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Feb 2013, No 1, Sec 1
Feb 2013, No 1, Sec 2
May 13, No 1, Sec 1
Oct 13, No 1, Sec 1

The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psyumorist (tm)

Feb 2013, No. I, Sec. I

Fight when you can
Take flight when you must
Flow like a dream
In the Phoenix we trust!

Table of Contents:

Sec. I
Notes from the Stress Doc ™
Upcoming Event:  Busy Women’s Retreat
Shrink Rap I:  Why Is It Hard to "Just Say 'No'"?:  Ten Barriers – Part I
Shrink Rap II:  "N & N" – No & Negotiate – Tools and Techniques for Saying "No – Part II 

Sec. II
Main Essay:  "N & N" – No & Negotiate – Tools and Techniques for Saying "No – Part III
Phone Coaching-Consultation-Counseling with the Stress Doc ™ and Offerings: Books, CDs, Training/Marketing Kit:  Email stressdoc@aol.com or go to www.stressdoc.com for more info.

Notes from the Stress Doc™: 

In its essence, this newsletter is an integral work.  While announcing the resurrection of the Busy Women’s Retreat it also features my recent three-part series on “Saying ‘No’:  Barriers and Tools & Techniques.”  And, over the years, I’ve heard more workshop participants say:  “Until I learned to say ‘No’ I was living on the edge of stress!

Here’s a suggestion I just gave to a reader: describe and reflect upon three critical life situations in which, in hindsight, you wished you had said “No.”  Were there only negative consequences from the experience?  Were there any long-term hard-earned wisdom/growing pains?

As for the Retreat, I’m getting some interest from women across the country about BWR experiences in their local communities.  My suggestion, come to the retreat in Frankilin, NC this May 3-5, and then we can plan more local retreats, tailored for your participants’ interests and needs.  In any event, see the Retreat material below.  And remember, burnout is less a sign of failure and more that we gave ourselves away.

Best wishes and good adventures!

Mark

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Event/Essay Summaries:

Upcoming Event.

National Stress-Conflict Resolution-Team Building Expert, Psychohumorist ™, Author, and Retreat Facilitator, The Stress Doc™ (www.stressdoc.com) and rustic yet comfy Rivendell Cabins, Franklin, NC, (http://www.RivendellCabins.com ) teaming up for a Busy Women's Retreat, the weekend of May 3-5, 2013. Recharge in the beautiful Smoky Mtns. Develop Stress Resiliency, Set Healthy Relationship Boundaries, Prevent/Recover from Burnout, Design Work-Life Transitioning, Reconnect to Creative Passion. Share great ideas, emotional support, Yoga classes, Relaxation-Visualization exercises. Three rustic and comfortable cabins; also two cabins with hot tubs. Three meals provided. Space is limited. First time great price of $250. For more info, call 828-349-6087 or 800 994 6462.

And for tweeting:

Retreat Expert, the Stress Doc@aol.com at rustic www.RivendellCabins.com , Franklin, NC to lead rejuvenating Busy Women’s Retreat, May 3-5, 2013.  Info:  828-349-6087

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1.  Shrink Rap I.  Why Is It Hard to "Just Say 'No'"?:  Ten Barriers to Asserting Your Individuality, Intentionality, and Integrity – Part I.  Part I of this three-part series outlined a variety of barriers to saying "No."  Obstacles to setting limits and boundaries ranged from the psychological and interpersonal to the systemic and cultural.

2.  Shrink Rap II & Main Essay.  "N & N" – No & Negotiate – Tools and Techniques for Saying "No:  Establishing Priorities, Setting Limits, and Solving Problems – Parts II & III.  “N & N” – Part II and III outline and illustrate ten tips and techniques to help you say "No and to Negotiate."  In addition there’s some strategy for setting limits on the “Big Boss.”  The "N & N Top Ten":

1.  Clean Up Your Static to Give a Clear Message

2.  Be Empathic yet Firm

3.  Use Relevant Facts; Place Issue in Context

4.  Use Assertive "I"s Not Blaming "You"s

5.  Don't Apologize

6.  Repeat Yourself Exactly

7.  Be Brief and Congruent

8.  Now Ask for Input

9.  Time Out Option

10. Summarize Agreements and Confirm Expectations, Including the Monitoring Process

 Upcoming Event:

Once again, destiny has intervened in my attempt to resurrect the Busy Women's Retreat. The rustic yet comfy Rivendell Cabins, http://www.rivendellcabins.com/, located in Franklin, NC, in the Foothills of the Smoky Mtns, will host the Spring, May 3-5 weekend event. Hope you will consider attending and/or spreading the word. In addition to the Smokies, the Retreat is 75 miles from Asheville, NC, one of my favorite places to escape. Asheville is an artsy mountain community that truly blends nature and culture.

While this retreat is geared toward individuals/friends, we also can help you plan a variety of management/team or department building retreats for your agency, company, or organization.

Below are a variety of announcements. If the Retreat is anything like the original (see testimonials below), it will truly be an awesome experience.  We had a diverse group; ages ranged from the 20s - 60s.

Just received this note from a BWR alum; says it all:

So glad to hear the busy women's retreat is being resurrected. I loved it and so many women need it. Price and place sound great. I wish I was available that weekend but alas, I am not.

All my best,

Ann-Marie C

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Please email or call with any questions. Call Rivendell for reservation info – 828-349-608 or 800 994 64627. Hope to see you in the Spring. Best wishes and good adventures. As always, thanks for your support.

Mark

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National Stress-Conflict Resolution-Team Building Expert, Psychohumorist ™, Author, and Retreat Facilitator, The Stress Doc™ (www.stressdoc.com) and rustic yet comfy Rivendell Cabins, Franklin, NC, (http://www.RivendellCabins.com ) teaming up for a Busy Women's Retreat, the weekend of May 3-5, 2013. Recharge in the beautiful Smoky Mtns. Develop Stress Resiliency, Set Healthy Relationship Boundaries, Prevent/Recover from Burnout, Design Work-Life Transitioning, Reconnect to Creative Passion. Share great ideas, emotional support, Yoga classes, Relaxation-Visualization exercises. Three rustic and comfortable cabins; also two cabins with hot tubs. Three meals provided. Space is limited. First time great price of $250. For more info, call 828-349-6087 or 800 994 6462.

