Mon-Fri 7am to 4:30pm (MST)   800-357-5027 or 520-748-0388
Woman making arms into an x

The Power of Saying No


October 14, 2020 | Published by

The word “yes” can be a powerful and uplifting tool that can help not only ourselves but others as well. Saying yes can give us courage and even support healthy risk-taking. But while “no” is often seen as a negative statement, it’s benefits shouldn’t be underestimated.

Negativity is a persistent attitude and “no” is a moment of choice. It announces something affirmative about you. Whether it’s because we have prior engagements, are put in an uncomfortable situation, or simply just disagree, sometimes our own demands need to be our main priority.

No is an affirmation that acknowledges personal responsibility. It implies that while we each interact with others and respects the values those relationships, we shouldn’t allow ourselves to always be influenced by them.

Being able to say No states, “This is who I am; this is what I value; this is what I will and will not do; this is how I will choose to act.” Yes, we love others, give to others, and please others, but we are distinct individuals and No allows ourselves to grow within the parameters of our own comfort.

But No has two faces: the one we turn toward ourselves and the one that creates barriers between ourselves and others. The struggle to strengthen our internal No, as well as the one we address to our own self-destructive impulses, is the struggle with which we are most familiar. That No controls our indulge in stressors such as road rage or cigarettes. We call that No “self-discipline.”

The No we direct toward ourselves comes from an internal self-governor whose job is to accommodate our urges and manage our priorities within a measure of reason. All our lives we may work on refining that self-governor, adjusting it and building it. The huge rewards of our governor’s developing ability to say No—not too rigidly, but often enough and wisely, too, are productivity and peace of mind. The power of No within that can be very rewarding.

The No we’re able to say to others can also evolve through life, starting with the basic Nos of our childhood. Anyone who has ever tried to put child into a car seat has experienced this. No, I won’t put on those socks, won’t eat that food, won’t leave the playground! That primordial, powerful No is the original assertion of the self against the other. For the rest of our days we are challenged to find the proper, effective way to draw that line.

It’s important to recognize how much No is too much. Why turn down a needy friend to tend your own garden? refuse to lend support to the modest effort of a group of friends? Acknowledging the line between self-actualization and selfishness is vital leading a healthy life.

Neuroscience supports the notion that our No registers far more harshly than we may have intended. The human brain is wired to respond to No more quickly, more intensely, and more persistently than to a positive signal. Suffice to say, No is stronger than Yes.

Psychologist Roy F. Baumeister, Ph.D., of Florida State University, explains why negative experiences have a more enduring impact on emotion than positive events of equal intensity. “The brain reacts pleasantly to positive stimuli but painfully to negative stimuli. No matter how you present it, No is a negative event. This holds true whether we are discussing financial, interpersonal, or personal information.”

While you may hesitate to say No because the challenge you anticipate from others is not without truth, the line between selfish and necessary self-interest is often murky. You want to turn down an invitation because you don’t like parties. Your friend really wants your support. They will firmly object, and you envision them making some good points. And while situations like this make No hard, sometimes it is important to focus on what is right for us to achieve a greater sense of wellbeing.


Sills, J. The Power of No. Psychology Today.

Tags: , , ,

Categorised in:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.