No. Two little letters that make up a big, powerful word. For being one of the smallest words in the English language (and, well, universally), it’s surprisingly hard to say it and mean it. 

Why is that? What is the power of saying no, and why is a word that we’re taught to understand and obey from a very young age so hard to say as adults? 

Two big reasons: Fear and guilt. Fear of what people will think, feel, or say when you meet their request with a no. And guilt, guilt for maybe hurting someone’s feelings, or letting someone down. These are big emotions and are hard to overcome. So, you do what feels comfortable, and you say “yes” to things that don’t serve you. And the more you comply and try to please everyone, the more run-down and miserable you feel.

Read next: Why Saying No is Hard to Do

But what if you could change your associations and feelings around the word No? What if you could get comfortable saying it, and not feel fear or guilt?

THE BENEFITS OF SAYING NO + TIPS TO GET STARTED

Learning to say No definitely has some significant perks. Saying No helps you establish healthy boundaries, and lets other people know what they can expect of you. Plus, it gives you a sense of ownership and empowerment like no other. Here are some tips to get you started on your journey to owning No.

Woman meditating outdoors

THINK ABOUT WHAT MAKES YOU SAY YES

Saying No will become more comfortable if you can quickly identify what makes you say “yes.” 

Think about the top three-five things that make you say yes, and write them down in a place where you can see them daily (in the bathroom, on your smartphone, or in your bedroom, for example). Having access to your “yesses” will help you quickly identify if any new asks align with what truly makes you happy—and make it easier to say No.

TAKE YOUR TIME ANSWERING COMMITMENTS

Don’t feel like you need to answer people’s questions with a “yes” or “no” right away. Take the time to really think about whether or not it’s something you want to say yes to, and whether or not it will serve you well. If you can honestly say yes, then by all means, say yes! But if you have any hesitation, then it’s time to evaluate whether or not it’s worth it. If you feel better saying No, then that’s what you follow.

DON’T OVER-EXPLAIN YOUR DECISIONS

Sometimes, when we say No, we feel the need to over-explain why we’re saying No to make ourselves and others feel better. Don’t get caught in that trap! No one needs to know the details of why you’re saying No unless you genuinely want to share. 

Be confident in your choices when you say No and definitely don’t feel the need to apologize. The more confident you come across, the less likely people are to question your decisions—a definite win for you.

Women sitting and connecting

REMEMBER THAT PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

Not entirely comfortable saying No to real people yet? Practice in the mirror or with trusted family and friends. You can even role-play alone in your home without a mirror, or in your own head. Whatever you have to do to get comfortable and confident saying No, practice it often. It will pay off when you’re faced with a real-life situation.

Implementing one or all of these steps will help you on your path to becoming better at saying No. Once you master it, you’ll be able to harness the true power behind the world’s shortest and most well-known word. Give it a try!


ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR, STEPHANIE SMALL 

Stephanie Small wellness writer

Hi, I’m Stephanie! I’m a Seattle native, living in the suburbs with my husband, dog, cat, and soon-to-be son. When I’m not writing freelance articles or marketing writing at my day job, you can find me doting on my houseplants, enjoying a walk in nature, or trying out a fun new recipe in the kitchen. 

Check out my website for more examples of my work!