The Power of No
We underestimate our ability to grant many of our own wishes by using the magic word “NO.” This word is a complete sentence. It does not require explanation, defensive banter, or justification. It does not have to come with a side of guilt, anger, or shame. It can lift us out of the doldrums on its powerful wings any time we choose to invoke its magic.
We increase our own stress by giving away our precious time, getting entangled in the drama of others, doing things we don’t want to do, forcing ourselves to be in the company of those we find as appealing as a rotting apple and for what? To look good? To avoid conflict? Out of obligation? Have you noticed the number of people around you suffering from anxiety and/or depression?
Much suffering comes from begrudgingly uttering “yes” when what we truly mean and need to say is “NO.”
First, we need to say that word to ourselves in a brand new context – NO, I will not say YES when I mean NO. NO I will no longer pretend I’m OK when I’m not. NO, I will not lock down my emotions. When we give ourselves rights, free ourselves from whatever painful useless rules we learned or created in order to pretend that we’re doing a fine job of managing our lives while instead we’re slowly suffocating, then it gets easier to say “NO” to others.
Stop doing what you don’t want to do. Just stop it. Use your magic word. Use it confidently. With clarity…and without apology! When you say “yes” nobody asks for an explanation, do they? No. If you are doing a favor for someone, then saying “NO” does not require an explanation either. Otherwise, you are not being asked for help, you are being manipulated and obligated. Just. Say. No.
In fact, when in doubt, say NO. You can always call (or text) and say yes in a few hours or days. Better to pleasantly surprise someone with your genuine consent rather than feel your gut clench the moment you realize that Nooooooooooooo was surging up through your bowels. C’mon, we’ve all been there. It sucks. So, unless it’s something you’re looking forward to doing, or something you actually want to do, it’s just less stressful to say NO first, then mull it over.
Sometimes, there’s not much to mull… “Hey Raven, wouldn’t you like to dress up like a clown and run around downtown Cleveland with me?”
Um, no. Nope. Not gonna do it. Sometimes being asked to attend an event or help someone move, give someone a ride, or volunteer, or watch their dog…feels worse than wearing the worst clown suit you can find. So, NO. Just: NO.
If you stop obligating yourself to do what you think other people expect of you, that doesn’t mean that you will never do anything for anyone else.
Your kindness simply shifts to include you rather than exclude you. Imagine that! You will not become a jerk — in fact, if you ARE (sometimes) a jerk, this may help take the edge off.
We are taught (incorrectly) that saying YES to things we don’t want to do to make other people happy is the ‘right’ thing to do. No. Refusing to say NO, is very expensive. We teach other people to use us, teach them that we even like being overworked, underpaid and/or ignored. We say things like: “I’m fine,” “That’s OK,” and “Sure I can do that.” Without saying NO, we silently agree to ignore abuse, whether our own or that of others.
When you tell people with your actions that you will not push back, you will not say what you want, you will do whatever is asked of you to keep that dysfunctional job, or support that dysfunctional government, or stay in that dysfunctional relationship – the world is not better for your efforts. All you succeed in doing is deepening your own misery, and perhaps you also become a co-conspirator in the misery of others.
If you give yourself the option to say yes OR no authentically, four excellent things happen.
1. You reduce your stress dramatically.
2. You discover that you can trust yourself.
3. You develop healthy relationships based on honesty and respect.
4. You discover who wants to manipulate you and can deal with it swiftly.
This my friends, is the Power of NO.