‘Success is more about what you say NO to than what you say YES to. You can completely destroy your personal energy by saying yes to the wrong types of things.’ – Teal Swan
We’ve all been there. When a ‘yes!’ bursts from our lips before we’ve had a chance to stop it. When we agree to an event that fills us with absolute dread. For SO many of us, saying ‘no’ is an incredibly difficult task.
Why? Human beings are a social species, and our survival in a sense depends on group inclusion. Deep biological wiring paired with our own experiences, leads to many of us carrying a natural fear of saying ‘no.’ We subconsciously associate it with being rejected, losing opportunity, or being alienated. We connect saying ‘no’ to confrontation or conflict. We fear being seen in a societally ‘unacceptable’ light – being considered uncaring, rude or even selfish.
Yet… when we can’t say no, we often set ourselves up for failure.
The commitment of our lives becomes skewed towards others rather than ourselves, and we simply cannot (healthily!) keep this up. Even if well-intentioned, our selfless decisions begin to take a negative toll on our bodies, relationships and lives.
It is important to understand that every time we say ‘yes’ at our own detriment, at the same time we are saying ‘no’ to our own priorities, and to ourselves. When we contemplate this profoundly simple notion, and begin making choices from this space – our entire lives begin to shift in beautiful ways.
If saying no is a challenge for you, you aren’t alone. Great news though: all that’s required here is practice. Like any new skill, it takes commitment, intention and work. It will probably feel a little strange at first, but over time you will find yourself more naturally expressing your truth. Saying no will become an integrated practice and you will no longer even have to think about it!
Here are our 5 key tips.
1. Tune into your body
On a fundamental level, saying no is about listening to your intuition. It’s about standing within your truth and living in alignment with your own unique path.
When you are asked to give your time or energy to something, try take a moment to tune in and notice your body’s reaction. Sometimes a request can make you suddenly feel tired or drained. You might experience an odd feeling in our stomach, a headache, or some other unusual physical symptom. Our bodies often reveal the truth of how we feel, before we mentally register a shift. Our bodies will always send us signals when things are not right, we just have to take the time to listen. Tune into these signals, trust them, and let them guide your actions.
2. Set boundaries `
Part of saying no is about accepting that not everyone will always be happy with every decision you make.
You can offer explanations as to why you’re saying no, but remember you don’t need to justify your decisions. Taking care of yourself and your happiness is more than a valid reason.
We might feel as though we’re letting our loved ones down when we say no. But let’s look at this in reverse. When it comes to your friends, are you fine with them putting their own needs first and saying ‘no’ if they feel necessary? Of course you are! Similarly, our loved ones want us to be happy, whether or not it’s at the forefront of their minds at the time of request.
Plus, boundaries are a necessary and normal part of any healthy relationship. In each one of our relationships, it is up to us to show others how we want or expect to be treated. Boundaries are simply a way to reflect these needs – and saying no is essential to setting these boundaries in the first place.
3. Take your time
If you think about it, it’s extremely rare for any questions or invitations to actually require an immediate answer.
This is amazing news for those of us whose first reactions are often a cheery ‘sure,’ followed by a wave of regret.
If this is you, it is so important to practice taking your time before responding. An amazing way to do this, is to train yourself with a key phrase for when you are put on the spot. For example, ‘let me have a think.’ With statements such as these, we deflect the pressure of the moment, creating space to make a conscious decision from a rational place, later on.
4. No stories
If you’re asked to do something that you simply cannot or do not want to do – don’t feel like you have to make excuses. To reiterate: there is no need to justify yourself, or apologise for where you are.
Break the habit of conjuring elaborate stories, or even delving into the truth of the matter with someone – unless you actually want to. More often than not, people don’t want (or need) your reasons: they just want to know whether or not you are on board.
Generally, simply saying ‘no’ is enough. By creating a narrative around your answer, you begin to dis-empower yourself and your (unquestionable!) right to say no. Plus, this often just leads to a cycle of more requests, more excuses, and general discomfort down the road.
5. Honour yourself
There are two different ways that we can say ‘no.’ The first way is to say no from a place of resisting something unwanted. The second way to say ‘no,’ is in a way that allows you to flow in the direction of what is wanted.
When we say no in this second way, we create space for new positive elements to enter our lives. By saying no, we are essentially saying yes to something else. We are saying yes to ourselves and to the truth of who we are in the present moment.
For this reason, owning our right to say ‘no’ is a beautiful thing. It is our conscious freewill, our birthright – and a valuable skill that is absolutely necessary for living an empowered life.
Nisha is a freelance writer and Vedic astrologer, based in the magical Byron Hinterlands. As well as running her candle business, her life and loves involve: yoga, gardening and all things esoteric. You’ll find her out in nature, or curled up at home with a good book. Happy Buddha is one of her most treasured places on earth (and indeed where she met her fiancé!).