The Power of No

22 April 2021

Have you ever wanted to answer a question, and then second-guessed yourself?  For example, your boss asks you to stay for an extra hour after work in order to complete a task. You might answer Yes straight away, as you’ve always intuitively done. Your response will be based on a variety of factors including your behavioral type, core beliefs, and life experiences. One reason you say Yes instantaneously could be  because you haven’t reconciled your people-pleasing tendencies. Another reason may be because you want to be known as someone who’s always willing to help.


After a few seconds, maybe even a minute, after saying Yes, you may arrive at a very different answer when you think analytically instead of intuitively. We all have these two differing ways of thinking. Assessing what’s being asked of you logically will now have you considering, Why did I agree to do this? Now I’m going to be stuck in peak-hour traffic, I won’t be getting paid for the extra hour anyway, my boss hasn’t recognised my efforts in the past…..and a host of other valid reasons that may logically crop up. 


If you are aware that you’re prone to this pitfall, here’s a sure-fire strategy which will create the necessary time to assess both ways of thinking so you can truly respond how you would like. One key strategy is to have prepared verbal responses. Write out what you would say in your next moment of indecision, and practice saying your responses aloud so that it feels natural to you when utilising this strategy. For example, “Let me check my diary and get back to you shortly.” This provides the time you’ll need to make an aligned decision. This reply is also professional, friendly, and perfectly reasonable. 


Perhaps you say yes to too many future commitments, but as the start date draws near you begin to dread what you’ve already obligated yourself to, placing yourself in the awkward situation of finding excuses and ways to get out what you’d agreed to.  


It would have been so much easier, if you’d initially said no. You could ask yourself, Is this something that I’d gladly take on today?  If your answer is no, you’re most likely not going to want to follow through with this commitment in the future. Save yourself the hassle and use the strategy of buying yourself some time to weigh your decision. You may find you’re better off to respectfully decline now rather than later.


On the flip side, in one’s personal life, you might find that you’re constantly saying No and turning down invitations to new experiences that might have replenished your connection with yourself and others. Constantly saying No to yourself may be the result of living in a disempowered state because of the beliefs that you don’t have enough time and that you should always put others first. Isn’t it ironic that many of us say Yes to other people so often, but find it very difficult to say Yes to ourselves.


 Traditionally, mothers are chronically giving so much of themselves to their family without much consideration to their own self-care. The habitual practice of constantly running themselves ragged can be a disservice to them and their families in the long-run because as we all know, you can’t give from an empty cup.  


Their initial response might have been, “No, I don’t have time to put myself first.” After observing that this belief is not serving them, they can respond in the same way as the workplace example above, which will buy them much needed time to consider their true response. One response is not better than the other. What’s best is an aligned response.


Consider these questions to identify what your current beliefs are when answering Yes or No.  


What are 3-5 things you need to say No to in your life right now?

What currently stops you from saying No to these things? 


Then complete the following sentences:

 People who say Yes are _______


Note that answers will vary according to your beliefs. 

For instance some might say:

nice, willing to help, selfless 


Or alternatively others will say:

people pleasers, pushovers, conformists


People who say No are ________


Again, your answers will vary according to your beliefs

Some might say:

mean, selfish, not a team player


Alternatively, others will say:

those who know their boundaries, self-aware, self-respecting


Where do your beliefs lie?  Does this reveal perhaps why you currently answer Yes or No in specific ways?


Does it offer some insights such as, when you say Yes to everyone, you’re actually saying No yourself?!


How is this affecting your life?


Are you missing out on time for self-care, opportunities to grow and further develop your knowledge or perhaps missing out on valuable experiences with those you’d most want to share your life with? 


Techniques to buy more time so you can come to an aligned decision are:


“I will get back to you in fifteen minutes, if that’s okay?”


“If you can just give me a moment I will check my diary and get back to you.”


“I'd love to but I am focusing on x, y, or z right now; I can take a look in my diary and get back to you later.”


Further techniques for saying No:


“No, but thanks for asking and thinking of me.”


“I won't be able to today.”


“Sorry I can’t, I’m already committed to something else.”


In the past if you’ve felt uncomfortable saying No, you’re not alone. With some practice, you can feel good about saying No, and you’ll discover how the ability to assert yourself clearly is freeing not only for yourself but often for the person you’re conversing with as well. A clear direct yet respectful response is far better than an ambivalent, wishy-washy response.


After you’re comfortable with saying the word No aloud, keep in mind that it’s often not what you say but how you say it. Rehearse, practice, and even model someone who is self-assured and competent in delivering a respectful No. 


The tonality of your voice, the delivery of your words, and the energy of your response will all be calibrated unconsciously to what your beliefs are. Do an inventory of your beliefs regularly around the words Yes and No so you can choose to change them if needed so you can deliver your message effectively.

What now?

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