“No” is a very powerful word when it comes to your relationships with others — and with yourself. While the word “no” might trigger thoughts of negativity, harnessing the power of “no” can be a very positive thing. In particular, mastering the art of saying “no” is essential to distancing yourself from negative people or situations. Many people have a “yes” default setting when asked to attend an event or help with a project, which would seem like a positive thing, right? For the most part, saying “yes” to others — offering to help or showing support — is a good thing, but if “yes” is a default response for you, you might not be pausing to consider whether or not saying “yes” will have a positive impact on your life. When it comes to determining whether or not a “yes” is a positive or a negative, consider these questions:
1. Do you consider what you really want?
Before immediately responding to a question or a request, take a moment (or a day) to think about it, and ask yourself, “What do I really want?” This isn’t to say you should do what you want all the time and not go out of your way for others, but if you find yourself always saying “yes” (even when you don’t want to), it’s time to step back and think about your own needs. Keep in mind that putting yourself first isn’t always selfish. Sometimes choosing to say “no” can cut out resentment in a relationship, and that will positively impact you and others.
2. Do you see “no” as a complete sentence?
“No” has such a negative connotation that sometimes we’re afraid to actually say it without hedging or following it with an explanation. Instead, we say things like, “I’ll have to think about it…” or, “I’m not sure, maybe…” These phrases not only confuse others (is that a “yes” or a “no”?), but they also dilute our own internal resolution. Don’t be afraid to say “no” when you’re 100% certain that you don’t want to engage in a particular activity. Imagine if every time you said “yes” you offered some sort of explanation as to why you wanted to partake! Just like saying “yes,” saying “no” doesn’t require an explanation.
3. Do you consider saying “no” as saying “yes”?
Whenever you say “no” to something, keep in mind that you’re saying “yes” to something else. You’re freeing up your time (and, in some cases, your emotional bandwidth) to engage in another (perhaps more positive) activity. If you feel bad turning someone down, try thinking about what you’re saying “yes” to instead. Reframing the “no” in a more positive way might make it easier to commit to it. The more you focus on how you will be spending your time, the more effortless it becomes to turn down invitations or requests that aren’t adding value to your life.
4. Do you value your own time and emotional well-being?
The more you value yourself, your thoughts, and your emotions, the easier it is to say “no” when necessary. When you remind yourself of how valuable your time is — and that it shouldn’t be wasted on certain people or situations — you’re likely to feel less guilt or hesitation when it comes to saying “no.” Valuing your time and your emotional well-being helps you to create a strong sense of self, a trait that reminds you to preserve your positive moments by saying “no” when you need to. Remember: Loving yourself isn’t selfish.
5. Do you stand your ground?
One of the toughest things about harnessing the power of “no” is encountering people who just won’t take “no” for an answer. You know the type: the ones that pepper you with questions or try to come up with creative solutions that will make it possible for you to say “yes.” When you encounter these types of people, stand your ground and simply repeat your initial response. (If you find yourself wanting to waver, consider reminding yourself of the reasons you chose to say “no” in the first place or what you’re saying “yes” to when you’re saying “no.”)
It can be tough to say “no” sometimes, but learning how to do it without feeling guilty or unsettled is an important aspect of living a life that makes you happy. The more you master the art of saying “no” when you need to, the easier it becomes to fill your life with activities and people who positively influence you.
Dani DiPirro is an author, blogger, and designer living in a suburb of Washington, D.C. In 2009, she launched the website PositivelyPresent.com with the intention of sharing her insights about living a positive and present life. Dani is the author of Stay Positive, The Positively Present Guide to Life, and a variety of e-books, including Loving Your Self, a workbook designed to promote self-love. She is also the founder of Twenty3, a design studio focused on promoting positive, modern graphic design and illustration.
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