3 Benefits to Saying “No”

We say yes to too many things. I’m just as guilty as the next person.

“Yes, I’ll have another brownie.” “Yes, I’ll hit the snooze button again.” “Yes, I’ll agree to this opportunity even though my schedule is already too busy.” “Yes, I’ll go on a second date with you, even more compromising than the first.”

We all make these choices. The inability to say no can keep us from living a healthy life with good boundaries. This is why the word “no” is a great word.

"No" is a great word

I’ve said no to business lunches because I was already committed to two other luncheons that week. I’ve said no to mentoring a high school student because he repeatedly disagreed with the input from both his parents and me. I’ve said no to ministry opportunities because I respectfully disagreed with the overall direction of the ministry.

The reason I say no isn’t because I’m a jerk (some people may disagree, but I try to not be one.) If I say no to less relevant, sub-par opportunities now, then I get to say yes to even better opportunities tomorrow. There are three major benefits to saying no.

  • No is a reliever. It can be freeing and confrontational in a positive way. If I feel someone’s wasting my time and theirs, I will decline the next opportunity from them and then we talk about why. It’s safe to say those are uncomfortable conversations, but if I don’t say something, how long will the unhealthy pattern continue into the future?
  • No also helps draw really good boundaries and clear expectations. For example, churches and nonprofits are notorious for asking volunteers to contribute and serve far beyond their skill set and schedule. It’s a blessing to volunteer, but you need to protect your sanity and the reputation of the organization by saying no when needed. “No, I can’t serve on another committee because I’m already serving on two other ones.”
  • No communicates authenticity. I respect people more for saying no than giving an obligatory yes. When someone I know and trust says yes after a track record of wisely saying no, I know I can count on their commitment. There is a time to say yes when we need to say yes, but more often than not, the default answer should be no.

I’ve said no to a variety of bosses over the past fifteen years. “No, I won’t cut corners.” “No, I won’t go behind a co-worker’s back.” “No, I can’t lie about what really happened in that meeting. Leadership needs to know who you really are.” One of two things happen when you say no at the right time to your boss: 1) they’ll punish, maybe even fire you for not giving them free reign on your decision-making, which means you probably don’t want to work for them in the long run, or 2) they’ll ask for clarification, help you find a solution, and respect you more for saying no. Either way, it’s a win/win.

The biggest objection to no is that the base of our human nature wants to please everyone. Saying no makes us feel like we’re a disappointment. It’s okay to be disappointing at times. We need to feel disappoint because it helps us manage healthy expectations of ourselves and from others.

One of the best practices in life is becoming more comfortable with saying no, an art we need to refine. This is why no is a frequent flyer in my vocabulary, and it needs to be in yours, too.

What are some other benefits to saying no more?

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