The Value of Learning to Say "No"


“Yes” and “no” are two of the clearest words in the English language, but they can also be two of the most opaque. “Yes,” for example, can come in a variety of forms. “Yes” can be big and heartfelt, small and scared, or twisted with anger. When you say “yes,” do you always know what kind of “yes” you’re saying? And if it is a scared or angry “yes,” why aren’t you saying “no” instead?

Learning to say “no” can be transformative because it means overcoming the fear or guilt that prevents you from saying that powerful word. “No” is powerful because it sets a boundary, it draws a line between what someone else wants and what you want. Saying “no” can be scary when you fear that setting that boundary will come at a price you feel is too high to pay.

You may fear that saying “no” will make someone angry with you and lead to conflict. If so, the challenge of learning to say “no” means learning to tolerate anger and navigate conflict. Alternatively, you may recognize that saying “no” will not anger others, but will cause internal feelings of guilt, essentially anger directed at yourself. If so, the challenge of learning to say “no” means learning to respond to those feelings of guilt by validating your choice to refuse.

Ultimately, the goal is to give yourself the freedom to choose to say “no.” Learning to do so has the direct benefit of honoring what matters to you and making sure you no longer feeling trapped by the demands of others. But perhaps equally important is the effect it has on your ability to say “yes.” Knowing that you can say “no” and live with the consequences means you are far less likely to say “yes” unless you truly mean it. In that way, a confident “no” opens the door to a genuine “yes."

#courage #empowerment #practice

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DAVID BERGER

Ph.D., Clinical Psychology

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