And for tweeting:

Retreat Expert, the Stress Doc@aol.com at rustic www.RivendellCabins.com , Franklin, NC to lead rejuvenating Busy Women’s Retreat, May 3-5, 2013.  Info:  828-349-6087

Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW
The Stress Doc ™

301-875-2567www.stressdoc.com
stressdoc@aol.com
---------------

Hi,

Before emailing the continuation of my "Saying NO/Brain Fitness" series, I want to share some potentially exciting news.

Some of you may recall a very successful 2 day "Busy Women's Retreat" that I led three years ago in West Virginia. Alas, schedules could not be coordinated and a second retreat never materialized. I still get periodic requests from women interested in signing up for such a retreat. Clearly, ever-demanding schedules and lifestyles are not a thing of the past. However, hope (if not hype) springs eternal!

Well the owner of the rustic yet comfortable Rivendell Cabins (Nina assures me you don't have to go outside for the bathroom ;-), located in Franklin, NC, in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, and I have recently been discussing reprising the "Busy Women's Retreat" (BWR).

The May 3 -5, 2013 Spring Retreat will generate meaningful insight and take home tools in such areas as:

*  Building Stress Resiliency/Brain Agility through Natural SPEED ™

*  Preventing and Recovering from Burnout

*  Cleansing Wounds by Embracing "Grief Ghosts"

*  Transforming Aggressive Energy into "Purposeful Passion Power"

*  Setting Healthy Relationship Boundaries

Design Work-Life Transitioning

*  Recharging/Rediscovering Personal Vitality and Creative Passion

And, the most important dynamic, is the free-flowing sharing among participants that is encouraged and facilitated by the Stress Doc. It truly is an opportunity for opening up, self-nurturing, uncommon support and bonding, as well as genuine self-awareness and growth!

Here is a testimonial from the original BWR:

Busy Women's Retreat
at Blue Mountain Retreat Center/Harper's Ferry, WV

Mark,

Thank you so much for giving such a meaningful presentation at the Busy Women's Retreat here at Blue Mountain on March 5th and 6th. The subject matter, "Transforming Stress, Conflict and Change into Passion Power" was itself a very powerful theme, and you were able to so skillfully present and guide the group! This subject brought a lot of heavy emotions from the women to the surface. Your ability to help the women work through their issues, and even more importantly, your ability to give them tools with which to transform their stress was truly amazing. The participants in the retreat told me personally that they were very impressed with the way that you managed the group and that they took away many things that they can use in their everyday life. Your presentation helped them to evaluate their stressors differently, to see the positive in every stress, conflict and/or change. Moreover, you helped them to realize they are not alone, and you were so skilled at allowing and encouraging others to give feedback within the group! I am just so impressed with your organization, your presentation and your professionalism. I will certainly hire you again, and the women in this first group all said they look forward to working with you again at a future gathering! Thank you for your time, effort, intelligence and caring. You are truly a gifted workshop leader!!

Beth Ehrhardt, Owner
Blue Mountain Retreat Cente
Knoxville, MD 21758

--------------------------------------

May 3-5 2013 Retreat: Weblink and Accommodations

Nina and I are both excited about the retreat. Here's a link with some great views. Do click on the scenery link and the arrows on the pics for more scenes and great mountain music.

Click here: Rivendell Cabin Rentals in the Great Smoky Mountains - Home or

http://www.rivendellcabins.com/

And here's some text from her site:

Rivendell Cabins are located in Franklin, North Carolina, in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. These vacation rentals are located only 4 miles from the Town of Franklin offering secluded, private cabins, not located in a cluster of other cabins.

Each of the Rivendell Vacation Cabins is fully furnished with everything to make you feel at home in the North Carolina Mountains. Each vacation rental includes: full kitchen and laundry, paper and soap products, bedding and towels, free WIFI, hot tubs, fireplaces, satellite tv with all channels, central heat and a/c, private phone lines, vcr/dvd and movies, stereo, and so much more.

[One cabin has 5 beds, one cabin has 4 beds and a fold out twin bed, (both of these include a fold out double bed couch setting). The third cabin is a one bedroom and offers a queen bed in the bedroom, a fold out couch, and a twin bed rollaway, so only 3 could sleep there. Remember, the cabins do not have separate rooms; it's a communal space with one or more private bathrooms/cabin; and two cabins have hot tubs.

You only need bring your clothes, personal items and foods. (Actually, some retreat meals will be provided; see below.) We have made every effort to provide an allergy free, convenient and relaxing environment for your vacation. The Rivendell Cabin is handicap accessible. We welcome children and pets.

These vacation rentals are located only 4 miles from the Town of Franklin offering secluded, private cabins, not located in a cluster of other cabins. (For more info, email or call me at 301-875-2567 and/or Nina at 828-349-6087)

Click here: Rivendell Cabin Rentals in the Great Smoky Mountains - Home or

http://www.rivendellcabins.com/

--------------

For a Fri evening – Sun at 1pm Retreat:

Fri May 3, 7- 9pm (6-7pm meet and greet snack and social)

Sat May 4, 8am - 3pm (with continental breakfast and lunch)

Sun May 5, 8am - 1pm (with continental breakfast), including

* Arrive Fri afternoon, evening -- meet, greet, and begin the retreat (7pm - 9pm)

* 2 nights accommodation

* 2 continental breakfasts

* 1 lunch

* Snacks

* Yoga instruction both mornings

* Informal and organized walks

* Visualization/meditation exercise

* Workshops (total of 11 hours led/facilitated by the Stress Doc, from Fri-Sun)

Rivendell has three cabins which, in total, can accommodate 10 or 11 participants, so there would 3-4 people per cabin. The sooner you call, the more options you have in selecting a cabin. I suspect we are going to fill up pretty quickly.

The entire package is a first time, great price of $250 plus tax (9.75% tax for occupancy).

