The Importance of “No”

At a pretty regular rate I will come across a person who is honest enough to admit that they have trouble telling people “no”.  This confession is usually followed with numerous examples where that individual has ended up doing something they did not fully want to do. They logically see the damage that not saying “no” can cause but they are not ready to drop the distractive habit of committing to things they would rather not.

resentment would become a wedge in our relationship

I can relate to the troubles one has asserting themselves. Although I have come a long ways from the days when it terrified me to disappoint another, saying “no” is something I feel much more comfortable doing. There have been a few things that have helped me with this task.


1) You can’t say “yes” unless you can say “no”

You cannot fully say “yes” to something unless you can say “no”.  Think of how often you give in to another’s request because you are afraid of the outcome that will take place.


“I said “yes” to my girlfriend request that I go to dinner with her friends so she wasn’t mad”,

“I didn’t say “no” to sex with my husband because he will become moody for the rest of the day”,

“I didn’t say “no” to my mother when she asked me to clean her house because she will give me a guilt trip”


These are just a few examples of how people say yes when they want to say no in hopes to avoid some kind of punishment from the other person.


In these situations and situations like these people aren’t fully committing to the “yes”. Saying “yes” when you what to say “no” builds resentment.


2) “No” can be very loving

Most of us think that if we say “no” to something it means that we are unloved, uncaring or worse, selfish. We rarely look under the surface of this belief to see what the full picture entails.


When I do something I don’t what to do it can easily begin to build resentment. In this case “no” is a very loving act. What we are actually saying when we say “no” could sound something like this:


I cannot give this (yes) to you without a string attached,

I cannot give this to you freely at this moment.

If I say yes to your request it will be so that I look like a good person in your eyes when in fact underneath I will hold resentment in my heart.


This resentment would become a wedge in our relationship that I am not willing to have.  So in fact when I say “no” to your request I am saying “no” to the resentment in turn. You deserve better than being looked upon with disgust.


You may be angry with me for saying “no”.

You’re allowed to be.

You may not fully understand why I am saying “no”.

I understand.

This is one way I can show you love and respect.

You don’t have to see it as an act of love.



 3) Saying “yes”can actually be a selfish thing

We don’t normally think of saying “yes” to someone’s request as a selfish act. Historically agreeing to another’s demand has been seen as honorable or kind.


But when we say “yes” when we want to say “no” we are doing it to get something out of the arrangement.


What we get might be a subtle as someone seeing us as a good or kind person,  or appreciation. Sometimes we do something “nice” hoping that person will pay it back to us in the future. (I’ll say yes to sex, if you will listen to my problems or think of me fondly)


We end up giving into a supplication with an expectation that our “giving nature” will pay off at some later date. This all goes on with out the other person having a clue about the I.O.U. you have just bestowed on them.


To summarize, if you can’t say “yes” freely don’t say it at all. If you can’t do something without having an expectation that something must be done in return, don’t do it. You can control your actions and whether you decide to give or not but you have no control over that other person’s behavior.


Understand that there are no victims in these situations, only volunteers.