The Power of “No”

By Taylor Burton Published on June 29, 2022

Estimated reading time: 4 Minutes

Do you have trouble saying no to people?

If you say yes to everything that comes your way, you will quickly find yourself spread too thin and may become overwhelmed. But it can be hard saying no to our superiors, our coworkers, the people we care about, or people we may not even know. Saying no may feel like it will lead to negative repercussions such as disappointing the wrong person, unwanted confrontation, or missing out on opportunities, which can lead to feelings of guilt or regret.

There is absolutely no reason for you to feel bad! This negative word can have a very positive effect on your life. It's your time and you get to choose what to do with it--learning to say no is actually a valuable skill, but like all skills, it takes practice. Make today the day you harness the power of "no" and begin applying it to your life.


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Recognize the signs. If you feel uncomfortable, obligated, overwhelmed, or any other negative emotion when faced with a yes-or-no decision, it's time to take a step back. Nothing is worth the cost of your happiness and requests should never cross your personal lines. Listen to your intuition and realize that these emotions may be the sign you need to say "no."

Set boundaries. If you don't set boundaries, you could easily be taken advantage of. Take a moment to sit down and figure out what your top priorities are. Which ranks the highest in your life? Family? Career? Your social life? 

Consider your long-term goals, organize your priorities, then lay down some boundaries so that you can uphold those standards. For example, if family time is your top priority, perhaps leave the opportunity to work overtime to a different coworker so that you can get home in time for dinner or make it to your child's soccer game. If you value your career most and are chasing a promotion, then you'll want to put that extra energy into your work performance and making a good impression on your boss. Take that overtime for yourself!


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Be firm yet gentle. It's important to strike a careful balance between these two things. You don't want to come across as rude, but you also don't want to appear weak and easily steamrolled. Hold your ground and resolve to follow through with your choices. Women in particular have a tendency to be apologetic, since politeness is drilled from a very young age, but always remember that your time belongs to you, not them.


Lose the excuses (if the situation allows). Some of us may have a list of excuses we keep at the back of our mind in fear of saying no, but in a perfect world, you shouldn't have to use an excuse. No means no.

However, if you feel more comfortable using an excuse as you figure out how to be more direct, or if you are faced with a particularly pushy individual, then you might have to wield your excuse after all. Observe the situation, judge the correct course of action, and proceed from there.


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The "No" Punch Card. If you need the extra motivation to say no or looking to reward yourself for your accomplishments, it's time to create a "No Punch Card." Every time you successfully say no, punch a hole into that card. If you hit ten, treat yourself to your favorite meal, an ice cream sundae, or a batch of cupcakes--whatever you like! Positive reinforcement is the best way to learn and what better use of it than learning how to say no?

Remember: Your time and energy is valuable. You are valuable. By learning to say no, you are also learning to say yes to a healthier, happier life.