Why we must say no when we mean it

say no

It’s such a common struggle. I hear it from friends, clients, family. Two such tiny letters, such a small word and yet we load it with so much other meaning that ‘no’ suddenly becomes this oh-so-difficult word to utter.

And yet we must. Because we have limited resources. Each of us has a finite amount of energy, motivation, money and time to play with each day. And essentially every time we say yes to someone else we are saying no to ourselves as resources are being allocated elsewhere. Which is fine where we want to do it, where this feels like a good choice, where we have these resources to give. But where we don’t, where we say yes when inside we are screaming no, where it means we are overstretching ourselves or compromising our own happiness and sanity, then we need to learn to protect ourselves by using the ultimate power word effectively and authentically.

And let’s not be fooled into thinking that saying yes is the easy option. It feels like it at the time doesn’t it, when the prospect of saying no feels so hard? But consider the reality of the situation. The perhaps uncomfortable moment that you calmly and politely say no is over as soon as you walk away. But say yes and you walk away kicking yourself for not having the courage to say what you meant, fretting about how you are going to make that work and feeling resentful about this new pull on your time that you can’t really afford. That feeling can build and linger for days and days. So not the gentler option after all.

Our beliefs about no being a negative word are formed in childhood. But you are not that child on the time out step or the teenager at the back of the class anymore. Living a full, free and happy life as an adult, one where you are able to put yourself to the top of the list at times , requires you to change your relationship with this little word. Not to become a selfish monster but to be responsibly selfish in order to protect the things that matter to you. Not least your physical and mental health. It’s a much easier skill to master than you might think. If you can change the beliefs then you can change the action and with a little practice you’ll never walk away muttering under your breath again! Now how great would that be!

The next Power of No Masterclass runs on June 6th - see events page for details