To ensure the May 3-5 retreat date, we will need at least five people to register with Nina by mid-March.

You will need to discuss the cancellation policy with Nina. She will also be the person collecting payment.

And if anyone needs to be shuttled between cabins (which are two blocks apart), please inform Nina, who will provide transportation.)

----------------

Also, if you want to extend your stay, whether before or after the retreat, call Nina at 828-349-6087. While this retreat is geared to individuals/friends, we also can help you plan a variety of management/team or department building retreats for your agency, company, or organization.

If you've never been to the beautiful Smokies or to the artsy mountain town of Asheville, NC, one of my favorite escapes, this is a great opportunity for both nature and culture.)

Nina also recommends carpooling as parking is limited to 2 cars off-cabin parking, 3 at the large Rivendell Cabin, 2 at Cedars and 2 at Evenstar.

If you want to fly into the area, there are three airports within 100 miles. If you choose not to a rent a car, you can negotiate being picked up by Nina or a Representative of Rivendell Cabins. However, to see the wonderful sights and surroundings, it's best to have wheels.

-----------------------

Major airports near Franklin, North Carolina:

The nearest major airport is Asheville Regional Airport (AVL / KAVL). This airport has domestic flights from Asheville, North Carolina and is 75 miles from the center of Franklin, NC.

Another major airport is McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS / KTYS), which has domestic flights from Knoxville, Tennessee and is 100 miles from Franklin, NC.

Athens-Ben Epps Airport (AHN / KAHN) has domestic flights from Athens, Georgia and is 101 miles from Franklin, NC.

Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP / KGSP) has domestic flights from Greenville, South Carolina and is 135 miles from Franklin, NC.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport - Atlanta, GA (ATL / KATL); 139 miles from Franklin, NC

-----------------------------

Will be back in touch real soon with registration updates. Until then, best wishes and to good adventures.

Shrink Rap I:

Click here: Stress Doc: Notes from a Motivational Psychohumorist ™: Why Is It Hard to "Just Say 'No'"?: Ten Barriers to Assert or

http://www-stressdoc-com.blogspot.com/2013/02/why-is-it-hard-to-just-say-no-ten.html

Why Is It Hard to "Just Say 'No'"?:  Ten Barriers to Asserting Your Individuality, Intentionality, and Integrity – Part I

When it comes to dealing with stress, most of us are familiar with the “R and R” recommendation – Rest and Recreation.  However, “N and N” may be just as critical:  the ability to say “No” and to “Negotiate.”  Over the years, I’ve heard more people declare that, “Until I learned to say ‘No,’ I was living on the edge of stress!”  My home grown "aphormation" (a neologistic mix of aphorism and affirmation):  A firm "No" a day keeps the ulcers away, and the hostilities too!

Still, for many folks across the generational spectrum, saying “No” with conviction requires more than “Just Say NO” exhortation.  While a clear "No" is a vital tool for being assertive and effective at the work, home, and relational battlefronts, however, to paraphrase the old caveat, when it comes to saying and meaning "No"…even for many adults, it's easier thought than said or done!

Let’s examine why many folks have difficulty using this provocative two-letter "N"-word; let's explore "Ten Barriers to Saying ‘No’ and Setting Healthy Priorities-Boundaries”:

1)  Societal Norms.  When it comes to role behavior, our culture is no longer so locked into sexual stereotyping.  Men are not exclusively aggressive (hunters) and women are not the only nurturers (gatherers).  Nevertheless, some inhibitions if not prohibitions still exist (not to mention the fact that women still do a disproportionate share of the childcare and housework).  Glass ceiling issues regarding equal pay and career advancement are still a reality, especially for minority women.  And an aggressive and mentally sharp businesswoman can still be labeled a "shrew" rather than being admired for being shrewd or savvy, terms often garnered by her male counterpart.  To the degree that there are gender differences regarding:  a) early socialization in the family and/or in the classroom, b) access to appropriate mentors and positions of institutional authority, and c) stereotyping and/or discrimination in various shapes, sizes, ages, and colors then the playing and labeling fields will not be level or just.  For many women, appropriate aggression and vital assertion will seem less natural; it may feel less safe in key roles and relations to set limits and boundaries, to just say "No!"

2)  Family Values, Sibling Order and Attitudes.  Let's sharpen our focus by concentrating on, perhaps, the most powerful socializing force -- the family.  And while families certainly can reinforce sex-role stereotyping, let's not overlook the fact that a variety of family factors come into play when examining an ability to say "No" in interpersonal situations.  Also, both by temperament as well as upbringing, there are many men for whom being assertive or setting limits is a daunting task.  Here are a variety of family dynamics:

a. Birth Order.  Birth order may be influential; firstborns often feel more pressure to be the responsible "good child."  Parents may be more relaxed and lenient with subsequent children.  For these offspring saying "No" may seem less daunting.

b. Substance Abuse.  Substance abuse in families may also contribute to a sense of shame around being aggressive, especially if an abuser was often enraged or out of control of his emotions or his life responsibilities.  Other children prefer to hide or become invisible; some act out their hurt, anger, and shame (also providing a distraction for the abusing family member).

c. Autocratic and Judgmental Figures.  Rigidly righteous parental figures or other significant authorities demanding absolute loyalty may stifle healthy individuality.  Or a child shamed into silence if not into unquestioned loyalty for fear of being exposed as disrespectful, defiant, or damaged goods may have difficulty setting boundaries.  I’ve tried to capture the resultant autocratic irony in my “Law of the Loyalty Loop and Lock”:  Those who never want you to answer back always want you to back their answer 

d. Shaming Anger and Individuality.  Families who view emotionally expressive children (especially the emotion of anger) as "mad" or "bad" or who attempt to stifle a child's separation and individuation process through threats or guilt too often raise bottled-up children (or offspring who eventually hit the bottle).  This constrictive and controlling mode of relating is often fueled by a sense of emptiness, shame, and fear of abandonment.

