“No” Isn’t a Four-Letter Word (How to Say “No”)

Is Saying “No” often painful, difficult or sometimes downright impossible? Do you find yourself saying “Yes” to things and then regretting it (again and again)? Even if you only do this occasionally, it can cost you in more ways than you may realize.

Let’s uncover three big reasons behind this negative behavior (seeing “No” as a positive word is a great start!), and look at ways to improve our lives and happiness using the power of “No”!

When you just can’t say “No”

You’re busy, have tons on your “To Do” list, you’re tired and stressed, but, sure enough someone comes along with a request for something and they really need your help so you say…”Yes”.

Aaarrrrgghh! Now you’ve got a problem because you realize you just can’t do everything so something has to give. And guess what? Once again the thing that gives is something you wanted or needed to do for yourself or even for your family or partner.

How do you feel? Awful. Regretful. Angry at yourself. Or perhaps you simply feel defeated and resigned to your “fate”.

The Why: people-pleasing and low-self esteem

What to do: Take a deep breath and exhale very slowly. You will learn that you are a person who needs to be pleased too, and will work on your self-esteem. When your sense of self-worth is strong, you will know thqt saying “No” at the right time or for the right reason won’t feel bad and won’t hurt anyone. It’s wonderful to give to others when we can, and joyfully, but not wonderful to give of ourselves to the point weakness.

Now, go to a mirror and start practicing saying “No”. You can make a game of it. Pretend you’re an actor and say “No” in different ways.

‘Um, no. I can’t. Really sorry.”

“Nope. No can do, amigo.”

“Aww, would love to – but no. Thanks for asking!”

And my favorite: “No.”

What’s wonderful is that you can use the “No” on yourself too. As practice. Here’s an example scenario:

Me: “Lara, would you like to help your mother weed her garden right now because she wants it done right now, so that you miss out on that pedicure you haven’t had in months as you’ve had a hectic time caring for teething twin toddlers?” (Note: the alliteration was accidental – it just happens to be true ;P)

Me: “No.”

Result: Relief. And a warm fuzzy feeling that comes with a moment of self-love.

When “No” feels like you may miss an opportunity

It’s something that’s not truly appealing and you’re not really sure if you should do it but other people think you should. They tell you it could lead to something good.

This happens a lot in the world of newbie actors, business, and sales (but it could happen anywhere, anytime). People are only too willing to make use of your time and energy to benefit themselves with little if any benefit to you.

When I was 19, I was enticed into selling a particular brand of vacuum cleaner. Sales wasn’t really my thing (I have no talent for it), and I didn’t love vacuum cleaners. Long story short: I worked for a few months and made not a penny. I kept wanting to quit but they had all kinds of mind games to keep you saying “Yes” to coming to work. Finally, something happened (that still haunts me) to make me say “No”. I visited the house of a young mom with a newborn baby. She was sweet and certainly happy to have me come in with my vacuum cleaner and give her carpets a once over for free. However, when I started placing the dirty filter cloths around her baby’s room and near the baby in her crib (my boss had instructed us to do this to reinforce the notion of the uncleanliness for the infant) – she turned sour. Understandably, she was angry and asked me to leave. I did so, and swore to myself that I would never work another day for the company. And I didn’t.

What a waste of time and energy doing something that gave me nothing that I wanted in return!

The Why: fear of missing a chance to earn a lot of money quickly.

What to do: Realize that an opportunity is only a good one if it aligns with your core values and ideals, who you want to be as a human being, and the innate talent/s that you have. Trying to make quick money (as enticing as it sounds) shouldn’t be your focus. Building the empire of you – the right way – should be the agenda. It’ll take less time in the long run and you’ll avoid the heartache, moral pitfalls, and possibly having to start from scratch again.

When we follow the path of our true calling, it is way more fulfilling. As for money? It will come. When we are doing what we love and what comes naturally, life is easier, happier and attracts the right people and opportunities to us.

When “No” would prevent avoidance

You secretly or subconsciously want to avoid the job at hand. There is something or things you know you must get done, but you say “Yes” to that latest movie at your local theater, hours of coffee-drinking with friends, binge scrolling through Facebook etc. You reason with yourself that “It’s only for a little while”, or “I deserve a break” or you simply act on the impulse of something that catches your attention in the moment. You can’t say “No” to your sabotaging behavior.

