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  • Writer's pictureMarica King, MS, LPC, NCC, BC-TMH

The Power of Saying No

A small, yet mighty word that often gets overlooked...No! Or is it that we are afraid of the consequences of saying no to others? One of the many teachings I received growing up was that it is rude or impolite to say no. While it was "cute" to say in the earlier years of life, it became a word that could lead to negative consequences (i.e. punishment) as I got older. Now as adults we have to remind ourselves that it is okay to say no and we most certainly have a right to do so.

Saying "no" is like setting a boundary, marking where your comfort zone ends and your true self begins. It is not the same thing as being selfish, rather it is self-care that we are worthy of and deserve. For many of us we do have a desire to help others, which can be a facet of self-care, however, when you feel like you simply cannot say no out of fear of not being accepted or approved, that is when it becomes a problem. Saying no is a power born of self-awareness, an understanding of one's limits, desires, and priorities.

In the realm of relationships when we put our desires and needs on the backburner for others we are communicating that we don't deserve to prioritize self, yet the message is sent that you are more important than me, and your needs being met are more important than mine. It is healthier to send the message that your worth is not contingent upon the approval of others, that true connection arises from mutual respect and understanding, not from compliance or appeasement. Saying "no" is an act of self-love, a commitment to honoring one's needs and boundaries, even at the risk of temporary discomfort or disapproval.

For every "no" spoken is a "yes" reclaimed, a commitment made to what truly matters, a space cleared for what matters to you most. But saying "no" isn't just about what you turn down; it's also about what you say "yes" to. You are saying yes to things that are fulfilling, nourishing, and provide a return in other ways from the energy invested instead of yes to things that are too mentally, emotionally, and physically draining that can lead to anger and resentment.

This will take some work on the front-end, starting with self-reflection to understand why you continually agree to things you don't want to do. What does it mean for you to say no? Is it having to face rejection from social circles; a fear of not being liked; holding onto your upbringing; to avoid difficult situations; or an issue with self-esteem? Determine what it is for you and work through it with patience and compassion, or seek professional help if needed.

Here are some helpful tips for harnessing the power of no:

  • Start small - giving a not right now or saying no to easier requests to say no to, as breaking the habit of saying yes to everything will be challenging.

  • Be patient with yourself as the default response may be to agree to requests. Give yourself a buffer of time (depends of the situation) to think through if it's something you want to invest energy into or not.

  • Be prepared for some people to be resistant to your no and try to convince you to go along with it as they are used to your agreeableness. Stay polite, respectful and firm.

  • Give your no without too much explanation. No is a complete sentence. The more you explain, the more your no is opened up for negotiation.

  • Offer an alternative if something else will work better for you so you don't end up agreeing to something that doesn't work at all or something totally different.

Remember, sometimes the mightiest word is the smallest: "No." I hope you can go forth from today and embrace The Power of Saying No!

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