No. It is one of the shortest words in the English language, yet how we use it can have a huge impact. Say it too frequently and relationships have the potential be damaged. Don’t say it frequently enough and we can make life difficult for ourselves.

Many of us struggle with saying no.

There can be a number of reasons for this, one of which is our past learning. In many cultures and societies, helping others is seen as the right thing to do. And so, saying no can come with a layer of self-judgment, wrongness, guilt and shame. Saying yes, even if it means sacrificing our own legitimacy, can be easier than dealing with saying now.

But is always saying yes the answer?

We tend to say yes because we fear the effects of saying no. Yet, saying yes frequently and without boundaries can also create issues.

When we say yes, it is reasonable to assume that the minimum we will be giving is our time and energy. Each time we tap into these resources, we are taking from our tank. The tank is only going to be replenished if we put something back into it. If we continually say yes without boundaries, and without a plan for self-care, then the risk is that we will continue to deplete our resources. With no self-care or rejuvenation plan, eventually we will have nothing left to give.

The effects of constantly depleting our time and energy resources can be:

  • Multiple commitments with conflicting time constraints, leading to commitments not being met.
  • Burnout – with no energy left, we have nothing left to give
  • Stress and anxiety – How am I going to do it all?
  • Resentment – Why is it always me who has to sacrifice myself for others?
  • Loss of identity
  • Loss of self-respect – with no boundaries, we are not holding ourselves as legitimate
  • Damaged relationships – if we are not meeting commitments, this can lead to loss of trust

And so it seems that doing the supposed “right thing” by others can lead to not serving ourselves. And if we aren’t serving ourselves, how can we continue to serve others? Saying no therefore becomes an almost essential skill for dealing with life.

“Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying yes too quickly and not saying no soon enough.”

Josh Billings

So how do we stop ourselves from always saying yes? Or, better still, how do we say no? Surely if it was easy, we’d all have the answer already.

One secret is in understanding why we are saying yes in the first place. In particular, it might be useful to understand why we are saying yes without a self-care plan in place.

This can ultimately come back to the stories that we say to ourselves about ourselves and our place in the world. If we can understand those stories and the emotions that we attach to them, we can shift how we are interacting with the world. How we do that will depend on what our stories are and what they have come to mean to us.

And so I invite you to ask yourself:

  • What am I telling myself about saying yes to the requests of others?
  • What am I telling myself about saying no to the requests of others?
  • How are these stories serving me?

Deanne is a qualified ontological coach and facilitator, offering coaching and facilitation services online and in person. You can check out her services here. If you are interested in finding out more about how to say no, this workshop, scheduled for 7 May 2021 at 7 PM AEST, might be of interest to you.

The feature Image for this article is by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

2 thoughts on “The Importance of Being Able to Say NO

  1. Great post. I made a decision many years ago to only say yes to things that I really wanted to do and it has been the most freeing experience. In the beginning it was difficult but now I find it easy. I still loving helping others but on my terms – self care is so important.


    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment! Yes, this seems to be a lesson that I have to learn regularly – learning it once doesn’t seem to have been enough! With each iteration of learning, I am slowly starting to realise just how important self-care is. I like the connection between saying yes and having a self-care plan.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s