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  • Ed Gaines

The One Word Women Need to Be Saying More Often

If you're a woman, when was the last time you said "no" to a friend, your partner, a colleague, or your kid?

For many women, "no" is a foreign word on the tongue.

Women are more likely than men to report having a great deal of stress, according to the American Psychological Association, and almost half of all women surveyed said their stress has increased over the past five years, compared to four in 10 men.

Experts in gender say women are socialized to serve and acquiesce. Women are conditioned to believe that their existence is for the consumption of other people.

One expert explains, "We must give, not take, or we only earn the right to take, to receive, if we've given enough, and so we constantly feel inadequate because we are taught that it's our job ... to be good and to be appeasing."

This is glaringly obvious in the home, where women frequently put their children and partners' needs above their own, often while also juggling careers.

When women do say, "no" there can be social consequences. A woman who is seen as more aggressive at work, which research shows makes a man seem more competent, will also appear less likeable, less like a team player. This can impact her career and her salary.

However, it's important, experts say, to recognize not all women who fear saying "no," especially to men, are afraid for the same reason. Survivors of abuse, for example, learned to say "yes" as a way to stay safe.


Opportunities for women have expanded in recent years, and for some women, this had added pressure to say "yes" to all things, simply because now we are told so much more is possible: go to college, get the job, find a spouse, have the kids, buy the house.

Women need to think about saying "no" as a right, rather than as a privilege. They must believe they can say no to various tasks and commitments as men do, and they must come to expect more of the men, friends, romantic partners. colleagues and employers in their lives.

While there are indisputable social costs for saying "no," one expert believes there's a disproportionate level of fear because not all women are taught how to set boundaries. Women are taught to have endless limits.

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