternoon!

It's Monday again and today, I want to share with you an article on something we all can struggle with at times...being able to say "no." We often hear people talk about the power of saying "yes," and all the good it can do. However, sometimes, we just need to say no. Using the word no is often regarded as a negative thing however, there are many positive uses for the word as described in this article below. Check it out and see if you can relate to 'The Power of No,'

The Power of No

Image: Speech bubble
There comes a moment when you say "Don't call me," and you finally mean it; when you return the charming gift because you forced yourself to acknowledge its invisible strings; when you turn down the friend's request for a helping hand, the colleague's plea for immediate advice, even the teenage son's expectation that dinner will appear before him—all because you have goals of your own from which you refuse to be deflected. Whether trivial or tormenting, each of these moments is an exercise in that poorly understood power, namely, the power of No.
There's a lot of talk, and a lot to be said, for the power of YesYes supports risk-taking, courage, and an open-hearted approach to life whose grace cannot be minimized. But No—a metal grate that slams shut the window between one's self and the influence of others—is rarely celebrated. It's a hidden power because it is both easily misunderstood and difficult to engage.
It's likely that we are unaware of the surge of strength we draw from Nobecause, in part, it is easily confused with negativity. Either can involve a turning away, a shake of the head, or a firm refusal. But they are distinctly different psychological states.
Negativity is a chronic attitude, a pair of emotional glasses through which some people get a cloudy view of the world. Negativity expresses itself in a whining perfectionism, a petulant discontent, or risk-averse naysaying. It's an energy sapper. Negative people may douse the enthusiasm of others, but rarely inspire them to action. Negativity certainly ensures that you will not be pleased. You will also not be powerful.
Where negativity is an ongoing attitude, No is a moment of clear choice. It announces, however indirectly, something affirmative about you. "I will not sign"—because that is not my truth. "I will not join your committee, help with your kids, review your project"—because I am committed to some important project of my own. "Count me out"—because I'm not comfortable, not in agreement, not on the bandwagon. "No, thank you"—because you might feel hurt if I turn down your invitation, but my needs take priority.
The No that is an affirmation of self implicitly acknowledges personal responsibility. It says that while each of us interacts with others, and loves, respects, and values those relationships, we do not and cannot allow ourselves always to be influenced by them. The strength we draw from saying No is that it underscores this hard truth of maturity: The buck stops here.

Image: Red female lips with speech bubbles
No is both the tool and the barrier by which we establish and maintain the distinct perimeter of the self. No says, "This is who I am; this is what I value; this is what I will and will not do; this is how I will choose to act." We love others, give to others, cooperate with others, and please others, but we are, always and at the core, distinct and separate selves. We need Noto carve and support that space.
No recognizes that we are the agents of our own limits. For most of us, this self-in-charge-and-wholly-responsible is a powerful, lonely, and very adult awareness. We approach it two steps forward and one giant retreat—giving in to the beloved, to the bully, to our own urges for another drink or an unnecessary purchase. The closer we get to manning the barricade of self-set limits, the stronger we are. That strength requires the power ofNo.
No has two faces: the one we turn toward ourselves and the one that creates boundaries between ourselves and others. The struggle to strengthen our internal No, the one we address to our own self-destructive impulses, is the struggle with which we are most familiar. ThatNo controls our vent of rage on the road and our urge for the cigarette. We call that No "self-discipline."
The No we direct toward ourselves comes from an internal self-governor whose job is to contain our urges and manage our priorities within an iron fist of reason. All our lives we may work on refining that self-governor, tweaking it, building it, shoring it up. The huge rewards of our governor's developing ability to say No—not too rigidly, but often enough and wisely, too—are productivity and peace of mind. The power of No is in that payoff.
The No we are able to say to others also evolves through life, beginning with the primitive Nos of our childhood. Anyone who has ever tried to put a 2-year-old into a car seat has real-life evidence. As the 2-year-old begins to differentiate himself—his will, his wishes—from those of Mom, he hurls one loud, endless cry: NOOOOOOOO. No, I won't put on those socks, won't eat that mush, won't leave the park! That primordial, powerfulNo is the original assertion of the self against the other. For the rest of our days we are challenged to find the proper, effective way to draw that line.
Line in the SandHow much No is too much? Who turns down a needy friend to tend one's own garden? Where is the line between self actualized and selfish? Who refuses to lend support to the modest effort of a group of friends? What is the boundary between important principles and stubborn oppositionalism?
