My Answer Is NO. . . If That's OK With You - My Answer Is NO. . . If That's OK With You


Book Group Discussion Guide

These questions are designed to guide the discussion in book or study groups.

Chapter 1. Women's Ways of NOing

  1. Why are women so self-critical about our struggles to say NO?
  2. What are some of our positive qualities that make setting limits so difficult?
  3. How are women's ways of saying NO different from men's?
  4. How does loss influence our ability to set limits?

Chapter 2. Saying NO to Parents

Do your parents make intrusive requests that you give in to?

Do you have a hard time even practicing the sentence "NO, Mom, I just can't make it home this holiday?"

  1. What makes saying NO to parents uniquely challenging?
  2. When dysfunctional parents make inappropriate requests, why do we have such a hard time setting limits?
  3. What are some of the characteristics of narcissistic parents?
  4. Describe parents who suffer from borderline personality disorder.
  5. How do psychologically healthy parents respond when their adult children disagree with them?
  6. As you prepare to say NO to healthy or dysfunctional parents, what steps can you take to boost your confidence?
  7. How can you set limits without causing a family feud?

Chapter 3. Saying NO to Dates and Mates

Do you have trouble dumping a date who treats you badly?

When you and your partner disagree, do you have trouble standing up for yourself?

Are you holding onto a disastrous relationship to avoid being single?

Have you ever had trouble leaving a physically or verbally abusive relationship?

  1. Why is the loss of a lover so painful?
  2. How do you account for your reluctance to say NO even when you're treated badly?
  3. What is the biggest obstacle to being candid with a date or mate?
  4. How can you boost your confidence to say NO when a spouse or lover treats you like dirt?
  5. How can you set limits without jeopardizing a relationship?
  6. Why is it important to have your own income?
  7. How does abuse affect the ability to set limits?

Chapter 4. Saying NO to Friends

When friends ask you to do something you don't want to do, do you invent an elaborate excuse?

Do you have a hard time saying NO to an invite even when you're completely exhausted?

Can you say NO if a friend asks for a favor that feels uncomfortable?

  1. What are the most common scenarios in which women find it difficult to say NO to friends?
  2. Why is it so challenging to say NO to friends?
  3. What are some of our positive qualities (i.e., those we should feel proud of) that make it hard to say NO?
  4. Why is it sometimes easier to lie than tell the truth when we don't want to do something?
  5. Describe various ways to offer matter-of-fact explanations when you're trying for an honest NO.

Chapters 5 & 6. Saying NO at Work

Can you set limits when employees neglect their responsibilities?

Can you say NO to your boss, when you really need to, without losing your job?

Do you speak up or do you keep it to yourself when co-workers fail to do their part?

  1. What factors enable you to set limits at work without losing your job?
  2. What factors must you take into consideration when you aren't in a position to say NO at work without consequences?
  3. How do your experiences as an employee influence your ability to set limits as an employer?
  4. How do career-boosting opportunities sometimes reduce your negotiating power?
  5. When your personal or professional priorities shift, what are some effective strategies for setting limits at work?
  6. When your superior asks you to do something that you're not sure about, what steps can you take to clarify your options?
  7. How can you get the support you need to say NO?
  8. When your NO is likely to disappoint, what are the most effective ways to convey respect as you set limits?

Chapter 7. Saying NO in Public Service

Can women in government service say NO to superiors?

Do women question policies or defy directives that they think are wrong?

How do highly visible women maintain any sense of privacy?

  1. How do women in public service learn to set limits?
  2. What does it mean to say NO in a hierarchical system?
  3. Who are the best role models for women in government service?
  4. Why do women in public service develop their own styles of saying NO rather than model themselves after their superiors?
  5. If it's your responsibility to say NO, what strategies enable you to retain the respect of your constituents or subordinates?
  6. If your conscience dictates that you break rank, how can you increase your chances of having a fair hearing?

Chapter 8. Saying NO in the Community

Are you worried about not being generous enough to causes or your community?

How do you choose among the many solicitations for time and money to help those in need?

Is there a compassionate way to say NO?

  1. How do women maintain a good balance between tending to others and taking care of ourselves?
  2. How do our spiritual traditions influence our ability to say NO to those in need?
  3. How is it that women make good fundraisers, yet we have a hard time saying NO to solicitations?
  4. What are some effective strategies to prevent burnout in community work?

Chapter 9. Saying NO to assault and harassment

Are you reluctant to confront men who harass you on the street, bus, or train?

Could you walk out if a relationship became abusive?

If attacked, could you fight for your life?

  1. What percentage of American women experience abuse by an intimate partner?
  2. How can you most effectively prevent or stop abuse?
  3. What is the difference between healthy and dysfunctional anger?
  4. How do psychologically healthy people resolve conflicts?
  5. What sources of support are available to women who are trying to leave abusive relationships?
  6. What is the most powerful tool women can use to protect ourselves against harassment and assault?
  7. Discuss the basic verbal self-defense guidelines

Chapter 10. Saying NO to Doctors

Do you have trouble questioning treatments that doctors recommend that you get?

Can you tell your shrink you're ready to quit?

Can you say NO to health providers who have bad boundaries?

  1. Why are women reluctant to challenge their healthcare providers?
  2. What strategies enable consumers to get the best medical treatment?
  3. Why is it difficult for women to stop therapy or change counselors?
  4. What can you do if your healthcare provider behaves inappropriately?

Chapters 11 & 12. Saying NO to People Who Are Ill or Dying

When you are caring for someone who is ill, do you get overwhelmed because you can't cut back on other responsibilities?

Do you find it difficult to say NO to the person you're caring for?

As a caregiver, do you overlook or ignore your own need for rest and replenishment?

  1. What are some of the most effective ways to create time for caregiving?
  2. As you review your experiences as a caregiver, what can you ask the patient? And how might you check in with yourself?
  3. When a person who is ill asks for something you cannot provide, what steps can you take to reduce your anxiety about saying NO?
  4. How can you enlist the support of your siblings who have taken a pass on helping out?
  5. How can you avoid feeling guilty for failing to keep an end-of-life promise?
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