Photo of Dr Leanna Manuel

Saying No

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“No is a full sentence.” ~ Jessica Ortner

yes or no

Most people I know struggle with saying no. We often feel that we must give an explanation, particularly if we are giving what seems to be an answer that might upset or disappoint someone. The reality is that NO is a full sentence. It is ok to offer an explanation if you want to. It is less helpful if you feel an explanation is required. Have you ever said yes when you wanted to say no, primarily because you didn’t want to tell someone why you were saying no? I have.

There may be multiple reasons why we are uncomfortable saying no. The first one that pops into my head is the response 2-year-olds get when they say no to adults. I can’t think of a single example when the adult (including me) didn’t immediately ask why. We have been programmed from an early age to explain so that we don’t get in trouble. And that explanation really needed to be a good one. Admittedly, although I’m working on it, I still have a tendency to ask why when someone tells me no. More often than not, but not always, it stems from curiosity rather than entitlement these days.

Offering an excuse or explanation before being asked can be an attempt to do an end run around the potential for conflict. This may include a belief that our reasons are not valid or acceptable, or a belief that other people’s feelings are far more important than our own. Habit? Sometimes low self worth? Often necessary? Not always.

It bears repeating, it is ok to explain a reason if it adds anything to the situation. Let it be purposeful. This requires mindfulness about the situation and one’s own motivations and emotional responses. I don’t really recommend that you walk through your life just saying no. Life is often more fulfilling if you say yes frequently. I do recommend that you begin to say no without explanation to people that you are not really close to since they won’t have any real expectations about how you generally operate. When this gets more comfortable try some people that know you well, but that you feel safe with. Notice what happens.

Why is this important? It is important since it contributes to a strong sense of self worth and confidence that will enhance how you interact with the world and other people. Go ahead. Get in touch with your inner toddler. NO!

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