The Power of No

Nah to the ah to the, no, no, no

Songwriters: Eric Frederic / Meghan Trainor / Jacob Kasher
  Now whilst this song is about boy / girl stuff, I love that line and it’s totally relevant to my life right now.

I am virtually incapable of saying NO.


Have I always been like this? Hell to the yes. Yes Oui Ja Si Hai Shi. You get the picture.

Why am I like this? Well, as much as I had to admit it, I think there are 2 primary reasons. I don’t want to miss out, and I don’t want to let anyone down.  This backfires constantly.

Things I say YES to without batting an eyelid include:  Events, additional work, volunteering at school, helping friends, alcohol, food, sleeping in, movies I don’t want to see, clothes I really don’t need…….and the list goes on.

There was a week in February this year, where I calculated I did an additional 43 hours of things that weren’t my primary focus ie Business Health Family Study. WTF! #PeoplePleaser

This constant filling of life with other stuff can be totally debilitating and usually ends with a drama of some kind. Being late, forgetting something, double booking, letting people down, getting sick, being constantly tired…..blah blah blah.

Shonda Rhimes was told by her sister ‘you never say yes to anything’ which led her to Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person .  Loved the book, and it’s messaging was perfect for me to hear.  I have now looked in the mirror and screamed ‘you never say no to anything’.  Obviously that’s an exaggeration,  I do say no sometimes, but it’s pretty bloody rare.  It’s the learning to say yes to the right things.

I say yes to things that involve other people and say no to things that should be my key focus.  Like getting my butt to the gym, or finishing this blog post.  Why is that?  I’m sure the feedback and the dopamine hit I get when other people are involved are key reasons.

I’m on a mission to say no more often and yes with thought.


This week alone, I double booked myself for what would have been a fab weekend away with some girlfriends.  I only realised when an alarm went off on my phone reminding me to buy something for something else I had said yes to.  So now I feel like I’m missing out, a little resentful and that I’ve let down the organiser of the weekend.  Good thing I realised over a week out.  This wouldn’t of happened if I’d checked my diary before saying yes!

I remember being told by my mother once that I had to say yes to something, as to say no would upset the other person.  I was about 17, and the habit stuck.  The thing with habits is, you can change them.  Takes a wee while, and consistent effort, but it is doable.

It’s hilarious to think of some of the excuses I’ve come up with instead of simply saying No over the years.  So much more effort to explain your way out of something than saying No.  Same result, only less bandwidth.

For now, if I say no to something, please don’t be offended.  It’s not you, it’s me.  I’m exercising my No Muscle.  I’ll probably say No to things I want to say Yes to, just to get into the habit. Oops.

7 Tips To Saying No

  1. Be really clear on what the key focus areas of your life are right now.  We only have so many hours a day and can cope with only so much mental load.  I suggest no more than 3 key focus areas.  Mine till the end of July are Weight, Study, Business.  Elodie is always top of the list for me, so no need to have her in that focus group.  In fact I said on Facebook this morning that if it’s not in the diary now, it will probably be a no.  These focus areas should be aligned with your current short and medium term goals.
  2. Boundaries are the best. A little different to focus areas, boundaries are more defined. Some examples may be: you hate noisy bars because of your hearing – so they are off limits, you always take your mother to Bunnings (gosh I miss my mum) on Saturdays – so Saturday brunch invites are a no go zone, you budget so much on eating out a month – so after that it’s a no. Your boundaries are your boundaries.  Not to be compared with others and not to be judged.  Know yours and hold on to them
  3.  Keep it simple and gracious.  You can say no without having to explain your way out of a black hole.  The more you elaborate the more likely you are to talk yourself out of the no or piss off the other person.  Repeat after me ‘thank you for asking me, unfortunately I won’t be able to contact those books for the school.  I hope it all goes well for you on the day and please keep me in the loop as I will help when I’m able. Not that hard!!!
  4. Remember it’s not the person you are rejecting, it’s the event / situation / task etc.  This is not personal.  Honestly if you are saying no because you can’t stand the person, that’s a whole other conversation.  If they take it as a personal rejection, that’s work they need to do.  If they ask, absolutely explain that it’s not about them, and maybe if needed go a bit deeper into why you are saying no – but only if 100% necessary.
  5. Let go of the guilt.    There is no need to feel guilty when sticking to your boundaries, your focus areas and existing commitments. After all it’s your life!  The more you exercise this muscle, the better it will feel.  I’m still in the feel like shit phase of saying no, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel with each no feeling a little easier.
  6. When you’re struggling with a no, ask for more time before getting back to them.  This is a great opportunity to look at the reasons behind a Yes or a No.  This reflection can be immensely useful. Are you worried they’ll be angry, are you stressed you’re overcommitted with time, are you simply bored and want a distraction? There may be a multitude of reasons.  Investigate and get back to them with a clear Yes or No (maybe is not going to help you).
  7. Start saying No to the small stuff.  For example, yesterday I said No to a chocolate biscuit that was offered to me – looked bloody yummy too.  But, I didn’t need it (yes I wanted it).  I then said No to getting something finished for today, that I knew was going to be a struggle and I was then able to say No to drinks with friends as I knew it would make the things I wanted to get done last night so much harder to do.  Did the world fall down? No.  The biscuit was eaten by someone else, the work will be done for tomorrow and I caught up with my friends on chat.  I swear if I had eaten the biscuit the rest would have been Yes too.  Maybe this ties in a little with decision fatigue so that first No has a rolling effect on the rest of our decisions for the day. I might have a Google and look at that further.

What can you say No to today?