Skillfully Say No

Oct 04, 2022

How’s your skill level at saying no? Do your insides know it's the right decision for you, but you feel pushed against a wall?

No saying is a skill I've personally needed to hone and continuously train.


So often, we say yes, despite our loud and clear inner knowing for fear of rejection from another.

We don't want to feel or deal with guilt, potential conflict, or be perceived in a particular light…

And somewhere along the way, we form a chronic habit of ignoring ourselves to be accepted and liked.

A few years ago, I was a parent helper for a class project in Sage's grade 1 class. Afterwards, the kids gathered on the carpet with the teacher for a discussion. As I was helping to tidy up, I heard Sage's teacher ask the class a beautiful question.

"If I say no to you, does that make me mean? Raise your hand if you think I'm being mean if I say no."

Half of the class raised their hand. The teacher explained that saying no means, it's not the right decision for me and has nothing to do with you.

The life lesson question warmed my heart.

Somehow our inner wires get crossed, and we believe that honouring our capacity over pleasing or adhering to another's needs deems us selfish, mean or unkind. Twelve 6-year-olds thought it.

How do we link meanness with learning a good, emotionally intelligent life skill?

It's biological.

Physiologically, we are programmed to help and be part of the herd, so we don't get left behind.

On a primal level, we want to be liked and accepted.

… and survive in the tribe.

The Link is also learned.

Connecting the word No with "being mean or bad."

We may connect our parents denying us of a ring pop at the grocery store or staying up later as them "not being nice" in the way or frequency in which they say it.

I have an 8-year-old!

We engage in conversations about how saying no is ok.

I intend to always set up my nos in a way that is honest and compassionate to disappointment and sometimes angry when requests are denied.

I am not always great at it!

However, on occasion (maybe a little more!), my daughter definitely connects that I am "being mean" when I don't grant her what she wants!

From an ego perspective, we are concerned with how others see and feel about us. We all have an ego. We need one to be able to apply and express ourselves in the world.

I am all for the ego.

The ego can't be the only part of our consciousness driving the bus.

The times we neglect to listen to ourselves often coincide with moments when our needs to feel, love, admiration, and satiation are overriding our more profound desire. So we go along with it to get that need met.

Contribution is also a human need.

We want to help.

We want to be generous.

And sometimes we overextend because we don't stop to check in and ask ourselves if by doing or giving this, does it serve us? Does it help another?

A quiet, momentary check-in with our extended game plan and vision can connect us with the truth that's more positively impactful than the immediate, potentially uncomfortable moment.

Here's the reminder to you and your nervous system that saying no doesn't make you less generous or helpful.

It doesn't make us unkind.

It doesn't make us difficult.

It doesn't make us selfish.

If we say yes and our inner truth is no, we are just meeting a need.

It's very human.

Saying no makes us discerning about what's important to us.

Saying No requires us to reconsider how we think about ourselves.

Saying no requires us to perhaps stare down guilt in the face.

Saying no asks us to stay true to our own hearts & needs, which feels challenging sometimes.

Saying no clarifies our yeses and our focus.

Saying no means staying with ourselves and valuing how we genuinely feel.

Saying no means, we May sit in a pool of discomfort with another.

It's not easy sitting in the chilly waters.

Here are a few ways I like to set up my No saying.

It begins with heartfelt honesty and understanding.

No apologies or excuses.

"Here's what I can offer."

"This is what I can do."

"I'm open to this."

"At this moment, X doesn't feel good to me/ X doesn't work for me."

As we become more

a. Skillful at Nos and

B. Set up the nos well & kindly (to others and yourself). We become remarkable at saying YES to ourselves; the best part, the fears of not being understood or shunned begin a slow fade.

Worth a try this week.