How do you feel about saying “no?” I notice that saying “no” to certain people and in some situations can be challenging for me. Sometimes I find myself saying “yes” when “no” would really be more authentic. More covertly, I also find myself at times giving “half-truths” (which is quite an oxymoron if you think about it) to people when they present me with opportunities, engage with me about connecting, etc. You know what I mean, you run into someone and say, “We should really get together sometime,” but you really have very little interest in or commitment to making that happen. Does this ever happen to you?
What is it about saying “no” that many of us have a hard time with? For me, it comes down to a few specific things. First of all, I get scared that people will get upset or disappointed if I say “no.” Second, I’m not a huge fan of hearing “no” from others myself, so being the one saying it can be difficult for me. And lastly, I consider myself to be “yes” type of person. I pride myself on being open, willing, and ready to say “yes” at all times. In other words, “no” often seems like a failure, an admission of weakness, or just an overall negative thing to say.
However, saying “no” is one of the most important aspects of living a life filled with balance, integrity, and authenticity. Our ability and capacity to say “no” with confidence is one of the most important aspects of creating peace and power in our lives. This is about creating healthy boundaries, honoring ourselves, and being real – it’s not about being closed, cynical, or unwilling.
The majority of people I know, especially these days, live their lives with a feeling of “overwhelm” that either runs them or at least gets in their way from time to time. If you think of the aspects of your life where you feel most overwhelmed, stressed out, or ineffective – there is probably a theme going on – you haven’t said “no” when you needed to. If you also think about any relationships in your life where these is stress, struggle, or conflict – you saying “no” with honesty and kindness is also probably missing.
When we don’t say “no” in an authentic way we end up feeling burdened, resentful, and even victimized (although, ironically, we forget that we are the ones who said “yes” in the first place).
Saying “no” does have real consequences. Sometimes we will upset, disappoint, or annoy people. We also may have a significant amount of fear about saying “no” to certain people (our spouse, boss, co-worker, friend, child, etc.) or in certain situations (at work, with clients, with our in-laws, and more).
However, there are huge benefits to us enhancing our capacity and comfort with “no.” Tapping into the power of “no” creates freedom, liberation, and a real sense of trust with the people in our lives. When we’re someone that says “yes” when we mean it and “no” when we mean it – others know they can count on us to be real, tell the truth, and come through.
And, when we “no” with confidence, honesty, and compassion, we do one of the best things we can possibly do to honor and appreciate ourselves.
How do you feel about saying “no?” What can you do to enhance your ability and capacity to say “no” with confidence and ease? Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more on my blog below.
Mary McManus says
Dear Mike – I am constantly amazed at the synchronicity of your blog. There have been a series of happenings in my life in which I have needed to find the courage to say no. For years I said yes to everyone but myself and I like to think of saying no to someone else as saying yes to me. I was such a yes woman that my body finally let me know this was unacceptable and I was diagnosed with post polio syndrome. BUT once I started saying no to others and yes to myself I did experience incredible healing of mind, body and spirit. It is incredibly freeing to listen to my authentic self and say no. Most recently, I was having a lot of contact with my in laws. When I am talking with them or with them I find that I am playing a role to satisfy them and when I am authentic they become enraged and critical. So I finally had to say no to any more contact with them and I feel so liberated as does my husband. And you know what? When I say no to the people and situations which do not honor my true self, it makes room for the people with whom I can be my true self and with whom I can flourish and grow and live a life in the Spirit to come flooding in.
Being authentic in all realms leads to greatest alignment, but the word “no” is not used much in my corporate workplace. Culturally, seen as not being partner-oriented or cooperative/productive. Diverting to offering other options is what is supported versus the – at times more authentic – no. Just an observation…
This issue comes up for me at work more frequently than I’d care to admit. I think part of the reason it’s hard to say no does have to do with the culture and what is considered acceptable, but, definitely also comes from my own fears of letting others down and/or not appearing to be cooperative. And, deep in the recesses of my mind (not to mention in the midst of an ongoing recession) is a fear that not submitting could mean loss of employment or recognition.
I have been saying no more lately though, and it’s very freeing. It helps when you can keep yourself from worrying about what others are thinking. That seems to be the biggest hurdle. Then again, that’s probably a whole post in and of itself!
Barry Friedman says
Amazing timing, Mike!
Yesterday someone called and asked me to do something that I didn’t really want to do and I said ‘no’.
I was so taken with my courage (why did that take courage?!?!) that I went and told my wife about it. I was almost shaking.
Love your piece about this. I’m going to do it again, right now. Off I go!
Barry ‘only if I want to’ Friedman
I find it is not only authentically saying no out loud, but saying nothing. Just because someone calls, emails, or asks us a question, doesn’t mean we have to respond immediately. Saying no, can simply mean not reacting. Taking our time to think. Sometimes, we can silently say no. It means taking care of ourselves when we don’t know what to say to a loved one, boss, or friend. I’ve been hanging back lately and not reacting and it has met with wonderful outcomes. I can say no to someone else’s sense of timing. Conversely, it means having patience when my question, request, is not reacted to on my time line.
charlotte seager says
Another hard one is saying “stop” when someone is haranguing you on a subject already well covered, perhaps after my having said “no”. I have learned to say “stop” in such a situation and the relationship has improved. In respecting myself enough to set up boundaries my partner is responding with more respect!
Marta Cuminotto says
I loved your article The Power of No. I remember many years ago when I started my journey on self-improvement. One of the first books I read was, Saying Yes When You Want To Say No. Your article helped me take a trip down memory lane to my “No”beginnings and reminded me of my journey up to now and how I continue to work on saying No kindly. By nature I am a very warm-hearted person. I thank you for that.
You’re the greatest! JMHO