The Power of NO

Emily DaFoe

How many times have you realized that you have committed yourself to 3 kids’ birthday parties, a 40th birthday party, a baby shower, and a wedding, all on the same weekend? The logistics alone turns you into a frenzied militant time master, calling on babysitters, friends, and family for help so that every obligation can be met. 

Or, you’ve found yourself backed into a corner at the school PTA meeting saying YES to make 1000 paper flowers for the spring carnival, while working a full-time job, and juggling your household obligations. What, they need to be made this week? “Yes, ok,” you cringe, “I can do that.”

How many times have you heard yourself saying yes to the wrong things—overwhelming requests, bad relationships, time-consuming obligations? How often have you wished you could summon the power to turn them down?

Well, I know that answer for me… TOO MANY TO COUNT. 

For the past 5 year’s I’ve been working hard building my career as an artist ( ). Being very determined not to be a ‘starving artist,” I found myself saying “YES” to all sorts of random commission requests. Don’t get me wrong, I am intently grateful and humbled that someone would consider me to create a centerpiece for their home. However, I found over the years, saying YES, when I really should have said NO, created a lot of STRESS in my life. Pile all of these YES commitments on top of my family obligations, and before I knew it, I was strung out, impatient, and my family life felt chaotic. 

Then something clicked. I had my “Ah-ha” moment where I realized that my YES’s in life needed to become NO’s.

I realized that if I were going to make it as an artist and mother, I would need to set boundaries. And I started saying NO to doing commissions. Yep, I pretty much said ‘NO’ to guaranteed money. But, here’s the secret. No amount of money is going to make you happy. Sure - you can purchase a whole lot of stuff with it to cram into your already overpacked home. Or, you can buy some experiences with it, to take a trip on an already over-packed schedule, that will leave you needing a vacation after your vacation… But if you are not happy in the process of making the money, then it’s not worth it! 

I have discovered the POWER of NO. When I said “NO” to too many commitments, obligations, stuff, and too much of anything; I received the most valuable commodity in this world... TIME. I created space and time in my life for things that were really important to me; my relationship with myself, my family, and my friends. 

A well-placed “NO” can not only save you time and trouble, but it can also save you your life. 

Do you wish you could put your foot down sometimes and say no? Many of us feel compelled to agree to every request, and would rather juggle a million jobs than refuse to help, even if we are left with no time for ourselves. Learning to say no can earn you respect from yourself, and give you more time to focus on the things in your life that matter. 

Here are some valuable steps to saying no from Psych Central:

Keep your response simple. If you want to say no, be firm and direct. Remember, you’re not asking permission to say no.

Buy yourself some time. Interrupt the ‘yes’ cycle, using phrases like “I’ll get back to you,” then consider your options. Having thought it through at your leisure, you’ll be able to say no with greater confidence.

Consider a compromise. Only do so if you want to agree with the request, but have limited time or ability to do so. Suggest ways forward to suit both of you. Avoid compromising if you really want or need to say no.

Separate refusal from rejection. Remember you’re turning down a request, not a person. People usually will understand that it is your right to say no, just as it is their right to ask the favor.

Don’t feel guilty for saying no to your children. It is important for them to hear “NO” from time to time so that they develop a sense of self-control. It is hard to negotiate adult life without this vital skill. Rather than cave into their protests, let them know who is in charge by setting boundaries.

Be true to yourself. Be clear and honest with yourself about what you truly want. Get to know yourself better and examine what you really want from life.