This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t take breaks from work or difficult tasks, on the contrary, breaks are great for refreshing the mind and stimulating imagination and problem-solving capabilities. Yet, if you find that you’re constantly saying “Yes” to activites that delay or inevitably prevent you from completing tasks that you need to do, then it’s definitely a problem.

The Why: procrastination

What to do: Become conscious of when and why you go off task. Make a note each time. Great if you do this for a week, but even two days should be enough for you to see a pattern. Ask yourself “Why is this distraction more important than my task and the goal it will lead to?” If you can’t come up with an extremely compelling answer, you have your answer: it’s not!

And if you keep coming up with extremely compelling excuses? You’re very imaginative! (But ultimately, you’re hurting your dreams.) Dreams aren’t meant to stay dreams, they’re meant to inspire action to live a fabulous life of your own making. If you don’t create the life you want, you will get a default life because it keeps on moving regardless.

Procrastination is a seriously undermining habit with its basis in emotions. Yet, it can be conquered! There are different reasons for procrastination and good books on the subject. But beware of books or people who equate chronic procrastination with laziness. Not true. It’s far more complex. As is the concept of laziness.

At one point in my life, my mother angry at my tardiness and difficulty in completing tasks, took me too see a psychologist (not the dope-smoking one who was our family friend and pet neurotic). This man apparently surmised that I did these things due to a desire for power over others.

Huh? I knew he was way off as I was introspective enough to be aware of my emotions at the times when my actions resulted in missing deadlines or events. Actually, I would be angry at myself and disappointed to tears for missing things that were important to me. So, I didn’t get the help I needed, and this habit continued.

When I was doing my final year of high school, my English teacher did something unusual. One day as we entered the classroom she told us there would be no talking. There was a paper on each desk with two writing topics on them. We were to choose one topic and spend the lesson writing on it. Several days later, our marked papers were returned to us. I was disappointed that I only got 19 out of 20. The teacher asked me to stay behind after class.

“I did this for you”, she said. Without pausing, she continued. “You see, I know why your student record is alternately high marks and then zeros. You don’t hand some of your work in because you think it’s not good enough.” Here, she paused gauging my reaction. (My face burned as a vision of my rubbish bin full of writing screwed up into little balls came to mind. She knew.) “Well, it is. And you’re good enough. Stop beating yourself up with perfectionism. Even if you sit down and write something without editing, and without revision after revision, you can still get a great mark. Anyhow, it’s gotta be better than a zero!”

Wow. I was floored. And humbled by the fact that she’d taken the time to do this to help me.

She had hit the nail on the head. I had never thought that what I did was good enough (ever!). My perfectionism wasn’t about simply wanting excellence, it was about low self-esteem. No amount of “A”s would have cured it. But learning to not tie my self-worth to those “A”s – that certainly helped.

It also helped to realize that by not completing a task, I was shooting myself in the foot, because if you get a “C” no-one knows (or should care) that the “C” was due to “A”s + zeros…

This can also be used as an analogy for other situations in life: If your project doesn’t get finished, your business never gets off the ground etc., no-one will know or have a use for all of that great work or service you could have brought to the world. And you won’t reap the full fruits of your labor, either.

A fun exercise for any type of “No” challenge

Think of 3 times when you’ve said “Yes” to something and you really should have said “No”.

Why did you say “Yes”? Make brief notes. Do you see a pattern? Becoming aware of why we do what we do can help give us those “lightbulb” moments when we understand ourselves better.

Now imagine yourself saying “No” in each of those 3 scenarios. (You can say “No” in a funny voice or choose a character from a movie and imitate their voice os you say “No”.) How does it feel? Scary? Joyous? Satisfying? Why? What would you have done instead with your time? Think about how it could have helped you become a stronger, happier person. Breathe that thought in. Enjoy it.

Finally, know that in life, you have the power and wisdom to choose your “No” (or “Yes”) not from fear, doubt or insecurity, but from positivity. Let that be your guide. And remember that saying “No” shows others that you value yourself and your time – and they will value you more also.

Anything more you’d like to know about “No”? Feel free to reply or contact me.