Can't Stand to Disappoint Anyone?


When we don’t feel we can say NO, it’s really hard to be open to requests from others.

It’s wonderful to please people!
It’s horrible to please people at our own expense.

It’s no fun to disappoint people.
It’s deeply depleting to disappoint ourselves by doing something we don’t want to do to avoid disappointing others.

What is something a person can ask you to do that you have a hard/impossible time saying no… because disappointing them would feel worse?

I’ve known people who avoid dating because disappointing a date by saying no to a kiss was not something they felt like they could do (or had “permission” to do).

Honestly, I don’t have employees and probably won’t because I really do not enjoy disappointing someone who does a good a solid job but is disappointed they don’t make more money.

Before I could ever hire someone again, I would need to address this. Thirty years ago I often paid people more just to keep them from being disappointed (rather than coaching them how to be even more valuable and add to their talent stack).

What’s it for you? Is there a susceptibility that keeps you from being open… because of a fear of disappointing someone… and you might sacrifice your own needs to keep that from happening?

Thanks for sharing and adding to the exploration!


Most of my life I’ve done things people wanted because I thought it was my “job” to say yes. What does that mean? Maybe job is the wrong word. But I was raised to be a good girl, to be brave and smile.

So when my MIL wanted me to drive her here and there I did it.

I did the same thing for my mother.

Many times I didn’t say no to my husband because I didn’t want to see that disapproving look, the ones I’d see on my mother’s face.

Once when I told my MIL no she told people how selfish I was and not to give me anything for Christmas.

In the last few years I have begun to say no but there is still that knot in the gut when I do it.


Say ‘yes’ to saying no!.. (when it’s appropriate of course…which really is the hard part sometimes…knowing when…well, so much for my trite little slogan… :slight_smile:


Your slogan isn’t trite Glenn. Yes knowing when is one of the big questions for sure.

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Here’s how I know it plays out in me. For me I think what is often at the root of it is that I am an empath by nature. I know how I’ve felt hurt in the past when someone has said ‘No’ to me when it seemed like what I was requesting was reasonable and necessary and sometimes the ‘yes’ was simply expected by me. And then comes ‘NO!’. It might even be a ‘soft’ ‘no’ with a rational explanation attached but it can land like ‘NOOOO!!!’ emotionally. And that can hurt and be a bit confusing. So, being an empath I don’t want anyone else to have those feelings because then, as an empath, I will feel them again as well…and that’s really what drives this thing….me not wanting to feel those feelings through imagining that you’re having those feelings… and I sure don’t want to be the cause of those feelings in you (then I’d be a victimizer!)… so…‘YES!’ of course I’ll do that for you even though I’m not really feeling a ‘yes’ in my deeper knowing, So, it’s a sort of double bind. If I say ‘No’ then I’m both ‘victimizer’ and ‘victim’…and if I say ‘Yes’ then again I’m both ‘victimizer’ and ‘victim’ (but it at least has the perceived benefit of me appearing to be ‘the nice guy’ and that feels safe. Saying ‘no’ has the feeling of being selfish and uncaring and as a result not liked…and that feels unsafe.

So, ultimately it’s intent is to be a self-protective behaviour for me in a couple of different ways…and it’s a bit of a loop that feeds back on itself.
That’s how it can play out in me…and I’ve had many years to observe myself and deconstruct the structure of it and that’s about as close as I can get to understanding the mechanics of it.

I will say that I’m MUCH better at being told ‘No’ than I am at saying it. I can handle ‘No’ emotionally without much difficulty now and I’ve definitely gotten better at saying ‘No’ but I still allow myself to say ‘Yes’ at times when it’s not healthy for me by simply running the ‘program’ that’s in my wiring.


I certainly do understand that, Glenn. However I’ve discovered, it feels good to hear, “Thank you for taking care of yourself”. Also since being on the calls and hearing Rick and Cathy talking about and practicing this a lot, to have Rick tell me “I have to cancel lunch for today”. It felt good to know he was taking care of himself too.

I hope that in time more people will learn to say no in a soft but true way, life would get a bit easier.


Woof. That does feel like a gut punch. It’s astounding how cruel humans can be when “cultural dictates” are not followed.

Obligation has been a huge bond(age) for families for so many generations. It certainly is a Reformation to break free of obligation and see, perhaps, if we can cultivate true generosity instead.

But then what will all the Entitled MIL’s do? :smirk:


I totally understand Glen, I struggle with this too. I am also an empath who doesn’t want other people to experience disappointment, and I definitely do NOT want to be the cause of their disappointment. If I say no and they get sad, then I feel their sadness and I feel bad for causing it. I don’t want to hurt anyone. However, last winter I realized that I’m a person too, and my feelings matter too, and I was no longer going to deny my feelings and contort myself so that other people would be comfortable. My body was screaming at me and I finally listened to it even though I was afraid I would get rejected by everyone. The pain of denying myself became greater than the fear of disappointing someone else. I definitely struggle with saying no still, and I still don’t want to disappoint or upset anyone, but realizing that my feelings are valid and maybe just as important as theirs helps give me the strength to stand up for myself more.

I am a human too, my feelings and emotions are valid too. I have begun to respect myself and admit that my experience also matters. I care for the feelings of others; now I’m starting to care for my own feelings too.

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I also want to bring up guilt and obligation as barriers to saying no. Like jean saying No to her MIL and then getting dumped all over with guilt. It makes it scary to say no to someone else if you think there will be a punishment. It feels easier to just do whatever said person is asking for than to spend the energy arguing. If you feel obligated to do something that also makes it more difficult to say no. Like feeling obligated to go to a family function and then be guilted if you don’t show up. Which is more energetically taxing? Suppressing your own sense of “yes or no” or spending the energy trying to navigate the backlash? It depends on the person and what they are asking of you. And some people might not be in a situation where they can say no, that it could literally threaten their life to stand up for themselves. There’s an article or recording somewhere on the site that says “if you never had a no, you never really had a yes” that really got to me because I DIDN’T have a no. I was guilted and obligated most of my life. My sister and I have both noticed how good it feels to do something out of love and purely wanting to versus doing something out of obligation/fear. Rick mentioned somewhere like brushing your teeth so you don’t lose them versus brushing them for a kiss. Or doing dishes because you “have to” versus doing dishes as a gift to your future self/ other housemates. The energy is way different. I want my yes to be a yes because I want to, not because of fear or guilt or obligation.


Most people who still want some connection to family will find this situation incredibly difficult. If you family is “structured” relationally on obligation… it can help to tap something like:

Even though if I was not obligated I would not say YES to my family here, it’s okay for me to respect that it’s our structure for now, and it is still a Yes for me to be in relationship with them for my own personal reasons.

…or something like that. You’re honoring what’s REAL… it would take a lot of energy to say no. So to protect your energy, it can take some of the sting to honor and respect where you are, conflicted, and that you’re choosing to go along right now.

That isn’t always the right choice for any individual and any individual time. And, a lot of clients have found this an important step in their evolving (!) freedom and resiliency.

Another step can be to craft the acceptance just slightly to make it more to your liking. “Yes, I’ll be there, and I’ll bring food for myself and to share that I know fits my doctor’s orders.” (or that I’ll drive myself because I have an obligation – using their words – to a friend… and you can be the friend!)

It’s tricky, I know. Tapping on the accepting how the family is… can also help your inner child feel more free to speak their truth, too, to you.