It took me years to discover the power of ‘no’. For some reason I always thought if I said ‘yes’ enough, people would like me. And so I did.
Saying ‘yes’ to things seemed to be the path of least resistance. If I agreed, everything would be just fine. Because it was what others wanted. And I knew I was supposed to be there for other people. That’s what I was told. A good person says ‘yes’ to virtually everything. ‘No’ was somehow selfish, as if ever thinking about yourself was, well, a major no-no.
But one day I woke up and looked around me. I had conceded to things that felt off. It was if every ‘yes’ I had uttered had pushed me a millimeter off the track I was meant to take. It required a major adjustment.
The first lesson was to learn how to decline, say ‘no’ — and mean it.
At first, the road was bumpy. I would be plagued with a sense of guilt and – yes – fear. As if I would die if I met someone else’s request with my own spoken negation.
Saying ‘no’ after years of ‘yes’ shocks people. They have to get used to the sudden change.
Recently, I was reminded of my ‘yes’ years by a series of requests coming from various sources.
“Can you promote my book for me? Oh, for free, of course.”
“Can you read this paper for me? Oh, for free, of course.”
“Can you donate to my cause/my work/my life? Oh, I have nothing to give you, of course.”
The final request got me to thinking. Really? You want me to give you money (again – I had already said ‘yes’ once before). And I had already told you ‘no’ with an explanation.
And then I realized ‘no’ is a full sentence. So I responded with that one glorious word and hit the send button. No explanation required.
And you know what? I did not die. As a matter of fact, I grew an inch. And it felt so very good.
If you feel you have become Life’s doormat, pick yourself up with one of the most powerful words in any language.
‘No’ is ‘yes’ for you.