Saying No: Here's Why You Need To Get Better At It

You need to say "no" more often.

You're a good person. You generously give to others more often than you give to yourself. You say "yes" to another low bono client. You take on an additional volunteer commitment. You agree to meet someone for coffee with whom you are less than enthusiastic. You have sex with your partner when you're not really in the mood. The reasons behind your "yes" are varied and complicated. What's not complicated, however, is that saying "no" makes everything in your life easier.

Take relationships, for example. When you say "no" to someone, they know where you stand. Your position is clear. It's clear for the people who adore you and those who are on the fence. Those who are on the fence might find your "no" upsetting but remember, "no" is a gift. It's a gift because it allows them to jump the fence and find someone who is a better fit. And it's gift to you because it helps you keep the right people in your life. 

When everything is a "yes", no one thing is more important than another which means that life/work balance can feel impossible. No matter what you think about life/work balance, you will always have projects or clients who are more important than others. (By the way, that doesn't mean that one is "better" than another just that some things have more emotional significance or personal importance to you.) Here's the thing though: women who are the most balanced, the most content, with the least angst over the work/family life dynamics are the ones who say "no" more. They get clear on what really matters and they act on it consistently.

Beyond balance, continual "yeses" when you should say "no" hurts you in three, immediate ways in the short-term. A "Yes" instead of a "no" will do the following:

I think she's saying "no".

I think she's saying "no".

  1. Create stress. Somehow it seems like there are more bad things than ever before that happen on a regular basis. Freak accidents, mass shootings, hate speech and everyday sexism erode away at your sense of self and safety. That's already a stressful truth. Don't willingly add more if you don't have to.
  2. Take away opportunities. It seems counter-intuitive but "yeses" limit your choices and  time. Offering a "no" not only allows you to focus on what's really important but also allows you to take advantage of truly awesome opportunities instead of just the newest bright, shiny object you were asked about.
  3. Adds to time management struggles. If you find yourself saying, "I'm tired" "I wish there were more hours in the day," or anything similar, organizing your time may already be a challenge.
  4. Dulls your listening to (and ability to act on) gut instinct. Gut instinct is not accessible if your world is too loud, crowded or full of multi-tasking. It's also not present if you're sleepy. But it's crucial for effective decision-making. 
  5. Compromises your physical health. Stress (see above) releases cortisol. Elevated cortisol levels impact our immune system and bone density. It also interferes with memory, is associated with weight gain, elevated blood pressure, cholesterol. Click here to learn more about the connection with health and stress.

All of this is especially true for a survivor of abuse. Survivors need healthy environments in which to heal from past trauma. A home, workplace or relationship where your needs are consistently unmet (or are under-valued) whether by you or someone else pause your healing. Healing can't really start until you're in a safe place, emotionally and physically. 

Life won't ever be easy. But saying "no" is a good way to make everything more simple. Who couldn't use more of that?