'And everyday, the world will drag you by the hand yelling, “This is important! And this is important! You need to worry about this! And this!” And each day, it's up to you to yank your hand back, put it on your heart and say,“No, this is what’s important”' - Iain Thomas

Ever find yourself in a situation where you said “yes” or “okay” even if what you really wanted to say was “NO”?  Ever been in a situation where you felt almost cornered/trapped and just had to say yes? Ever said yes to something or someone and then regretted it, later or immediately? At some point we all find ourselves in situations where we have said “yes” even when we did not want to.

 Is saying no necessary?

  • Saying “yes” to unreasonable demands or people/things that drain you out is a sure shot way of taking unwanted stress upon yourself      
  • Saying “yes” may mean putting yourself or your needs after someone else’s which may at the time feel like a noble gesture but in hindsight may cause you to regret the decision
  • Peer pressure, for example, is a common reason for many young individuals to initiate substances/sexual activity, which later may have dire consequences
  • Saying “yes”, without prioritising is another way of saying “no” to things that actually matter
  • You may end up having lesser time to finish your own tasks 

Why do we end up saying “yes”

There are many reasons why we may prefer saying a reluctant/ hesitant “yes” instead of a more natural “no”; some of the common ones are:

  • “No” seems rude!
  • “No” doesn’t seem like a positive response (duh!)
  • “No” makes us feel, we may miss out on something important (FOMO)
  • We may feel saying “no” now, may lead to regret later
  • Saying “no” may create awkwardness in relationships
  • Others may feel we are not as “capable” or “nice”   

It’s okay to say “no”!

It’s okay to say no. It’s okay to say no to someone you love, a near one, your parent or child. It’s okay to say no to a job or relationship. It’s okay to say no to sexual advances. You’re allowed to put yourself first, you’re allowed to set boundaries and you’re allowed to make your well being your priority!  Whether it is a favour for a close friend, a request of your colleague, a decision made by your elders, pressure from your buddies or even an order from a superior, saying no is possible without hurting feelings or feeling trapped yourself. 

Remember this when you say “no"

  • Find your “Yes”: Be clear about your own priorities; these are the things you have to say “YES” to, everything else = NO
  • Be goal-oriented: Know the implications of saying “yes”/ “no”; whether it takes you towards/away from your goal
  • Keep it simple: avoid lying, giving excuses or providing very lengthy explanations     
  • Choose your way: Use the medium you are most comfortable with (face-to-face, email, text, etc.)
  • Be respectful: Value the other person’s stance, express yourself calmly and clearly
  • It’s not your job to make everyone happy: Remember, you can’t please everyone, and it’s okay
  • Provide an alternative: Or make a counter-offer, whenever possible
  • Make yourself  less accessible: Provide your contact details only to those who are important    
  • Say nothing: Sometimes, no reply is also a form of reply; walk away
  • Be assertive: State your need clearly, concisely; avoid becoming aggressive or submissive
  • Broken record technique: Sometimes the “no” needs to be repeated, do so calmly and repeat yourself till the point goes across
  • Sandwich technique: Sandwich your “no” between two “yeses” e.g: “I would love to do this. But I’m occupied that day. I can do it the day after"

How to say no?

Some pointers that are helpful to put your “no” across  

  • Give information/ Describe the problem: “I can’t attend the Friday meeting”- instead try saying,“I have a family dinner on Friday”/ “I was looking forward to the meeting but I have a family dinner on the same day” 
  • Accept feelings: “No, we can’t stay”- instead try saying,“It’s hard to leave a place you enjoy so much, but we have to go”
  • When possible substitute a “yes” for a “no”: “No, I’m busy”-instead try saying,“Yes, I’m free next week”•    
  • Delay your response/Give yourself time to think: “I can’t make it that day”-instead try saying,“Let me think about it”  

Saying no isn’t easy, but it’s a much-needed skill if you need to focus on the things that matter in life. Learn to say it, else you may fall into the trap of saying “yes” to the good things while letting go of the best! 

It’s only by saying “no” that you can concentrate on the things that are really important. - Steve Jobs