3)  Fear of One's Own Aggression.  Some individuals cut off their aggressive feelings because they are afraid of or ashamed of their own potential for explosiveness.  To succumb to anger means you are being irrational or “out of control”; perhaps an antagonist has gotten to you.  To show anger is a sign that your opponent has "won."  A family member who psychically collapses, guilt trips, or explodes when a child expresses anger may be teaching a powerful lesson:  not only is your anger wrong but, in addition, you are destructive (to yourself and toward others)!

Please note…it takes a lot of energy to turn aggression inward and bottle it up.  Expending all this conscious and unconscious effort to hold back a natural part of your “self” is not only energy depleting and exhausting.  This process of self-constriction may induce a sense of helplessness and depression.

4)  Fear of Retribution or Rejection.  Another factor is that others may resent your attempt at being assertive or saying "No."  Will the other person subtly put you down, openly attack, or expose your vulnerabilities?  Will this antagonist use ridicule, or perhaps reject you for not giving him what he wants?  Will a supervisor hold a grudge or believe that:  a) her authority is being challenged, b) you are being resistant or defiant, or c) she is being shown up?

Or will your "No" be a sign that you are behaving out of character.  You are not your "self."  The opponent may attempt to trivialize your position or demonize your person:  "What's wrong with you!"  An assertion of difference or individuality may lead to ostracism by a peer group.

5)  Fear of Justification.  Related to the above, some folks back away from saying "No" because of that potentially intimidating counter:  "Why not?"  Now you feel on the spot.  And the rejoinder, "I just feel this way right now," is never acceptable.  Of course there are situations when we need to back up our "No" with a reasoned explanation.  However, there are many occasions when "I'm not sure" is an honest and acceptable response.  Having the strength to be tentative or being able to take a time out is often a desirable problem-solving step.  You are asserting your space even without providing an overt "No."  (This is a useful and honorable step if, in fact, you do further reflection or research and then get back to the other party in a timely manner.)

6)  Fear of Being Labeled.  For some in authority the first sign of a subordinate's "No" signals trouble and, not surprisingly, the naysayer is a "troublemaker."  Or he has a "bad attitude" and is not being a "team player."  Conformist "group think" is often a byproduct of a powerful (yet insecure) individual or environment that has little tolerance for a "No."  When a person with a contrary idea or belief is dependent on the authority figure (psychologically, financially, etc.) or such a person feels vulnerable in his or her position then, not surprisingly, staying in the authority's good graces is a paramount motivator.  Self-censorship or doctoring the message is not unlikely.

7)  The Boundary Issue.  Regarding interpersonal engagements, we all have a sense of a physical space and a psychological space that influences our own levels of comfort or discomfort.  This feeling of comfort is a function of both actual and emotional closeness (and commitment) and distance (or detachment).  I call this psychosocial dynamic one's sense of "personal space."  (Comfort in personal space is also influenced by cultural norms and practices, e.g., the accepted physical distance between parties engaged in conversation.)  Too much actual or perceived closeness (smothering anxiety) or too much distance (separation anxiety) often triggers issues related to: a) status and self-esteem, b) threshold levels for losing control, emotionally or behaviorally, c) predisposition for emptiness or depression, d) dependency issues and the fear of losing one's self in a codependent relationship or, conversely, e) a desire to be enmeshed with the other so as to numb or obliterate alienation and/ or isolation as well as a tormented self.

Of course, being enmeshed in a group sometimes allows individuals to be defiant and to act out their aggression, fears, or feelings of inferiority because of the anonymity found in group membership.  (Think of group scapegoating.)  Also, having group cover makes it easier for an individual to deny or diffuse responsibility for his or her actions.

A Personal Vignette:  Bullies without Boundaries

Let me share a personal example.  From the age of ten to fourteen, two of my "friends" living in the same six-story apartment building would frequently bully me, mostly verbally and psychologically.  One night the tormenting had reached such a crescendo that in a panic state, despite feelings of fear and shame, I finally cried uncontrollably to my father.  My dad immediately went upstairs and confronted the father of one of the bullies.  Alas, we didn't talk further about why I wasn't able to stand up for myself or why I wasn't able to stay away from my tormentors.  (I suppose a significant part of the answer for a lack of self-integrity and chronic helplessness relates to my overt symptomatology merely being part of the dysfunctional family iceberg.  To the degree my father was not ready to confront his own coping strategy for dealing with long-standing mood swings and depression – ongoing twice/year electroshock therapy as opposed to seeking psychotherapy – I too would anguish and suffer in shame and silence.)

Alas, neither my dad's intervention nor my tortured silence would allow for healthy distance from my antagonists.  The next morning I was ringing the doorbell of one of the bullies for our daily trek to school.

"My god, why?" you might ask.  It's tragically simple:  I was so frightened that they would really be plotting against me, that they would be seeking revenge for my having exposed their bullying.  Hyper-vigilance necessitates being in close proximity.  (Alas, I had many of the symptoms of a battered spouse.)  Healthy boundaries are not possible when you have so little sense of self.  (And this feeling of helplessness and hopelessness is only exacerbated by unrecognized childhood depression.)  The torment you know is preferable to the imagined (or unimagined) torment conceived in a near paranoid or panic state.  And, not surprisingly, as an adult it took years of therapy to resurrect to full consciousness this traumatic period of my life.  It often requires healthy dependence with a therapist or a support group as well as personal courage to grieve fully the years of pain, panic, and silent shame of a long-standing abusive relationship.

8)  Inability to Know or Trust One's Gut.  As we've seen, there are a variety of critical conditions contributing to both the muffling of an inner voice and an inability to risk shedding a pleasing, traumatized, or muted persona.  Consider this sequence of obstacles to "getting real":

a) long-standing feelings of inadequacy or unworthiness,

b) growing up in a family that shames, slams or shuns the expression of feelings, especially anger and

c) over time, losing the ability to recognize and label your feelings.  For such a person, his inner emotional world is mostly numb.  Not surprisingly this person is often very fearful, truly having "no guts" to trust.  (Conversely, in his emotional ignorance, the battering personality labels most emotional experience or expression that's not aggressive in nature as a sign of being a wimp or of being unmanly.  For this psychically stunted individual, "emotional" people are whiners; pathetic whiners at that.  Of course, a batterer might see himself as a "strong silent type."  Though I suspect the more accurate dynamic is as follows:  "For me to be strong you must be silent!")

