THINK ABOUT IT: saying “no” means “yes”

This post is really written for me, but might be helpful for others.

Saying “no” means saying “yes.”

Sure, we’ve all heard the anti-drug tag-line, “just say no!” since elementary school. And as children we knew not to accept offers for illegal drugs. It meant bad things. But what I think they didn’t manage to teach well in grade school was that by saying no to drugs, we are saying yes to a healthy life free of drug addiction.

But somewhere between fifth-grade and adulthood I (and probably many others) have lost the perspective we had when we were little. Not about saying no to drugs, but in saying no to things that are offered to us in relationships, career, and life. We all talk about striving for “balance” (I should know – it’s one of the most popular DESIGN YOUR LIFE intentions), but are we ready to actually follow through on that goal?

I find sometimes I struggle with saying “no” to things that I don’t want to do or feel right in my gut. There are times out of (perceived) social pressure, I feel I should say yes to something simply because it is in front of me. For example,

  • I should say yes to an offer to do a social activity I don’t enjoy.
  • I should say yes to more involvement than I’m comfortable with in a philanthropic situation.
  • I should say yes to spending more money than I really want to when going out with friends.
  • I should work longer in the evenings during my off-hours, if that is what others are doing.
  • I should say yes to drinking one or two extra glasses of wine when out with friends.

What I am working to realize, on a daily basis, is that by saying no in those situations I am really saying yes to the following:

  • I am saying yes to doing fun activities that I genuinely enjoy with others.
  • I am saying yes to my gut and intuition, volunteering in an authentic way.
  • I am saying yes to my intention to save more money.
  • I am saying yes to balance and being the best person I can be.
  • I am saying yes to living a healthy life with moderation.

Though I am still working on these intentions, there have been times when I have spoken up for my inner-voice and said no to similar situations.

I find that when I do so, saying the simple phrase “I just want to be honest” followed by my polite decline is helpful. Not only that, but usually the response is completely accepted by the other party, and releases me from the phantom guilt of “I should.”

Anyone out there feel the same?

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  1. Jill

    Yes! I think especially as women our instincts to “nurture” turns into doing what others expect of us, instead of what is important to us. I get this pressure with volunteering at Noah’s school… I love to do it and I’ve committed to once a month, but then I’ll catch wind of a mom that is there every week and I start to give myself a guilt trip. It’s then I take a reality check and remind myself that volunteering at my son’s school should be fun for both of us! Not another “chore” on my list!

  2. Annie

    Thank you so much for this post! Saying “no” is something I struggle with a lot. Before I know it, I’ve committed myself to all sorts of things, things I have no passion for. In 2010, my goal has been to live more simply, and for me, this means saying no. I’m learning, though, that the “simple life” doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of commitments. Instead, I’ll only commit myself to those things which stir my soul, that use my gifts, and make me happy. This isn’t a selfish way to think, either. The more happy I am in my committments, the better job I do and the more pleasant I am to be around. If only we could all pledge to “just say no”!

  3. Kiki

    I’ve always been the kind of person who has felt obligated to say “yes” to everything, even when I had to rearrange my plans, be inconvenienced, or do something I really didn’t want to do. I really hated this about myself for a long time. I yearned to be one of those people who felt comfortable saying “no” to people. I read the book “The Power of a Positive No” and have been trying to implement those strategies (much like the ones you posted above) into my life. It doesn’t always work out, but most of the time I’m able to hold my own against the controlling and over-bearing people in my life.

  4. Erica

    I totally agree! One of my favorite mantras I use is “No is a love word.” People make fun of me for phrasing it that way, but to me it’s true. For example, I love myself enough to be able to say no to X situation that I don’t really want to do. I developed and used this philosophy a lot in college where I was over-scheduled and people made a lot of demands on my time. I wasn’t having fun anymore. Once I started saying no to people, I could finally breathe again, (or take a bite of my lunch without being interrupted) and stopped having small panic attacks. To me, as a woman who does too much, no is the most powerful word out there.

    Great post!

  5. Kaitlyn

    Great post, this is definitely an area in my life I need to get better in. I decided I need to say yes to a healthier lifestyle and say no to alcohol, animal products, and sweets for a while, would you like to start a cleanse with me??

  6. Dayka

    I love the way you reframed the statement–it’s not so much about saying no, but about what you’re saying “yes” to. Applicable to so many areas of life!

  7. Susan

    This has been a mantra of mine for some time now (after really feeling spread too thin on one too many occasions), but you certainly put it quite perfectly!

    You are getting wiser every day 🙂 That is certainly something to say “YES!!!” to 🙂

  8. Molly

    This post makes me feel better about decisions I’ve made lately. I have cluttered my life with 3 jobs and too many other obligations, even though they are all related to my passions in life. I’ve started saying no this year and even though I knew it was a good thing deep down, it felt awkward and like I was doing myself a disservice. But it’s true, I’m really saying yes to actually living my life and being involved in projects that actually matter to me on deeper levels, while also leaving room in my life for growth. Yay!

  9. Flavia

    I’ve struggled with this most of my life, particularly because I tend to be a people pleaser. I finally started standing up for myself and saying no a lot more, but I still feel some guilt. I think remembering what I am saying “yes” to will help me, so thanks!

  10. What a great perspective. You’re right, saying “no”, is saying yes. I’m going to think about this, especially when I consider working another 50-60 hour week when what I really want to do is be with my family more.

  11. One of my biggest problems is my constant need to seize all opportunities. So last fall I set out to slim down my schedule and tally the times I was able to say “no” for my own sake. This practice has brought me much sanity. It was hard at first, but my “no tally” is in full swing and saying “no” has gotten much easier. I like your take on “no” as saying “yes” to other (more beneficial) things. It makes “no” feel like an opportunity.

  12. Carmen

    What a good way to approach saying “no” and making it a positive action! Love it!

  13. Jessica

    I totally agree about that quote. I read that somewhere back in the days of college and remember saying. So TRUE! Great topic of choice Jess.

    Stop by tomorrow to see the rest of your looks!


  14. Jenn

    This is so simple yet SO hard to follow! Thanks for the reminder and encouragement

  15. jcbellemarie

    great post! a wonderful reminder : )

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