Saying ‘No’

The art of saying no

"It is rather better to say 'No' and not do the task than saying 'Yes' and not doing the task." - Brahma Kumaris

Some of us find it very difficult to say ‘No’ to people. To say ‘No’ to someone is so hard that we just say ‘Yes’ to things we can’t do or do not want to do. Why do we say ‘Yes’ for things we should say ‘No’? There can be various reasons as follows:

We are afraid to say ‘No’ as we want to avoid confrontation; also, we don’t want to let people feel bad. We are afraid to say ‘No’ because we want to please other persons. We do not want to let down our image of being very nice, of being always helpful and supportive, e.g., if you are a social person and you are habitual in always helping others in need, then subtly there is an ego, which tells you, ‘I am supposed to help no matter what’. Fear of rejection by the other person. Fear of other consequences, e.g., when we say ‘No’ to people, who are in higher position than us like our boss, parents, senior officials, then there is a fear of the consequence. When parents expect their children to go to a certain university, the children often give in to the pressure. We do not want to hurt the other person, e.g., most parents just hand over whatever the kid demands because they do not want to hurt him / her, or they avoid handling the tantrum that the kid throws after their saying ‘No’.

We all know the power of yes. ‘Yes’ can be life-giving, exciting, and intoxicating but only when we mean it. ‘When our hearts aren’t behind it, ‘Yes’ can be depleting. When we say yes because we are supposed to, or because we are trying to please someone, then ‘Yes’ can drain out our energy and potentials.

Since we have said ‘Yes’ to things that we cannot do or manage, the following complications may arise for ourselves and for others: we feel pressurised because we have to do it now as we have given our word. Things get delayed, as we have too much on our plate. We are overloaded. We get overwhelmed with tasks, projects, and activities. Burden of over-expectations from others. We put ourselves in peak stress like rushing, making others wait, ignoring the phone calls, improper finishing, and poor job performances.

Sometimes, we are unable to say ‘No’ because we really treasure the relationship. What happens when we are overburdened with other responsibilities? This is when we get into trouble on both sides.

For example, a husband promises his wife to take her for dinner on their wedding anniversary. The wife initiates the dinner invitation and the husband says ‘Yes’ in spite of his conflicting task on the same date. He says ‘Yes’ to please his wife as he really loves her and wants to keep her happy. At the same time, at his workplace, his boss has already scheduled him to an important meeting. He is caught up between work and family. He is unable to speak up and say ‘No’ to either side. You can imagine what would be the end result of the story. He obviously makes his wife wait at the restaurant by telling her that he is on his way while he is still in the meeting and there begins the conflict.

Saying ‘No’ isn’t easy. That is because the word ‘No’ tends to be associated with negativity. ‘No’ results in disappoints. ‘No’ means letting someone feel down. ‘No’ means we are not really the super human beings we think we should be. Saying ‘No’ could even be viewed as hurtful or selfish. But, it is better to say ‘No’ if we are genuine and cannot uphold it. At times, by saying “No”, one can save oneself from future misery and also save disappointment to others.

It is rather better to say ‘No’ and not do the task than saying ‘Yes’ and not doing the task. We may have a compassionate heart, but at the same time to understand our capacity and commit accordingly is very important for our life.

Saying ‘No’ is not a bad or selfish action. It helps us to concentrate on what is important to us, so that we can get our version of success much faster.

How to say ‘No’?

Be Polite:

The manner in which we say ‘No’ is very important. The tone, body language and the audacity of ‘No’ plays an important role in not hurting the other person. For example, if you say ‘No’ in a harsh manner to your manager for an assignment, you are likely to earn his punishment, i.e., he may block your opportunities to grow. Sometimes, we say ‘No’ with a frustration or a blunt harsh tone. When I get upset or hurt and, then, say ‘No’, that ‘No’ doesn’t work; it rather creates more trouble.

The proper manner to say ‘No’: 

Instead of directly saying ‘No’, I can say, ‘I will be happy to do it but…’, ‘I would love to help you….’, ‘I wish I could do it for you….’, ‘I am so sorry….’

Offer a consolation prize:

If you can’t fully grant someone’s request, think of a way you can still do something to help out. When you explain your scenario and express a sincere interest in helping him / her, he / she will understand your ‘No’ in right perspective. A lot of people tend to say ’No’ flat on someone’s face, which offends that requesting person. That is why it is extremely important to be kind and understanding even under stressful circumstances.

For example, how will you answer your kid, who is asking you to take him out on picnic when you have an urgent work to complete in office? If you just say a blunt ‘No’ (even yell at and mock him/her) and leave for work, this rude behaviour will hurt your kid and also bother your conscience.

Instead, you can learn to say a polite ‘No’. For example, ‘let’s think about it, dear! We can schedule it on Sunday and, then, I’ll also buy for you an ice-cream and pizza. Let’s talk about this in the evening. Now, enjoy your school.’

This manner of speaking will give a positive acknowledgment to your kid that his father or mother cares for him / her always. You can have a conversation or say a ‘No’ with an explanation when you go back home.

Just because someone catches us at the wrong timing, it doesn’t give us the permission to act rude. We need to cultivate the art of expressing peacefully and this comes with the following: self-realization, self-monitoring and constant attention and practice.

Finally, saying ‘No’ is not a bad or selfish action. It helps us to concentrate on what is important to us, so that we can get our version of success much faster. Saying ‘No’ will also help everyone around us to develop and solidify the incredibly important habit of self-reliance.

It will also help us to avoid the negative feeling of lack of progress, or even the worse feeling that we are not in control of our own life.

The Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University (BKWSU) is an international non-governmental organisation, which intends to help individuals re-discover and strengthen their inherent worth by encouraging and facilitating a process of spiritual awakening.




Travel Diaries
Guest Contributors
Spiritual Leaders
Thought Leaders
Short Stories
Life Lessons