The Nourishing ‘No’

mindset for movement

The last segment on ‘No’ was giving the word a spin from the need for power and control, to a simple view of it as a vitamin.  Something habitual and natural you do every day. To properly fuel you and nourish you.  


Let’s continue on that positive path and talk about what ‘No’ really says, how to use it without inner turmoil, and the nourishment it can provide your life.


According to Psychology Today, ‘No’ says  “This is who I am; this is what I value; this is what I will and will not do; this is how I will choose to act.” We love others, give to others, cooperate with others, and please others, but we are, always and at the core, distinct and separate selves. We need No to carve and support that space. 


Saying ‘No’ makes you fully responsible for your decisions and actions and creates greater self-awareness.  A good thing, but often uncomfortable all around. And let’s recognize the two faces of ‘No’. The internal and the external.  The internal ‘No’ is our self-discipline; our guide for controlling impulses and immediate gratification. It manages our priorities and productivity.  The external ‘No’ is our boundary creator and defender.  


Instead of viewing ‘No’ as a way to guide, manage and defend, how about looking at it as nourishing?  Let’s review four (4) nourishing ways:


  1. It holds you true to your values and principles

 In your desire to be supportive and generous, there may be times where you feel pressured to support something you don’t want to or believe in.  It may even go against your morals.  But your natural inclination is to say ‘yes’ because you want to help the other person, you want to be liked, etc.  Let the ‘No’ keep your self-respect and self-honor intact.    


  1. It protects you from being used by others

You can always be counted on.  You are always helpful and generous with your time and talents.  And there will be a time when you are asked to go well above and beyond, only to be used or taken advantage of by someone in your personal or work life.  You were the worker bee. You resent not thinking deeper into why you said yes.  But you said yes and now, that person is back, asking you again.  And the cycle will continue until you find the strength in ‘No’.  


  1. It keeps you focused on your own goals

You enjoy supporting your friends and coworkers and are interested in their lives and dreams.  You often get asked “do you have a minute to visit?” and you nearly always say yes.  Even when you really don’t have a minute to spare because you’ll be late for something required of you or for yourself.  You can’t keep your responsibilities, priorities, and goals where they need to be if they are behind everyone else’s. Keep them focused, front and center.


  1. It gives you momentum to change direction or change your mind

If you feel the direction you’re going or the decision you’ve made isn’t right for you, then ‘no’ is the power necessary to change course.  It’s your life, your decisions determine your today and your future.  In a large but real example, maybe you have continued doubts about your upcoming marriage.  Who says you cannot put it on hold or even change your mind.  It is a big commitment and a situation where both yes and no have hefty consequences.  

So just how do you say ‘No’?  How to actually say it without negative feelings, worrying of letting someone down or without seeming selfish?  Find your voice. Here are six (6) ways you can use your voice and deliver ‘No’ for your own integrity and autonomy while lowering the cost to your relationships:


  • Replace your automatic ‘yes’ with “I’ll think about it.”

It is ok to take your time with the decision, think the opportunity through and weigh the important factors.  To make a thoughtful decision, not a decision based off of emotion. That will keep you in control and remove resentment.


  • Be deliberate and soft with your language

The delivery of ‘No’ is crucial and there are many ways you can soften the language to make it easier for the other person to accept.  It’s ok to say “I’m not comfortable with that’, “I’d prefer not to”, or “That is a great idea but I won’t be able to”. A good way to visualize a soft delivery is to think of an Oreo cookie.  The top layer is a compliment, then the filling is the ‘No’, then bottom layer is another compliment. For example “I think that is a great idea and it will help a lot of people, but I cannot commit the time right now due to other obligations.  You really have a heart for this and I know you’ll do great things.” Authentic compliments along with the ‘No’ all delivered. Easier cookie to swallow.    


  • Be mindful of your feelings and be confident

Being aware of your feelings and maintaining confidence in your answer is critical.  The confidence from your thought out ‘No’ will enable a calmness…in your own brain and that you will display to the other person.  This will reduce the negative impact of ‘No’ on the other person, and subside their need to potentially be angry or continue to push you on your decision.


  • Refer to your commitment to others

People are generally understanding when they know you have obligations to others.  The tendency to view you as selfish or uncaring is lessened or removed when they know you are doing something or caring for someone else.  Just like they would expect from you, you don’t want to let the other person down.    


  • Share that you represent others

When the ‘No’ benefits others in your life, you are representing them in your decision.  Your own interest in the decision takes second place to those you represent and who are impacted.  For example, a lowball offer on the sale of your home impacts the financial future of your family. A knee-jerk ‘yes’ could have major implications on them.     


  • Practice saying ‘No’

You have a good idea of situations that occur often in your work and personal life and your natural tendencies towards saying ‘yes’.  Think about those scenarios and rehearse your ‘No’. A calm, soft, and respectful ‘No’. Be prepared for uncomfortable silence and that you may need to politely repeat yourself.  Repeat, not cave. The rehearsing will give you strength and confidence.    


Now that you’ve discovered how nourishing ‘No’ can be, use it in this new light.  If saying ‘No’ is best for you, it is not negative or selfish. It is the Vitamin N that is essential to you being your best and living the life you want.


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