No should mean no—always.
That would be an incredible clear communication—if we stuck to it.
Or if we had the power to actually use “no” instead of saying, “Well, let me check my schedule,” or “Sure, I guess that would be okay,” or any other myriad of excuses we use to avoid actually saying “no.”
My beautiful human, “no” is not a dirty word.
In my experience, men are much better at using it with clarity than we ladies. Somehow, over the generations, women were taught that we needed to be softer. Somehow, “no” wasn’t soft enough, so we created a bunch of unclear language with which to express it. Those words, however, leave space for negotiating. That softness leaves open a door for others to try to tell us that we don’t actually mean no.
My love, close the door.
“No” is not a dirty word, nor is it harsh. And should you feel the need to expand on the “why” or the “because,” remember that it can be a complete sentence; we must learn to actually say “no” when it is precisely what we mean.
I love “perspective shifts,” so please allow me to offer this to you:
No is an example of radical self-love. It is a declaration of self-worth.
It is an affirmation that says:
“I am important, valuable, and deserving.
My opinion matters.
I get to choose.
I am allowed to protect my priorities, my mental wellness, and my time.
I am saying ‘no’ to this, because it creates space to do, be, or experience the things that matter more to me.”
When we soften “no” to placate others, we are diminishing ourselves.
“Can you make 30 dozen cookies for the bake sale this weekend?”
Which response is clearer?
A) “Oh gosh. My week is so busy and I was not expecting to do that. I…well, I can’t make any promises, but let me see what I can do.” (Which even creates a yes in your own head, am I right? Now, all of the sudden, you’re already trying to figure out how to bake an impromptu 30 dozen cookies, even if you have to do it at 3 a.m.)
B) “No, I’m sorry. I just won’t be able to fit it in. I’ll be happy to help with the next one if I have more notice.”
C) “No, I’ve already committed my time this week.”
You get to choose. If you want to make 30 dozen cookies at 3 a.m., you get to choose that—but you also get to choose to opt out. You have the ability and the power to choose not to.
It seems simple, but this is the foundation for how we become the creators and architects of our very lives. We opt out of things that we don’t want to do or aren’t in line with our priorities or goals. If it’s not a hell yes, it should be a no.
We’re all busy, I get it. It’s massively important to help others, and I get that, too…but I will also offer an additional shift:
If we all stop saying yes to the things that don’t feed our hearts or align with our priorities, space is created. It may not be your cup of tea to spend three hours in the kitchen making cookies, but, for someone else, it’s cathartic. For someone else, it’s a pouring of love that serves their passion and their heart. (And, unfortunately, she’s probably out there beating her head against a wall because she agreed to run the social media page—which she doesn’t know how to do and hates—because she said yes when she meant no. So she’s burnt out and doesn’t want to make cookies, now, either.) See how that works?
If we all get real about our “wheelhouses” and the things we love to do, are good at, and are truly happy to do, we can still contribute and support our favorite causes without creating stress and burnout—because we’re doing what we love.
I know it seems too simple. I also know a number of women who willingly admit that “no” is the hardest word for them to say or that “they’re so bad at it.”
If you’re going to do anything this year, get good at this. It is the foundation for the rest. Feel free to get as vulnerable with it as you can.
“No. I’m sorry—my dad passed away and I am still grieving.”
“No. I’ve had a lot of work meetings this week and my brain needs some decompression.”
“No. My son has been having a tough time at school and I need to be present with him to help him navigate it.”
When we’re willing and strong enough to show up as exactly who we are, we give others permission to do the same…and my word how they’re dying to do the same.
You get to choose.