It’s OK to Say No

There is this thought that has been plaguing me this past week.  It has come up a few times during conversations with different people.  The topic isn’t directly discussed but the context of it is there.  It is something that should be glaringly obvious but you tend to only see it out of the corner of your eye.  Like a bad smell it can permeate every aspect of your life.  I’m talking about being able to say no and backing yourself up.

I am a recovering yes-person.  When someone asked me to do something I would pretty much always say yes, even if I didn’t want to.  I would get this feeling of mild panic building up inside of me and would have all of these worst case scenarios rushing through my head of what would happen if I were to say no.  Reflecting on these experiences, I think my becoming a yes person was caused by a mixture of wanting to avoid hurt feelings or confrontations, and not wanting to be perceived as a bad person.  Over the past few years I have gotten comfortable with saying no and find that I am much happier for it.  To my surprise, none of the worst case scenarios I dreamed up have ever come to fruition.

What has changed over these years that has made me shift from being a yes-person to becoming a person who can say no? My husband is a big factor.  He has no problem with telling people what is on his mind.  He has constantly encouraged me to voice my feelings and stay true to me.  By doing so, I have developed a sense of respect for myself that wasn’t there while I was growing up.  I have realized that I am allowed to have these feelings, whatever they may be.  I cannot control how other people will react or feel and I cannot base my life around worrying about it.  I’m worth it to be able to not say yes when I really want to say no.

Everyone is worth more than backing down from how they feel just to keep the peace.  Everyone is worth more than a life of empty yeses.

Are you a yes-person?

28 thoughts on “It’s OK to Say No

  1. I’m not a yes-person. Over the years I found ways to make a no work for me, but it took a while. One early memory was in corporate America. A manager asked me to do something, I told him I could get to it the next week. It wasn’t good enough for him and so he shamed me into saying, ok, and moving my schedule around to fit HIS need. That’s the problem with holding to your no. Sometimes you’ll be made to feel less than you want to. But with practice, how you frame your know becomes stronger and better.

    Valuable insights, thanks.

    Over from LinkedIn group BHB

    • Thank you, Pat. I know what you mean about trying to be made to feel less for holding to your no. It is really difficult sometimes and backing down is easier than holding your ground. I am finding that choosing the harder path does pave way to making it easier. Having the confidence behind your no makes a world of difference.

  2. The short answer is ….. NO ! For a mere two letters it is one of the most empowering words in the dictionary but perhaps like anything it has the greatest impact when used judiciously. In business one is constantly positive …. YES ! that problem will be solved, or YES ! , we will find a way to fulfill that need. Then, when we are known to have a positive outlook, the necessary No ! will be more readily accepted. In personal matters every situation is of course unique but if the heart or the instinct says No ! …then integrity and well-being demand that the mouth follows suit.

    • Thank you, Paul. I completely agree with what you said about matching your words with what your heart is saying. This is so important to staying true to who we are. As you mentioned, there are two sides to the story. Using yes as an affirmation is a great way to remove immaterial barriers that stand in our way.

  3. I’m STILL learning! Part of it is knowing that we all have to do things we don’t want to…that’s just life. So finding and holding the boundaries can be murky for me. Loved the post!

  4. Saying no becomes easier the more often you do it but it must be used with discretion. Sometimes saying yes, even if you don’t want to, is the more compassionate thing to do. Saying no when someone asks you to take on a task at work when your overloaded already is the right thing to do. Saying no under the same circumstances to a friend in need is the wrong thing to do. Just my opinion.

    • Fair point, Lenie. Weighing out the pros and cons might be helpful when making some decisions. It is important to keep in mind that we don’t want to make an extreme shift from being a yes-person to becoming a no-person. Finding the right balance, whatever that may be for each individual, is important. Thank you for your thoughts!

  5. As I have grown older I have found it far easier to say No and mean it…and not follow it up with a But and then bury myself with a Yes. I good balance is to be accommodating but not to your own peril or to the point where later on you find yourself resenting it.

  6. Hello Heidi; I have found that since starting my business saying no has gotten easier because of the results of not saying no or not making my position clear. also, I have had a lot of good friends, many of them bloggers, who have helped me to understand that saying no is one of the ways you show love and respect for yourself. and also there are many things you are saying no to by default if you become so busy that you can’t give yourself, your family, your business, your closest friends, etc the attention needed. thanks for sharing and good luck, max

    • Thank you for your thoughts, Maxwell. In a business setting you have to learn to say no for the sake of both your business and yourself. In your personal life it can be easy to spread yourself too thin and not be able to give 100% of yourself to anyone, including yourself. I definitely agree that knowing your limits and being able to say no shows a sense of self-respect,

  7. I’ve always had such a hard time saying no and I hate being the “bad guy”. Like you, it has gotten easier with time. I just attributed it to growing up and getting older. The funny thing is I got better at saying no once I got married but for the opposite reason. My husband is such a “good guy” that it pushed me to sometimes say no for both of us!

    • Thank you for sharing, Erica! I can relate to having to be an advocate for another person. I realized very quickly when my son was born that I was going to have to be able to say no for myself AND for him.

  8. I’m a recovering yes-person too! Actually, I’m not sure I’m recovering all that well. But I really like the idea that a “no” is better than an empty “yes”. And you’re right, we’re worth it, and our family is worth is, because they inevitably suffer when we’re overextended. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Thanks, Meredith! You are so right. Our family does suffer when we are spread too thin. We need to keep our cup from overfilling by by prioritizing what is most important to us.

  9. I’m trying to teach my daughter the advantages of saying no. Sometimes I do have a hard time saying no, especially to my daughter! Of course, she claims I say no way too much …

    • It is so important to teach our children. Learning how to say no and really mean it will benefit her when she is older and are faced with peer pressure. Thank you for that thought, Leora!

    • I know what you mean, Duke. I think that is what makes saying no so scary. Having to deal with any backlash can be really hard, especially when loved ones are involved. That is still something I struggle with.

  10. Lorraine Marie Reguly

    My problem is not that I’m a “yes-person.” It’s that I don’t allow myself to say “Yes” to myself as often as I’d like.

    I’m trying to change that. But, because I love helping others, I don’t get too much “me” time.

    Btw, “hi” from BHB.

    • I think it’s safe to assume many of us struggle with saying yes to ourselves – myself included. There is always a to-do list, an obligation, someone who needs us..the list goes on. If we don’t make ourselves a priority then we fall to the wayside. Taking time just for ourselves is so important to our overall well-being. Thank you for sharing, Lorraine!

  11. Years ago – I was a yes person but not anymore. A very good friend told me once that it was OK to say NO if I could not do something. The first time was hard but now I am quite comfortable saying NO – except to my kids who seem to have a way of looking at me with their innocent eyes and I give in

    • That’s great, Mina! It’s amazing how sometimes all that is needed to give ourselves permission to say no is to have someone else tell us it’s OK to give ourselves that permission. Also, I think us parents will always have a soft spot for our kids!

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