The Power of No
Even though ‘no’ is a complete sentence, it can be a challenge for so many people to say -- and feel okay about. In fact, Gloria Steinem recently said in an interview that saying “no” is her “most difficult professional struggle.”
But the ability to say "no" can help with personal safety, healthier boundaries, reducing stress and anxiety, and even contribute to professional success.
There is power in 'no' from a self-defense aspect of declining unwanted invitations and rebuking unwelcome advances to defending one’s personal space/body. There is power in ‘no’ from a personal context of setting boundaries around doing favors, loaning money or spending time. And there is power in ‘no’ professionally in terms of defining worth, setting value and protecting assets.
But we know, due to our own experience and after leading workshops all over the country, that the simple act of saying “no” is not always easy. Because when we say “no,” it can trigger feelings of guilt, shame, fear and anxiety. If we are saying “no” to a request, it means someone else may potentially be upset or disappointed with us. And when we say “no,” we might be interrupting a pattern of habitually saying yes, which may not only be unfamiliar and uncomfortable, but can often disrupt the roles we play in our many relationships.
So if Gloria Steinem, the undisputed queen of rocking the boat, finds it challenging, how does that bode for the rest of us? The good news is that, like with any other skill, it gets easier with practice. And after continued practice and noticing how it benefits us, it spurs us forward in continued action.
When we say “no” to things we don’t want, we free up time, energy and resources for the things we do want. When we say “no” to things we don’t want to do, we send a clear message that our desires and needs are important -- that we are important. When we say “no,” we gain focus and clarity on our yes.
No can sound like “NO!” if the situation calls for it.
No can sound like, “No, I can’t do that, but what I can offer is ___________.”
No can sound like, “No, not this time.”
No can sound like, “No, thank you.”
There are endless variations on the basic theme of saying “no,” but the same principles of boundary setting apply:
1. Name the behavior/action/request and assess how you feel and how you want to respond.
2. Direct it.
3. Repeat it, if necessary.
4. End it by removing yourself, ending the conversation, or escalating your response, if that is what you need to do to be heard or stay safe.
If you’d like to book an event for your organization to work on effective communication, boundary setting and personal safety, we say “YES” to that! Let’s talk.