As a general guideline, five situations benefit from increasing strength to say No.
When it keeps you true to your principles and values. It's a beautiful thing—emotionally, spiritually, and even professionally—to be generous, to be supportive. But, as sociologists Roger Mayer, James Davis, and F. David Schoorman point out in their classic studies of organizations, integrity is as essential as benevolence in establishing interpersonal trust. It is a requirement for effectiveness.
Jack, for example, has always cherished his role as the go-to guy for his buddies. "Jack has your back" has been his proud mantra since high school. So when a close, married friend began an affair, Jack maintained a discreet silence. However, when that close friend asked Jack for the loan of his vacation home as a convenient site for the clandestine relationship, Jack wrestled with his conscience. He wanted to continue to be seen as a great guy, but he found himself uncomfortable being part of a deception, however secondhand. In the end, he said just that, as he turned his friend down.
Jack's No dinged the friendship a bit and violated an unspoken male code, at least among Jack's peers. Still, if being liked by others is often a by-product of saying Yes, liking yourself sometimes comes only from saying No.

Image: Two bandaids crossed on an ear
When it protects you from cheerful exploitation by others. It's remarkable how much some people will ask of you, even demand from you, things for which you yourself wouldn't dream of asking. Protect yourself best from the many who feel entitled to ask by being strong enough to say a firm, clear, calm No.
Take a classic school and office scenario: A happy, popular, slacker colleague asks again to borrow his worker bee teammate's careful notes. Mr. Worker Bee resents being used, but can't think of a good reason to refuse. So he acquiesces. Gets asked again. Resents more. Can't think of a good reason to say No, so he gives in. And so the cycle goes.
Finally, paying attention to his own feeling of being taken advantage of—instead of focusing on finding a reason acceptable to the cheerful exploiter—Worker Bee turns Mr. Popular down. Scraping up his backbone, Mr. Worker Bee simply says, "No, I'm not comfortable with that."
His No earns him a chilly reception in the company cafeteria for a week or two. It isn't a pleasant time, but it passes. In its wake, Mr. Worker Bee will find a new safety. No is a necessary life shield against the charming users who sniff out softies. It turns out nice guys can say No.
When it keeps you focused on your own goals. When her boss criticized her for the second time as a "Chatty Cathy" whose work was late because she wasted too much time talking, Amy felt hurt and unfairly evaluated. Was it her fault that people loved to stop by her cubicle? How was she supposed to turn away Marsha, whose aging mother presented so many problems, or Jim, who wanted her thoughts on the best way to proceed with their clients? Her colleagues needed her support; cutting them short would hurt their feelings and her relationships.
Amy clearly needs the power of No. Why? Because, loving and being interested in them as she is, Amy is losing sight of her own responsibilities, her own agenda. No is a necessary tool to keep your goals in mind. Frankly, meeting your own goals is what you are being paid for and what will pay off. We all need No to do our job instead of someone else's.
When it protects you from abuse by others. Sadly, our most important relationships often invite our ugliest communications. In part that's because the people closest to us arouse our strongest emotions, and in part it's because they are the people we fear losing the most. Fear can sap the strength we need to say No, just when we need that power most.
A mean adult daughter is a case in point. Isabelle would insist that she loves her mother, but she also finds her irritating, offering the grandchildren too many snacks, giving Isabelle useless, anxiety-driven advice about health, bad weather, or spending. When Isabelle gets irritated, she snaps. She's rude ("Shut up!"), insulting ("Trying to make my kids fat like you, Mom?"), or just downright mean (derisive and contemptuous dismissal). Her frequent assaults hurt Mom deeply, and Mom complains bitterly and often to other family members about Isabelle's treatment.
Despite the support of her family, Mom never draws a line with Isabelle herself. She has yet to pull herself up and say, "Do not speak to me like that." She feels unable to because, quite simply, "This is my daughter. If I tell her she's not allowed to speak a certain way, she is quite capable of not speaking to me at all. I just can't risk it." Stripped of the power of No, we leave ourselves vulnerable to verbal assault.

Image: Woman whispering 'No' into the ear of a man who is expecting a
When you need the strength to change course. The invitations are in the mail, but the impending marriage is a mistake. The job looks good to the rest of the world, but it's making you sick in the morning. Your family has sacrificed to pay the tuition, but law school feels like a poor fit. When you find yourself going down the wrong road, No is the power necessary to turn yourself around.
