The Power of Receiving “No”

Why is saying no so difficult?

There are some people who find refusing something or someone extremely difficult, for a variety of reasons:

  • Fear of missing out (FOMO).
  • Feeling as though you may not get another chance.
  • Believing you may hurt the asker’s feelings.
  • Fearing the asker may get mad.
  • Believing they may not ask again when you want to say yes.

Despite the difficulty, it’s healthy and a sign of a good relationship if you can say no to things you don’t want to do. This can absolutely include things like sex or sexual activities, but extends to any other activities as well.

“If you feel you cannot say no…then you are not being loved — you are being controlled.”

-Judith Stills, PhD

The usage of no is powerful. It can keep you from being taken advantage of, it lets people know where you stand, it makes your “yes” more meaningful, lets you focus on what really matters, and it can be the difference between a good experience for both parties involved and what feels like a consent violation.

How to get better

Practicing saying no is a valuable and critical skill. Some good ways to start are:

  • Start replacing an automatic “yes” with an “I’ll think about it,” or “I can’t commit to that yet.”
  • Be Zen. A clear, concise, unemotional no is most effective to use whenever possible.
  • Do it sooner rather than later if you know it’s the answer you want to give.
  • Don’t say “maybe later” if it’s not true.
  • Practice, and practice using it repeatedly. Some people are insistent and need to be told multiple times.

Receiving no

Sometimes hearing a no can be as hard as giving it, because sometimes we feel as though it means someone is saying no to us as a person, or that it means a failure. But it’s important to hear it sometimes, for these reasons:

  • In some situations, like applying for a job or a raise, being willing to hear it means asking for what you want.
  • It tells us what people want instead of making us guess.
  • In sales situations, it means you’re not stopping before the customer wants you to.

To get better at hearing no:

  • Remind ourselves that people aren’t saying no to us, just to a specific thing.
  • Respond to a no or a rejection with “Thanks for taking care of yourself.”
  • If applying to a job or in sales, set goals for numbers of no’s rather than yeses.

Making it harder

Sometimes we make it harder to tell no to, and there’s a difference between being easy to say no to and being manipulative. If you ask for something, then immediately follow it with something like “oh, I should never have asked, I’m terrible,” etc., then you’re in fact making it more difficult, instead of cultivating a sense of safety where people know you receive rejection or a no respectfully. This is vital for consent.

If you’re bad at receiving a no and want to improve, then try this:

  • Again, practice thanking people for taking care of themselves, and make sure you mean it.
  • Remember that even if you know that you would accept a no, others may not know that or believe it.
  • Be sure to communicate that saying no is an option.

Give the full episode a listen to learn more about the power of no!



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