It’s Your Health: Why is it so hard to say no?

Why is it so hard to say no?  

OK…maybe not to the big, ugly things but what about those little things that you really don’t want to do but someone “important” says you should?  Those are the ones that get me.

Except for one particular situation – seeing a physician or other healthcare provider.  I can always say no in that situation.  And I believe my training as a physician (and having two career nurses for parents) has really instilled in me the understanding that the patient can always say no. 


(Emergency, life-threatening situations where you can’t communicate your wishes are the exception.  All the more reason to have your wishes documented appropriately!)

Doctors do tend to get a little uptight when you say no, but they all know it is your right.  After all, you’re the one taking the medication or having the procedure or changing your diet or exercise routine. 

Once you walk out that door, they have no control over you.  Nor should they.

Who really changes your health?

What so many of us have forgotten (or never learned) is You are the one who changes your health.  No one else can do that for you.  It doesn’t matter how much work your mom, sister or best friend does,  your health does not change.  Many give up ownership and responsibility of health to a healthcare provider or a coach. 

The magic in working with those professionals comes when you stand in your power as the Expert of You and they bring their expertise in their field, e.g. medicine or wellness or fitness.  It’s a partnership.  It’s a mastermind. 

You do the work.  You get the results.

The professionals are there to help you find the right path for you.  But they can only do that when they see you as the individual you are, and listen to your story.  And sometimes that means you need to be direct, say no or tell them that you want other options. 

Just remember, you’re the one who has to do the work to change your health situation.  And you’re the one who is allowed to say no when a recommendation from a provider doesn’t match your values and goals.  Don’t get frustrated – just understand they aren’t the expert in you! 

Sixty-Second Self-Care Tip…

Saying no to a healthcare provider is hard.  And that can be, in part, due to our expectation that they know more than we do and they are making a recommendation in our best interest.  Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. 

Here is the one question I use most commonly when talking with my healthcare providers – or car mechanic or contractor or even veterinarian - to help clear things up:

“If this were your (fill in the blank with the most reasonable important someone, e.g. sister, mother, daughter, pet) would your recommendation be the same?  Is this what you would have them do in this situation?”

It flips the script a bit – you’re asking them to make a recommendation with their heart AND their head together instead of just the academic “right answer”. 

If you’re uncomfortable simply saying no, consider asking this question instead and start a conversation!

Leave me a comment below and let me know about a situation where you told a healthcare provider no, or you wished you had.  Anything come to mind?


60-second self-care, self-advocate, stress, the question

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