The obstacles to this potent No are twofold: First, of course, you have to be able to tolerate acknowledging, if only to yourself, that you made a mistake. So many of us would rather be right than happy. We will continue blindly down the wrong path because we simply can't bring ourselves to read the road signs. Most of the time, though, we know when we need to draw the line.
The problem is getting ourselves to do it. Accessing your own power requires overcoming one huge obstacle: the cost of dishing out No.
Dishing It OutSimply, No is not a warm send. It's tough to deliver, in large part because we have a gut sense of how it will be received—not well.
Neuroscience supports our hunch that No is going to register far more harshly than we may have intended. The human brain is hardwired to respond to No more quickly, more intensely, and more persistently than to a positive signal. No is stronger than Yes.
The brain's so-called negativity bias, first described by psychologist Roy F. Baumeister, Ph.D., of Florida State University, explains why negative experiences have a more enduring impact on emotion than positive events of equal intensity. The brain reacts pleasantly to positive stimuli but wildly painfully to negative stimuli. No matter how you gift wrap it, No is a negative event. This holds true whether we are discussing financial matters (we are far more upset by losing a chunk of money than we are pleased by gaining an equal amount), interpersonal events (negative first impressions are difficult to overcome), or personal information (negative job feedback has a much more profound effect than positive information).
John Cacioppo, Ph.D., and colleagues at the University of Chicago actually measured the electrical output of the cerebral cortex to demonstrate that, across a variety of situations, negative information leads to a swift and outsize surge in activity. One hurt lingers longer than one compliment. Nevertheless, the ability to rapidly detect bad news and weight it so heavily, Cacioppo says, evolved for a very positive reason—to keep us out of harm's way.
And No hurts.
Whether reasonably required ("I can't lend my car because I'm not insured for other drivers"), tactfully couched ("Yours is the best banana bread ever, but my doctor has me on a special diet") or firmly asserted ("Thank you for asking, but I am already committed this weekend"), the receiver hears No. And feels bad.
Perhaps we intuitively grasp this brain bias, this neurological oversensitivity to No and for this reason alone are very reluctant to trigger that powerful reaction in others. Too, whether we sense the brain's negativity bias, many of us hesitate to deliver a No because of the real interpersonal damage it may do. No is not generally a way to win friends.
While we are not all equally vulnerable, some of us find the sting of displeasing others absolutely intolerable. We popularly refer to these people as "pleasers," and you probably know the degree to which you are one.
Pleasers are so relationship-oriented that they will automatically say what someone else wants to hear, agree with someone else's ideas, or bow to another's agenda without hesitation. A pleaser is frequently socially perceived as "nice," is usually well liked, and often feels taken advantage of, underappreciated, and uncertain in her decision making. It's not an even trade-off; when you cannot say No to others, you disappear.
There's a third cost to No that causes many of us to pull back: No can lead to conflict. That's a path few of us wish to take if it can be avoided.
You may hesitate to say No because the challenge you anticipate from others has merit. The line between selfish and necessary self-interest is not always clear. You want to turn down an invitation because you don't like parties. Your friend really wants your support. She will vigorously object, and you envision her making some good points. That makes Notough.
But face it: Some people will fight your No regardless of the issue. Such folks take others' boundaries as a personal affront. They challenge you, press you to justify yourself. It is a character style, and a successful one in many circumstances. ("Don't take No for an answer" is probably the best sales technique of all.) Set up a fence and this parent, spouse, colleague, or friend sees a barrier erected for the sole purpose of testing his ability to knock it down. Your No is his call to arms; most of us hesitate before we go into battle. It's easy to decide it's just not worth it.
Finally, it may be tough to dish out a No because you can see the hurt it inflicts. Even reflected pain—a wounded look, tears, slumped disappointment—is difficult to bear. That's a No we want to avoid—sometimes when we shouldn't.
All of these may be good reasons why we find No tough to dish out. Tough, but absolutely necessary. Because in the big picture, bottom line, we need to stick up for ourselves. No is the weapon we bring to the party.
Image: Speech bubbles that say
Sing Out, LouiseThere's No free lunch. If you are a person who is naturally open-hearted and generous, No can be an unnatural stretch. If you are one of those who really longs to be liked, it's more than a stretch. It's a cringe. Unfamiliar, uncomfortable but very, very necessary, because constant, craven Yes carves little slices from you, while No is a rock and a shield. Therein lies its power.
