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6 Ways to Say "No"

Updated: Jun 10, 2022

Each month I'm going to share with you the tips, advice and guidance I give my clients as a wellbeing coach. This month is all about saying no.

Two powerful words in our communication are "yes" and "no". We learn these from a very young age, and they are ultimately associated with our actions, decisions and choices. Whilst they may be small in size, they are mighty: there is so much more to these two little words. There are facial expressions and body language. There are lifestyle choices, habits formed, votes cast, beliefs set - all in response to these simple phrases. They can define the direction of your life.

As a coach it is my job to open up the world of yeses and nos to my clients. In our sessions I ask them questions to find out where they are saying yes or no - are they opening up to possibilities, or needing to create clearer boundaries? What do they want, and what do they not want? Where is the middle ground and how can we work with what we have? It's powerful stuff and a privilege to witness the lightbulb moments, the dawning realisations and emotional release that come from understanding where we are saying yes or no in our lives.

So today, I would like to share with you my advice for using the word no. This word is the smaller of the two, but can lead to stronger boundaries, clearer direction and more freedom in your life.

Tip #1 - Get comfy

Not familiar with saying no? Are you a yes person, or a people please? Me too! And so the only way to start saying no more often is to practice. A powerful place to start is in our heads - using our inner voice. I encourage you to start saying "no thank you" in your head whenever a situation, person or emotion shows up that you do not want to engage in.

For example, you may think "I'm not good enough" or "I can't do that" or "It'll never work". You can respond with a firm "No thank you" to these thoughts. Another situation may be that you read a negative post/tweet/comment on your socials or even hear a negative comment in conversation, instead of retaliating or allowing it to get to you, say in your head (or out loud) "No thank you".

This may feel strange and uncomfortable at first, but allowing yourself to say no, even in your head, is a great place to start.

Tip #2 - Write it down

If you write something down, you are more likely to do it. So, take your thoughts a step further and write a 'no thank you, not today' letter in your journal. It can begin with the phrases 'I am saying no to...' or 'I am not available for...'

For me personally I would write 'I am saying no to pressing snooze in the mornings' and 'I am not available for negative self-talk'. Another big one that I am working on is 'I am saying no to mindless scrolling' - I'll let you know how I get on with that one!

Putting pen to paper is a great way to solidify your thoughts, make sense of what you do not want and get clear on the actions you need to take.

"When you say yes to others, make sure you are not saying no to yourself." – Paulo Coelho

Tip #3 - A no can be a yes!

The word no is often considered negative, a rejection and a cut off point. But what if you started to view saying no as a way of bringing freedom, space and a great big 'Oh Yeah!' to yourself and your life.

When you say no to something, someone or a situation - you are opening up the possibility for a yes somewhere else. A no to spending time on social media is a yes to more time in the present moment, a no to the sofa and Netfilx is a yes to reading that book, a no to joining in with the gossip at the school gates/water cooler/garden fence is a yes to being trustworthy.

Tip #4 - Try it out

Start small, but you need to take action. The only way to develop your ability to say no, is to practice and do it. Again, it may feel uncomfortable, but when you begin to see that it brings you freedom, time, peace... and so many other benefits, you will see that the initial discomfort is worth it in the long run.

But the key is to start small, in situations you feel safe and where you can follow through.

Tip #5 - Follow through

Be a person of integrity - you say do what you say, and you can follow through on your "No thank you" not with an explanation but with your actions. Remember, as Sharon E. Rainey writes, “No is a complete sentence. It does not require an explanation to follow. You can truly answer someone’s request with a simple no.” So, my tip here is to follow through with what you do next - be a person of your word, don't go back on what you have said, but stick to it.

Tip #6 - Keep going

Don't give up. You will meet resistance from others, raised eyebrows and questions, but you know that saying no is the right thing to do. Far better to go through life being clear on what you want and do not want, rather than sitting on the fence or feeling overwhelmed. This is a long game, not a short sprint. Your decisions and decisiveness will encourage others to do the same - they will see that it good, right and true to say no when it is needed.

“Sometimes no is the kindest word.” Vironika Tugaleva

So, let's work on this together - start with what you say in your head, to writing it down, then saying it out loud and following through. Saying no can lead to a world of yes, and we'll look at this in the next post. Please feel free to share this and comment below - and if you say 'no thank you', I completely understand!

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