Herbert Fensterheim

BOOK REVIEW: Don’t Say Yes When You Want to Say No: Making Life Right When It Feels All Wrong By Herbert Fensterheim-Jean Baer

Genre: Self-Help/Non-Fiction

Buy: Amazon

Have you ever said yes when you wanted to say no? How did it make you feel? Surely not good!

Now imagine a scenario where you always say yes to people’s requests, even if you have no time to do that task. Scary thought!

Once in a while, almost all of us say yes to a task/activity/person/people/group, even if we want to say no. I have!

I remember a couple of months ago I decided to get out of “work free for us” situation.

So I wrote in my message ‘maybe sometime in future I’d think about writing with you again’. What a mistake!

First and foremost, let me clarify, I don’t believe in wasting time my writing for free.

I never had before written for free and disagreed with the design teacher who said that initially it’s okay not just to work for ‘free’ but allowing people to steal your creations too.

And I have lost count of ‘writing for free awesome’ opportunities that I get in my inbox almost every month.

Anyways, I joined the writing group and started contributing occasionally. I’m not going to deny that I didn’t benefit from the collaboration. It was fun for some time.

However, when you have been writing for 6 years and always paid for your contributions, after a while writing free for feels like an obligation, you rather not want to spend time on. I find nothing creative about such obligations either.

Hence, I declined the offer to continue writing for free, ‘politely’ of course. I mean, if I want to write for free then I’m doing just that by writing and doing lots of other work free of cost for two of my blogs.

Maybe the “maybe” in my message sounded like an invitation to spam my inbox with emails I don’t care about any more whenever possible.

I realized if “I’ll continue to think that people might misunderstand my words & I should sugar coat them” then soon I won’t be able to find emails that matters more than the time-wasting ones.

So recently, I conveyed my thoughts in no-nonsense language. You must be thinking why I didn’t simply unsubscribed? Simple because there’s no link to unsubscribe!

Lesson Relearned: People are free to understand what they want to and I’m free to say what I want to. I’m not going to be rude but there’s no need to sugar coat my words.

Despite these kinds of incidents and some people blatantly abusing trust factor, I still believe occasional ‘yeses’ are okay as long as they don’t make you feel angry or resentful or waste your time.

Or you don’t end up making a habit of saying yes and fearing the amazing word ‘No’.

However, if you find yourself saying yes on a routine basis to chat with people when you’ve to work or doing tasks you don’t want to or participating in activities you don’t want to do etc. etc.

Chances are you’re not good at expressing yourself and standing up for yourself. In that case you need ‘Assertive Training’, to learn the art of saying ‘No’ and sticking with your decision.

Your life isn’t about living someone else life. Extending a helping hand when someone needs it or ask for help is good.

But helping people all the time, even when they are capable of taking care of their business/life is unhealthy for you.

Actually, it’s unhealthy for those selfish people as well. Here’s how:

Unhealthy Affects On You:

You might suffer silently from resentment and think often that you do this or that for people, but when you need help they just say no. Meaning sooner or later you’d start considering yourself as a victim.

But you’re responsible for your resentment and situation. Because you indicated, by always entertaining, reasonable and unreasonable demands of others, that you don’t respect your time, work or life. So why blame someone else when they start wasting your time.

What you need to understand is you’re under no obligation to say yes to every demand anyone places on you.

It’s your life, your time, if you don’t want to do something, then saying no, is much better than doing a less than awesome job or harboring resentment later.

Unhealthy On The Person Asking You To Do Something:

As I have already mentioned, we all get into trouble and it’s okay to ask for help from someone who knows how to get out of that particular sort of problem.

But when some people make it into a habit of throwing their every little issue in your life, expecting you to resolve them, what they learn is:

1. They are not responsible for their actions or life, especially the part where bad things happen. If something goes wrong they can always throw it at your doorstep. And like a good Knight you’d save them. You probably had in the past.

2. They understand on some level, maybe not on a conscious level, that it’s easier to manipulate you into doing their work. Because you have either highly active guilty-conscience or you suffer from the desire to please people.

You need to control the situation before it wrecks havoc in your life and on your self-esteem. No one’s forever around to listen to anyone complaining ‘you did this but that ungrateful person!’

Or you will get two-minute sympathy. It’ll also make you feel good for two minutes, but won’t solve your problems.
‘Don’t Say Yes When You Want to Say No: Making Life Right When It Feels All Wrong By Herbert Fensterheim-Jean Baer’ Synopsis:

Let’s begin with a definition of Assertive and Aggressive as some may confuse the terms.