9)  Fear of Being Alone or Abandoned.  When a fear of actual or psychological abandonment infuses the parent-child dynamic, a child may take on a false, "too good" persona.  Alas, what often gets lost is the necessity for setting boundaries and the need for some conflict in establishing an identity.  A child's ability to say "No" to a parent or even "I don't like you" is not automatically or simply a sign of willful defiance or a negative or hostile personality.  Such a stance may also reflect a child who is evolving a fairly solid, "good enough" sense of self.  The child is not so symbiotically tied to the parent; he or she can risk some emotional separateness.  There's some basic trust, mostly on an unconscious level, that a "No" will not trigger physical or psychological aggression or abandonment by the significant adult.  And, of course, learning early that you do not have to swallow a "No" for fear of parental rejection eventually makes it easier to "Just say 'No'" to adolescent peers as well as McDonalds' fries.

10)  Fear of Standing Out.  Some individuals are afraid of projecting their individuality.  They would rather blend into the crowd, conform to the norm, or replay the "invisible child" role (a not uncommon development for a sibling in an alcoholic or abusive family).  Others are afraid to say "No" for fear of confrontation:  "So what would you do "Mr. Negative?"  Suddenly, an upfront contrary stance has you on the spot, if not in the spotlight.  Now performance anxiety pressure is building.  As we've noted, whether out of jealousy or a perception that you are defying role proscriptions, a "No" can be seen as a selfish act or as a declaration of disloyalty.  And for the target of such a judgmental barrage, self-censorship is not the only worry.  For people who continually fear and suppress their own complex and genuine individuality, there is as much "safety" in being numb as there is safety in numbers.

Closing Summary

This segment has focused on ten psychosocial barriers to affirming priorities, setting boundaries, and saying "No!"  Of course, in response to the above barriers, there are some aggressive personalities who spew a reflexive and rigid "No!"  Not surprisingly, some of the same underlying issues are at play:  fear of losing control, feeling put down or shamed by an authority, feeling stifled, fearing a loss of self, perceiving closeness or emotional dependence as a sign of weakness or as an invasion of one's overtly fortified and covertly vulnerable psychological and physical space.  However, "Ten Barriers to Saying ‘No’ and Setting Healthy Priorities-Boundaries” has examined the imploders more than the exploders

Let me recap the ten basic barriers and challenges to saying "No":

1.  Societal Norms

2.  Family Values, Sibling Order, and Attitudes

3.  Fear of One's Own Aggression

4.  Fear of Retribution and Rejection

5.  Fear of Justification

6.  Fear of Being Labeled

7.  The Boundary Issue

8.  The Inability to Know or Trust One's Gut

9.  Fear of Being Alone or Abandoned

10. Fear of Standing Out

Clearly, these can be powerful deterrents to recognizing and experiencing your individuality and integrity, that is, your genuine needs, wants, joys, fears, passions, and beliefs…your separate and genuine self or true spirit.  Learning to say "No" is vital for surviving and thriving in today's ever demanding, work-life boundary busting world.

Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is an acclaimed keynote, kickoff and webinar speaker as well as "Motivational Humorist & Team Communication Catalyst" known for his interactive, inspiring, and FUN programs for both government agencies and major corporations.  In addition, the "Doc" is a Team Building and Organizational Development Consultant as well as a Critical Incident/Grief Intervention Expert for Business Health Services, a National EAP/Wellness/OD Company.  He is providing "Stress and Communication,” as well as “Managing Change, Leadership and Team Building" programs for a variety of units at Ft. Hood, Texas and for Army Community Services and Family Advocacy Programs at Ft. Meade, MD and Ft. Belvoir, VA as well as Andrews Air Force Base/Behavioral Medicine Services.

A former Stress and Violence Prevention Consultant for the US Postal Service, the Doc is the author of Practice Safe Stress and of The Four Faces of Anger.  The Stress Doc blog appears in such platforms as HR.com, WorkforceWeek.com, and MentalHelpNet.  His award-winning, USA Today Online "HotSite"www.stressdoc.com – was called a "workplace resource" by National Public Radio (NPR).  For more info on the Doc's "Practice Safe Stress" programs or to receive his free e-newsletter, email stressdoc@aol.com or call 301-875-2567.
 

Shrink Rap II:

Click here: Stress Doc: Notes from a Motivational Psychohumorist ™: "N & N" Tools and Techniques for Saying "No": Establishing or

http://www-stressdoc-com.blogspot.com/2013/02/n-n-tools-and-techniques-for-saying-no.html

"N & N" – No & Negotiate – Tools and Techniques for Saying "No":

Establishing Priorities, Setting Limits, and Solving Problems – Part II

Part I of this three-part essay, “Why Is It Hard to ‘Just Say No’?:  Ten Barriers to Asserting Your Individuality, Intentionality, and Integrity,” focused on ten psychosocial barriers to affirming priorities, setting boundaries, and saying "No!"  (Email stressdoc@aol.com if you missed Part I.)  The ten basic barriers and challenges to saying "No":

1.  Societal Norms

2.  Family Values, Sibling Order and Attitudes

3.  Fear of One's Own Aggression

4.  Fear of Retribution and Rejection

5.  Fear of Justification

6.  Fear of Being Labeled

7.  The Boundary Issue

8.  The Inability to Know or Trust One's Gut

9.  Fear of Being Alone or Abandoned

10. Fear of Standing Out

Clearly, these can be powerful deterrents to recognizing and experiencing your individuality and integrity, that is, your genuine needs, wants, joys, fears, passions, and beliefs, also establishing your credibility…as well as affirming your separate and genuine self or true spirit.  Learning to say "No" is vital for surviving and thriving in today's ever demanding, work-life boundary busting world.

"N & N" – “No & Negotiate” – Tools and Techniques for Saying "No"

While "Just Say 'No'" has become a pat phrase (not unlike "Have a Good Day") putting this affirmative concept into action frequently becomes a thorny if not daunting challenge.  The Stress Doc provides ten strategies for turning popular and too often simplistic expression into applied and substantive reality.

