The Gift of 'No!'

The Gift of 'No!'

By Gina B.

Want to get yourself a great, inexpensive holiday gift?  Grant yourself the power to say no.

It’s interesting that ‘no’ is one of the first words that we learn, and often the favorite word of a defiant toddler.  Once we develop filters and learn social graces, the word ‘yes’ takes over when it becomes clear that people don’t enjoy hearing the word ‘no.’

Well . . . sometimes it’s necessary to say no.  Sometimes, saying no is the only way to preserve your sanity.  I’ve been a much happier person since I’ve given myself the permission to decline.

I used to be more of a people pleaser.  If someone asked for a favor, no matter how ridiculous or inconvenient, I would try to accommodate.  Too often I found myself in positions where I felt taken advantage of, or I felt guilty when I couldn’t oblige.   Never mind that I occasionally neglected my own to-do list or sometimes betrayed own gut instinct in the name of being a good friend or dutiful family member.

And then one day a friend asked me to help her move.  I cringed when she posed the question, and spent ten minutes trying to figure out how to respond.   Then a light went off in my head.  I could say no.

Just no.  No, without explanation.  No, unapologetically.  No, without a follow-up excuse or fabricated tragedy.  If pushed, I could say what my mother was so fond of saying:  “Why?  Because I said so!”

It was a very liberating decision, because being in the business of people pleasing is emotionally exhausting.

As terrible as it may sound, I hate nothing more than helping people to move.  I don’t even move myself, if I can avoid it.  I would have been unhappy had I complied.

I said no to the manual labor, but offered her $20 toward the cost of a professional mover.  She was slightly disappointed but she got over it very quickly.  The way I see it, I preserved our friendship.  Had I agreed, I would have been attitudinal and whiny, and her furniture would have been in danger of being dropped and destroyed.   No fun for anyone.

Since then, I’ve lived by a simple rule.  I will only agree to do something that I won’t complain about.  If I think I’m going to complain, I won’t do it.

The rule is simple, but the action is difficult.  If you have the reputation for being a yes-person, saying no to your friends will not be easy.  It will be especially hard if you have crafty, audacious buddies who will use guilt and tears when they ask if you can leave work in the middle of the day to take them to the airport, or babysit their 2-year-old flu-ridden twins.

Before succumbing to the guilt and blurting out the word yes, give some real thought to everything involved, and remember to be true to yourself.  If you think the request is unreasonable or will disrupt your life, say no.  If you think you can honor the request without being upset, say yes.

Please don’t get the idea that I don’t help my friends.  I enjoy helping my friends, and I still try to accommodate their requests and I’m typically happy if I can put a smile on the face of a friend.  I’m just better at drawing the line between the acceptable and the ridiculous. Because of my honesty, my friends understand and respect my boundaries.

When I say yes, they know that I mean yes, emphatically.  I will be prompt and happy.  They know that if they need help, I will be helpful in my own way, and in ways where I am most useful.

Your true friends will understand, and they will envy your honesty.  The ones who are prone to taking advantage will either disappear or stop asking.

Happy Holidays, and remember . . . put the no-no-no into the Ho Ho Ho!



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  • This past year has been so trying for me in so many ways. I am currently doing a workshop on self love and forgiveness. I am learning to use the word "no" as I never done before. Thank you for the great post.

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