“Aggression is an act against others. Assertion is appropriate standing up for yourself” ~~ Herbert Fensterheim- Jean Baer (Book: Don’t Say Yes When You Want to Say No: Making Life Right When It Feels All Wrong)

Don’t confuse the two!

Assertive Training, is not just for those who find it difficult to say no to other people’s requests or dramas. It’s also for those who have difficulty expressing emotions for ex: anger, love, disagreement etc.

And it’s possible to change the way you behave or respond to people’s requests. However, introducing changes in your behavior takes time, patience and continuous practice. So you should start with one step at a time.

Start with the first step that is to recognize: there’s a problematic behavior pattern and you need to change it. Once you single out the behavior you want to change, find out what triggers that behavior.

Meaning, why you respond the way you do? What is it that you fear…..rejection/disapproval? Or are you scared people will like you less if you share your thoughts?

And then plan small changes to reset it as per your wishes. Sometimes you act in a certain manner due to assumptions you have formed and because of them you fail to take the necessary action.

For example: If you work hard and know that you’re an asset to the company you work for and deserve a promotion. Then just thinking about a promotion won’t get you the desired result.

You’d have to talk to your boss. But every time the thought of discussing it with your boss makes you anxious?

And you come up with scenarios that paint a negative picture of the outcomes, e.g. instead of getting promoted, what if your boss fires you. (I have never heard of anyone getting fired after asking for a promotion.)

Instead of thinking about negative outcomes, think this: how can you say, you’d be fired for asking for a promotion. You’re just asking and it’s no crime. Sometimes even the employees, who don’t do their job properly, expect it.

And one possible outcome is getting a No. So stop over analyzing. As the chances of getting a no is higher than getting fired for asking for a promotion.

If your request gets turned down, then you can always ask next time. Or you can ask what skills you’re lacking to get the promotion.

“If you change one behavior you change a whole series of related behavior.” ~~ Herbert Fensterheim- Jean Baer (Book: Don’t Say Yes When You Want to Say No: Making Life Right When It Feels All Wrong)

Understand that when you say no to someone or something, you’re not being selfish, even if the person asking for help calls you so. And get ready to hear something similar from some people when you’d start to make changes to your unassertive behavior.

Most people may not welcome changes in your behavior. Chances are, they are used to you doing whatever you’d to help and support them.

In reality they are the ones who are selfish as they want to dump their negativity, drama and responsibilities in your life for you to handle and solve. While they are busy living the fun part of their life.

If you won’t set boundaries people will walk all over you.

“You’re so caught up in the need for being liked that you sacrifice your own self-respect.” ~~ Herbert Fensterheim- Jean Baer (Book: Don’t Say Yes When You Want to Say No: Making Life Right When It Feels All Wrong)

My Analysis:

Sometimes while reading the book I thought, yes, it’s a useful book. And then there were moments when it’s torturous to continue reading it. (But I finished the book!)

The more case studies I read, the more it convinced me that trying to train yourself to become assertive all by yourself may not work. Either take professional help or practice the ‘tips and tricks’ in the book with a friend/someone, who would like to help you.

I don’t think, a person, who has never asserted him/herself in life before, can do so just by reading & following instructions from the book. Though, the content seems useful in analyzing and recognizing your behavior.

If you have some (minor) issues with saying ‘No’ maybe then the suggestions in the book would help you. (I’m not optimistic about the chances of such thing happening.)

Not in extreme cases where an individual is in the bad habit of saying ‘yes’ to all and ‘no’ to his/her life. In that case, seeking professional help would be a better idea.

Let’s Talk A Little About The Title Before Ending This Review:

The title is catchy as well as one of the longest one I have come across. It takes up all the space in the book cover.

But the blurb I found misleading as the content inside covers too many life situations (read: case studies).

Hit Or Miss: Good read.

‘Don’t Say Yes When You Mean No’ is an interesting read. But it’s also a slow reading material. Your attention might wander sometimes. If you’re interested in such content then you should read it.

Leaving you with this awesome, inspiring and thought-provoking quote:

“I’d rather be whole than good.” ~~ Carl Jung

Happy Reading!

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About the author

Priyanka Sharma

Writer, Blogger | Book Reviewer | Artist |

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