Here is the First Five of "The 'N & N' Top Ten":

1.  Clean Up Your Static to Give a Clear Message.  Saying "No" is not easy, especially if you believe the other party will be disappointed, feel rejected, or become angry and vindictive.  There's a tendency to either delay or dilute the limit-setting message.  And for a person who consistently accepts a deadline while knowingly withholding reservations about its achievability and then, at the eleventh hour, apologetically admits to not being able to make good on his promise, there's a label:  passive-aggressive "stress carrier."  Ouch!  (And you know the definition of a stress carrier:  a person who doesn't get ulcers…just gives them!)

So confront your anxiety about hurting the other or of being hurt.  Don't engage in overprotection or infantilization; the other person is responsible for handling his or her own emotions.  And beware of projecting your own fear of rejection in a conflict situation; that is, you may be the one struggling with rejection, not your antagonist.  Even more basic, if experiencing

a) emotional defensiveness – making excuses, denying a real problematic issue, etc.,

b) static – generalized stress induced worry, obsession, etc., or comparing yourself negatively to the other, and/or

c) flooding – feeling overwhelmed, ashamed, or personally “injured” by critical comments

during the interpersonal encounter try to defuse any impulsive or reactive energy and behavior.  Try using self-dialogue to acknowledge feeling hurt, scared, or angry, and then talk yourself down.  If necessary, declare a “time out” for reflection and regaining emotional equilibrium.

a. Consider the “Reflective and Responsive” Mantra:  Count to Ten and Check Within.  The standard advice when you’ve “had it up to here” with someone and want to verbally explode or simply lash out is, of course, “Count to ten.”  And while I see some merit, for me the cautionary counsel falls a bit short.  In the heat of battle, if thrown off guard, I can just imagine myself methodically counting, “1-2-3-4,” then suddenly shifting gears, flying through 5 through 9, and at “10” blurting out, “You bozo!”  (Even the Stress Doc is susceptible to that “You”-ruption every once in a while; though the words of French novelist Andre Gide from his book, The Immoralist, often helps me silently, if not serenely, place people and positions in perspective:  One must allow others to be right; it consoles them for not being anything else!)

So how can you trump a knee-jerk “reaction?”  Actually, to be less reactive, all you need is some of those well-developed multi-tasking skills to transform the old saw into a new aphorism.  (As an aside, while the younger generation is particularly adept at multi-tasking (and also frequently misguided when it comes to being “mindful” trumping multi-tasking), I suspect folks of any age who primarily hyper-speed through life may have some initial difficulty being personally reflective and psychosocially attentive.)  Anyway…my poetic mantra:  Count to ten and check within.  That is, while you are counting (and centering yourself or trying to calm) down, ask one or more of these questions, which may also slow the countdown:  “What am I feeling right now?”  Am I attributing all my hurt or anger to “the other”; am I about to vent with a blaming “You”?  Is it possible that some of my outrage reveals that my own “hot button” or emotional baggage issues have been pushed, triggered, or stirred?  Am I confronting my “Intimate FOE:  Fear of Exposure?”
 

Ø  Personal Interpersonal Example.  Consider this self-inventory process, though, admittedly, one several years in the making.  A heated exchange followed by quiet discussion enabled my partner to finally realize that my behavior was not equivalent to the immature actions of her ex; my actions were not really firing up her emotional cauldron.  It was her own low boiling point – worn down by an erosive and divisive marriage – helping to trigger her impatience and anger with her present partner.  (Though, of course, I certainly bring some of my own stuff to our intimate interaction.)  The real “hot button” was her self-regret, shame, and rage for not being strong enough to leave sooner a mostly dysfunctional “thirty year” marriage.  Clearly, “separation anxiety/being on my own” fear constricted her options; there were some irreparable consequences for the children, the adults, and the family as a whole.  However, having the courage to face your sadness and remorse softens the anger and rage that otherwise turns inward and/or gets acted out onto others.  And this deeper awareness should help a dyad’s interaction be less defensive and reactive.

When to Check Within and Without

After completing this rapid internal audit, if still confused or frustrated while in the heat of battle, then build upon the mantra:  Count to ten and check within…when in doubt, check without!  Alas, my poetic addition may be a tad ambiguous.  So let’s clarify some possible interpretations of check without:

a) check outside yourself; ask the other to clarify his or her message, e.g., “I’m not clear about what I’m hearing”;

b) check or set limits on a hostile communicator, e.g., “I don’t mind feedback, even critical feedback, but hostility and condescension are not acceptable!  Let’s try again”;

c) check in with an open mind, that is, without bias, making every effort to consciously suspend your assumptions and prejudgments; e.g., “I must admit I’m not neutral in this matter, but I will attempt to listen with an open and objective mind.”
 

Ø  The Paradoxical Power of “Time Out” or Retreat.  If issues remain troubling upon “checking within and without,” remember, you may momentarily retreat yet still be palpably real and paradoxically present.  You may check out to check in:  “I’m way angry right now, and don’t want to put my foot in my mouth (or your butt).  I’m not running out; I’m taking a time out.  I want to think about this, and I will get back to you first thing in the morning.  From my perspective, we are not finished.”  And remember, especially in the workplace, if a time out does not lead to a pass in the impasse, and you can envision further interpersonal head-butting, you may want to put your cards on the table; share your intention of seeking formal or informal third-party assistance or mediation.

 

Clearly, strategic-reflective retreating is not giving up but stepping back in order to cool down, lick wounds, reevaluate, perhaps talk with a “stress buddy,” integrate head and heart, gain new perspective and strategy, and then responsibly reengage.  (Of course, there are times, for example, in the instance of child abuse, when an aggressor-predator-enabler has clearly earned “You”-focused confrontation, condemnation, formal reporting, and legal intervention.)

The key to delivering a clean "No" message in a timely, if not immediate, manner is being clear and upfront in your own mind.  In addition, there is a “tactfully assertive” art and method of boundary setting that will help you establish limits while gradually encouraging a mutual discussion and problem-solving process.  Read on!