Organizational psychologist Adam Grant, author of Give and Take and a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, outs the many professional rewards and successes that accrue to generous givers. Still, Grant emphasizes that "the ability to say No is one of the most important skills one can have, particularly for givers."
Grant points to the power of No as necessary to carve time for one's own goals and agenda. Without it, other people dictate your schedule and limit your accomplishments. Says Grant, "Saying No is especially huge in establishing a work/life balance. Without that ability, work will cannibalize your life."
No also makes other people respect you and your time more, Grant notes. "When you are able to say No, people are careful to come to you with only meaningful requests, rather than simply asking for any help you might be able to give."
No makes your Yes more meaningful, or as Grant puts it, "It makes you more of a specialist, rather than a generalist in what you give to others." When we say Yes thoughtfully, because we are giving in our area of expertise, rather than saying Yes out of a need to be liked, we are far more apt to feel satisfied by giving.
No pays off in the personal arena as well as the professional one. It's exhilarating to feel in charge of one's self, to be the boundary setter and the decider. There's a bonus in energy and self-confidence.
Too, No tests the health and equity of your closest relationships. If you feel you cannot say No, at least to some things, some of the time, then you are not being loved—you are being controlled.
Finally, and perhaps most important, personal integrity requires the power of No. The ability to say No is an essential element of one's moral compass. Without it, we are merely agreeable pleasers, the Pillsbury doughboys of morals and values. Whatever the cost or quake involved when you deliver a No, backbone is defined by your ability to say it.
Judith Sills, PH.D., a psychologist in private practice in Philadelphia, is the author of Getting Naked Again, Excess Baggage, and other books. Read her PT Blog: Irrational Expertise
Finding Your VoiceOK, No costs. Your payoff in integrity and autonomy, however, is huge. The choice on the table is clear: Strengthen your ability to say No while lowering its cost to your relationships. Several strategies can help you achieve that balance.
Replace your automatic Yes with "I'll think about it."
If you haven't used this technique much, you will be awed by the results. "I'll think about it" puts you in control, softens the ground for No, suggests you are actually weighing important factors, and, most important, allows you the opportunity to think things through. A No that follows thoughtful decision making is a more grounded fence than a No that is fueled by emotional impulse.
Soften your language.
Try "I'm not comfortable with that." "I'd prefer not." "I'd rather..." "Let's agree to disagree here." Or "That's a good/nice/interesting plan, but I won't be able to..." This last is a variant of the Oreo cookie communication strategy, in which you say something positive ("You are such a warm and charming person"), sandwich in the filling of a tactful No ("I don't think you and I have a romantic future"), and then end with another cookie ("I have so enjoyed the time we've spent together; you really make me laugh").
Make no mistake. You are still delivering a clear and powerful No, and the other person well understands that. This No, sweeter and softer, may go down better.
Contain your feelings.
No is best deployed pleasantly with an air of Zen calm. (Tricky, because you are likely feeling very far from it.) Outward calm helps quiet your inner turmoil. What's more, it will reduce the negative impact of your No on the brain of your audience. The jolt that No delivers is big enough without a tsunami of anger and invective.
Refer to your commitment to others.
Say No without appearing selfish or uncaring by referencing your conflicting obligations to other people. "I'd love to help, but I have already agreed to help my mother/colleague/student then, and I can't let him/her down."
Realize you represent others.
Wharton's Adam Grant suggests that you are likely to negotiate more assertively if you recognize, or even imagine, that you are negotiating a salary on behalf of your family or negotiating a sale on behalf of your company. When it's not just your own interest at stake, you may find it easier to say No to a lowball offer.
Ongoing situations—a demanding boss who keeps piling on the work, a needy family member who never limits her requests, a mate who badgers until you cave—can benefit from your thoughtful, private rehearsal.
You may design one clear, respectful No and keep repeating it no matter what comes your way. ("I cannot take on another project, Sir, because my plate is too full." "I cannot take on another project, Sir, because my plate is too full.") Repeat politely until the boss finally hears you.
You may practice calmly cutting the conversation short. ("Honey, you and I don't agree on this. Let's close the conversation.") He goes on; you go silent.
Or, if you practice long enough, you might just become strong enough to listen to any inappropriate, uncomfortable, excessive request, pause for breath, and then deliver your one-word, no-explanation verdict: No.