You are allowed to say 'No'

By Evelyne Kerubo

There are many times in our lives when we have to make decisions that involve saying ‘no’ ‘yes’ or perhaps ‘maybe’. In fact, I believe we normally start saying No in our early years as young children. At that stage in life, when told to do something by an adult that we disapprove, it is often natural to say no. However, while growing up, we find ourselves in situations whereby saying No becomes difficult. We end up saying yes even when we really do not mean it, and this often leads to distressing feelings especially when not comfortable with the decision made.

Your needs as an individual are more important than those of the person you are saying Yes to, yet when you are meant to say no but instead say yes they end up benefiting at your expense. When you are saying no and you actually mean it, you are being assertive and this is a core life skill that helps individuals to maneuver through life. It is vital to be aware that the word ‘No’ carries with it a lot of power. In fact, there is a popular misconception that ‘No’ is something negative, the reason why some people are now experiencing discomfort when it comes to saying no yet they say yes.

In day to day life, situations that often warrant someone to say no when risks are involved are many. One specific and applicable situation is when a young adult is influenced by others to partake in alcohol and drug abuse. In such a situation, to be able to say no despite the peer pressure, one needs to be very well informed and aware of the risks involved in alcohol and drug abuse. Other situations that warrant saying no include; when one feels that they are frustrated, saying yes without self-expression leads to more frustration.; when there is violation or threat of your human rights and fundamental freedoms e.g. freedom from cruel, undignified treatment, denied your right to liberty etc. and in this context, you should be comfortable saying no. Evidently, saying no is inevitable and one has to be prepared to say no.

People often tend to say yes when in fact they ought to be saying no. Reasons associated with these are many and it is important to be aware of them. Among them are; fear of losing a relationship; guilt associated with saying no for fear of hurting another person’s feelings. However, it is worth noting that agreeing to someone to avoid hurting their feelings makes it hard for them to be responsible and to take charge of their feelings.

Saying no does not make you a bad person or even self-centered. Some individuals are aware of self-denial and self-sacrifice as key virtues, and the outcome is that it leads to having more consideration for others as compared to yourself. Worth mentioning is that when asked to do something, it often makes you to feel flattered and important. Even one might feel that if they say No, they will most likely not be asked again, and this is what interferes with their right to say no. You find yourself being emotionally distraught and saying yes when you should say no because you want to make attempts of preserving a relationship that might be fragile.

It is not surprising that some people often say yes and later end up regretting it. Often, this can be a difficult period as one is not quite sure about their response. In such a situation, taking time for yourself before giving a response is important. One way to put this across is by letting the other person know that you need more time to think about it. Moreover, you can use this time to focus on the expectations, irrational beliefs and feelings associated with saying no.

There are key skills that are associated with saying ‘no’ and they are instrumental. First, you should look directly into the eyes of the person that you intend to say no to. Thereafter, you go ahead and tell the person no, and this should be done in an assertive manner. It is also key that you give reasons as to why you have chosen to say no. Later on, depending on the situation that is prevailing, it is recommended to repeat the ‘no’, if need be. Lastly, assertiveness also comes about again be consistent with the earlier decision to say no.

It can be easy to say no through some of the ways that have been found to help in saying no. One way is to be able to identify some of the emotional hooks (beliefs or fears) that make it difficult to say no. The other way is to restate the existing beliefs and fears in a realistic and rational manner. A key issue in this circumstance is that saying yes when you should be saying no is likely to reinforce behavior that is unwanted. Ultimately, it will make others become unreasonable towards you as they make regular demands.

Fortunately, by having self-confidence, saying no can be said in a direct and clear way, while at the same time be assertive as seen in your mannerisms and voice. Non-verbal gestures should be congruent to the verbal communication and also the tone should be appropriate and make eye contact.

In saying no, there is power behind it as it is considered to be a method of self-care that can help an individual in many situations. One such example is that by saying No in some situations, you can be able to find time for meeting your own goals as well as even setting boundaries. In the end, when someone has the ability to say no, he or she can go about life in their own terms. Another benefit of saying No is that you are able to have control over your individual well-being. It is also vital to know that there is always a balance between saying yes and no as they all have negative and positive aspects. Therefore, I would encourage the effective use of the word ‘No’ in appropriate situations and see the outcomes and benefits it has to you as an individual.

Hatch, C. & Breitman, P. (2000). How to say no without feeling guilty? London: Vermillion Publishers.

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