2.  Be Empathic yet Firm.  In the face of another's request or demand, saying "No" and slamming the door while walking out of the office or room is immature.  (Of course, a blow up may also indicate that you feel trapped in a no-win or abusive situation.  Maybe it's time to rethink your position, or to leave without slamming or being slammed.)  Storming out can also be self-defeating.  The recipient of such hostility will likely find ways to get even – overtly or covertly.  The preferred approach:  if possible, before delivering your "No" try to acknowledge the request without being defensive:  "I know this project is important to you."  If you are able, itemize the reasons for its importance, e.g., an upcoming deadline, achieving a specific goal, or the negative consequences for missing a deadline or compromising an objective. 
 

Ø  How to Say “No.”  Now, clearly and decisively say "No” while concisely explaining why you can't meet the request as presented, e.g., the number of items on your plate.  Then strategically balance your own "No" with, "However, here's what I can do"; for example, “While I can’t help you with ‘abc’ right now, I might be able to help you with ‘def.’  Try calling me back in two days about ‘abc’.”  Remember, you are allowed to place some responsibility on the party asking a favor.  (Part III will also provide tips when an “’abc’ to ‘def’” offering is likely not possible – dealing with a “big boss.”)

 

Ø  How Has Your “No” Been Received?  Ask for feedback, especially if the other party is perturbed by your initial position.  (See Part II #8.)  If your "No" and your tactfully assertive counter make an initial connection with the "Four Problem-Solving 'P's" – the other person's Pain and Passion, Purpose and Power – you will be laying the groundwork for "N & N":  No and Negotiation.  (And connecting to a “power” issue may both involve recognizing the other's strengths and/or understanding his vulnerability or feeling of futility.)

3.  Use Relevant Facts and Place Issue in Context.  For example, if a manager asks you to work on the weekend, responding in the following manner is less than a desirable strategy: "You always ask me to work on the weekend.  You're not being fair.  I'm not doing it!"  One problem with the response is that it's too global:  "You always ask me."  The second sentence is a “blaming barb.”  And out of frustration, by impulsively declaring, "I'm not doing it," you come across somewhere between being petulant and defiant.  You are also slamming the door on potential clarification, negotiation, and consensus building.
 

Ø  A Smarter Strategy.  A cooler and wiser approach is being objective, not objectionable.  For example, try saying:  "I'm frustrated.  I'm not sure you realize that it's the third time this month that I've come in on the weekend.  I know this project is out of the ordinary; and I do want to be a team player.  However, maybe we need a better department-wide system for enlisting weekend workers.  By waiting till Thursday afternoon for recruiting whoever's available, the weekend workload is not falling equally on department personnel.  I'd like to bring this up on Monday in a department meeting." 

You may decide to work the weekend in hopes of having the boss "owe you."  Obviously, being "on call" is built into some job descriptions.  If being available 24/7 doesn't apply, then, even without specific weekend plans, you have the right to protect your home-life and work-life boundaries.  Alas, if you have a boss who, on a consistent basis, won't respect such boundaries and there is no recourse for appealing to a higher authority (besides praying fervently) then it may be time to reassess the viability of your job situation.

4.  Use Assertive "I"s Not Blaming "You"s.  There is an art to expressing frustration and anger.  Blurting out blaming "You" messages, e.g., "You're not fair," “It’s your fault,” or as previously mentioned, the global, "You always," not only highlights gaps in your communication capacity.  In addition, this approach only throws fuel on the feedback fire.  The other party will likely become defensive-aggressive or passive-aggressive, perhaps getting even at a later time.  As noted, you can be assertive and tactful when making an objective point:  "I'm not sure you realize I have worked three weekends this month."  Using tentative phrasing – "I'm not sure" – is often a sign of strength; you don’t come across as superior or condescending.  (Of course, there are times when its use reflects questionable motives.  After a workshop, I recall a judge sharing that he liked my tactful yet tactical "I'm not so sure" counter in the heat of a potentially "right vs. wrong" power struggle.  He thought he might try it out with some of those provocatively aggressive attorneys with whom he battles daily:  "I'm not so sure…you a-hole!"   Umm, judge…you don't have to credit me for your new approach to engagement.)

a. Be Specific and Objective or Tactfully Subjective.  Obviously, be careful about using provocative language that seems to label, blame, or critically judge someone as "unfair" or a “fabricator” (let alone a body part).  Focus your comments and concern on the specific problematic behavior.  Of course, when there has been a pattern of problematic behavior or decision-making, emotional subjectivity may need to be addressed before objectivity can be achieved.  Consider an opening that drops the exasperated, blaming "You"s:  "I have to say I'm confused and frustrated" (rather than “You’re driving me nuts”).  “Here are the facts, and why I believe there’s a problem.”  This allows you to blow off some steam without being overly reactive.  You are acknowledging and taking responsibility for your emotions and for clarifying the situation.  (Btw, what I really want to say to someone who’s accusing me of driving him or her crazy:  “Gee, I think you’re giving me way too much credit.” ;-). 

By purposefully channeling your aggression you are better able to calmly and effectively assert "the facts."  You also can affirm your beliefs and boundary without being defensive, that is, without blurting out “You’re not being fair; I'm not doing it."  Now your "No" seems less negative.  Instead of shutting a door you are opening a problem-solving window that frames the issue in a more useful and inviting manner.

b. Differentiate Blaming “You” vs. Responsible “I” Messages.  “You’re always late,” “What’s your problem?” or “You made us look bad.”  “You” messages not only assign blame or are judgmental and often global (e.g., “You never”), but they deny any responsibility on the part of the person making those “acc-you-sations.”  (And, naturally, a “chronic acc-you-ser” risks becoming a blameaholic!)  Actually, even worse, these accusing “You”s often facilitate a transfusion of power:  the “acc-you-ser” is increasingly becoming a puppet and is enabling the so-called antagonist to pull all his or her strings.

