The Power of No
See How Easily You Can Learn to Say No and Never Feel Guilty About It
Hi. I’m Dr. Jeff Brown. Welcome to Brain Builders where today, you’re going to hear about the power found in the tiny little word no. The word no can actually help you manage stress and keep you from getting in over your head with commitments.
You’d probably agree with me that life can be more overwhelming now than ever before in history. Getting kids to soccer or choir, paying bills, new fund raising projects, grocery shopping, getting the oil changed in the car, taking care of aging parents—wow, the list goes on. Yes, many of those items are truly necessary, but you mustn’t let them run your life all of the time. A fair estimate would say that people with 15 to 20 major items on their daily to-do list either haven’t sorted their priorities carefully or they’re seriously over-committed. When I have a patient who is drowning in obligations and responsibilities, we explore how he or she got there. Frequently it’s because they’ve said yes more times than no.
Over-obligators generally fall into one of two categories: They’re either compulsive people-pleasers who fear disappointing or angering other people, or they’re poor time-managers who have a warped sense of what it takes to get stuff done.
If you are a people-pleaser, you need to dial down the guilt. You must get comfortable with the word “no” and learn to reframe your criteria for saying “yes.” When you sign on for something you prefer not to do, you are actually saying no to your own priorities. That can easily create stress and resentment in your heart.
If you are a time mismanager, you need to get real and do an honest assessment of what you can reasonably take on. Not every offer that comes your way is a good use of your time or feeds your priorities. Be wise with the precious minutes you have.
I do realize that saying no takes some practice and may not be easy for you, especially if you’re used to saying yes reﬂexively. Try these Brain Builders and see what happens:
- Doublecheck your priorities
Do you know what your priorities are and what you value most? Whether that’s family time, friendships, career, faith, charity work, exercise, learning — or yes, even money — keep in mind what’s most important to you every time you respond to a request. In the moment this will help you make a logical, rather than an emotional, decision.
- Practice makes perfect
Saying no is a skill you need to practice. The more you do it, the easier it gets. No need to be defensive, ungracious or apologetic when turning down a request: a polite, but firm, “Thanks, but no thanks,” usually does the trick. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for your decision, but if it helps, come up with a well-crafted stock reply you can pull out whenever necessary. You might beg off for genuine health reasons, family commitments, or work obligations. You can also use humor to lessen the blow.
- Don’t give in to pressure
If someone is insistent and won’t take no for an answer, tell them you’ll think about it; you can always write them a polite and final note saying no at a later date. Stepping out of a pressure-filled situation gives you some time to think and reaffirm your priorities. Plus it’s less stressful to turn someone down when you’re not face-to-face.
The biggest surprise for yes people is that the world doesn’t come to an end when you say no. You won’t become a pariah just because you graciously declined an invitation to become involved. There may be some lingering guilt at first but it rarely lasts. There are only so many hours in a day. Doing more of what you want to do and doing less in general will make you a happier person in the long run. Relish the joys of the Power of No.
If you’d like to read more about the power of no, as well as other ways you can put life stress in its place, pick up or download a copy of Say Goodbye to Stress. It’s available everywhere books are sold in print or as an ebook.