So, instead of “You’re making me mad” or “It’s your fault,” how about, “I don’t like what’s going on between us.  Here’s what I don’t appreciate (or) this is what has me frustrated, concerned, uncomfortable, etc.”  Then specifically, clearly, and concisely state your “I”-message concern, e.g., “I prefer being asked or questioned about my reasons for doing XYZ rather than being confronted by global or indirect assumptions.  I need for us to talk about what’s going on and clear up our different expectations!”
 

Ø  Breaking Away from Blaming.  The shift from blaming or judging involves:

a) asserting one’s own beliefs and perspective and, when necessary, firmly yet respectfully setting limits on the use of “You”-message fault-finding,

b) setting boundaries on a party not respecting one’s physical or psychological space,

c) evolving a perspective that is less focused on the other person’s “faults” (that is, an intrapersonal position) and more concerned with developing an interpersonal, “How are we together generating this situation and what can we do about it?” problem-solving approach, and

d) acknowledging and taking responsibility for one’s actions and feelings by using “I”-messages, including acknowledging one’s own strengths and vulnerabilities, likes and dislikes, as well as concerns and irritations.

Such an emotional-communicational shift means being authentically “self”-centered in contrast to being self-absorbed or narcissistically ego-driven.  Remember, a healthy “I”-communicator strives for real and respectful, responsible and responsive give and take between the parties.  (Email stressdoc@aol.com for my article “The Four “R”s of PRO Relating.”)  The narcissist invariably sees life through a “perfect or pathetic,” “black or white” or a “right or wrong” lens, though these may even have superficial rose-colored tinting.  This personality inevitably needs to be “one-up” or “in control,” whether through intimidation, withdrawal, or guilt-tripping.  And when the surprisingly sensitive narcissist feels his or her hurt is triggered by an alleged provocateur, or by someone who doesn’t appreciate all of his or her sacrifices, then launching the old blamethrower is excusable, if not perfectly justified.

Quickly Bringing the Impact of “You” vs “I” to Life

Of course, a “blameholic” can consciously or not try to disguise weakness or immaturity with a Mr. Bluster mask and manner, if not “smoking hot mirrors.”  Still, the difference between affirming “I” responses and offensively defensive “You” reactions is fairly transparent.  For example, imagine you are in an argument, perhaps over politics or whether a movie was worth seeing, and the other party suddenly tires of the logical back and forth.  Consider the impact of each of these two-word declarations.  Can you hear and feel the difference between “You’re wrong” (said with a judgmental tone) as compared to “I disagree” (declared with energy and conviction; or perhaps with a tad more tact, “I see it differently”)?

And when an audience member helps me act out this contrasting two-word scenario, the consistent group facial grimaces (and occasional gasps) reveal the verbal and emotional impact.  And quick analysis is illuminating:  “You’re wrong” no longer is dealing with the specific issue but is actually dismissive of the other individual.  In contrast, “I disagree” is predicated on the other’s position or points of argument, that is, the “I”-response is respectfully problem-focused while a “You”-reaction is often judgmental, “one-up,” and ego-driven.
 

Ø  All or None vs. “Head and Heart.”  Finally, I believe reactive “You” messages tend to be one-sided, driven by “right or wrong” and “all or none” presumptions:  “all head” (e.g., a coldly intellectual remark or a rejoinder dripping with scarcasm, e.g., “I’m just sure you could not have done anything else?”) or “all heart” (e.g., a wounded or weepy, “feel sorry for me,” outburst or lament).  In contrast, a “responsive” “I”-message combines both “head and heart.”  An “I” perspective typically attempts to perceive, understand, and integrate multiple perspectives, that is, tries to construct a meaningful assessment of one’s own along with the other’s deeds (and misdeeds), needs, and intentions.  Again, “I” messages don’t add fuel to the ire; they tend to be “respectful, real, responsible, and responsive.”

5.  Don't Belabor an Apology or Justification.  If you pride yourself on being understanding and accommodating, if you downplay the importance of "giving of yourself and giving to yourself," then saying "No" can be a challenge to your sense of identity and self-worth.  As was illustrated in Part I, numbers of people grew up in families that strictly enforced loyalty to authority:  Difference and disagreement were perceived as disapproval and disloyalty.  Non-conformity, displays of individuality, along with expressions of anger are often met with guilt-laced tongue-lashings, if not physical beatings.  My "Law of the Loyalty Loop and Lock" may have prevailed:  Those who never want you to answer back always want you to back their answer!

So to deliver that clean and clear "NO"…you must believe you have the right to say "No."  (As previously noted:  A firm “No” a day keeps the ulcers way, and the hostilities, too!)  And this right exists even if you can't deliver an airtight defense of your position.  You are allowed to declare, “As much as I would like, I can’t help you with ABC right now.”  You do not have to be like a character in a Franz Kafka novel, living a bureaucratic nightmare, forever on trial and carrying around a vague sense of guilt.  (If this plot sounds too familiar, it may be psychotherapy time; much better than Miller Time.)
 

Ø  The Right to Disappoint.  As revolutionary as it may sound, you are allowed to disappoint others without having to justify yourself:  "Right now, this is how I feel" or "Right now, this is what I intend to do (or not do)."  When it comes to defending your integrity, you’re even allowed to be somewhat hesitant or unsure:  “I’m not sure what it is, but something does not seem right.”  So don't apologize for your "No."  Remember, it's often easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.  Boldly embrace the "Basic Law of Safe Stress":  Do know your limits and don't limit your "No"s!

Closing Summary

Learning to say "No" is vital for surviving and thriving in today's always on, ever demanding, work-life boundary busting world.  While "Just Say 'No'" has become a pat phrase (not unlike "Have a Good Day") putting this affirmative concept into action frequently becomes a thorny if not daunting challenge.  Here is the first five "N & N" Tools and Techniques for Saying "No” (and Meaning It):

1.  Clean Up Your Static to Give a Clear Message

2.  Be Empathic yet Firm

3.  Use Relevant Facts and Place Issue in Context

4.  Use Assertive "I"s Not Blaming "You"s

5.  Don't Belabor an Apology

Part III will close out the “N & N Top Ten” and provide some “lagniappe” (a little extra as we’d say in N’Awlins) – tips for even setting some limits on the “Big Honcho.”  Until then…Practice Safe Stress!

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