Episode 33: Saying NO

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I’m Hannah Coles and you are listening to LOVE AT HOME. Podcast 33: Saying NO

Welcome back friends! 

I’ve got an important topic to bring to you all today. A lot of people really struggle with saying no. There’s a lot of negativity around this word and there really doesn’t have to be. It is a highly important skill to develop as not saying no when you need to impacts your self-confidence and even gets in the way of love sometimes. 

Why is NO such a tough word? 

Why is there so much negativity associated with NO.

Why do we cringe and get all antsy inside when we have to say no?

And HOW can we say no when we need or want to without the guilt?

How can you learn to say no and still be friends?

Let’s talk about all of it today. Saying no is essential and a skill that you need to master so that you can dive deeper into your own self-care and well-being. 

So let’s start with why it’s such a tough word. We learn from a very very young age what NO means. When you’re just teeny tiny you get introduced to the word. No is one of the first words we learn. No, you can not get into all the cupboards. No, you cannot climb the book case. No, you cannot run around in the front yard without a diaper. No, you cannot eat the chocolate that you found in my purse. We hear and learn that two letter word, NO from the earliest ages and generally means, you’re not getting what you want.  

Then, let’s look at the whole NO word from a different standpoint. Still at a young age, it wasn’t acceptable to tell others no. When your parents asked you to do something, if you said, NO…whoa Nelly. We’re taught from the get go almost that hearing the word NO means you’re not getting what you want and you can’t tell others NO because it’s being rude, disrespectful, and impolite.

No is bad.

Yes is good. 

No means you’re being rude.

Yes means you’re polite.

No wonder we have all kinds of issues around saying NO, right?!  I want to help you out by offering you a new perspective and way to see NO as good. To see NO, as polite. To see, NO as an option and the benefits that learning to say NO, in the correct way can and will bring you and others.

Yes, isn’t always a good thing. Getting what you think you want isn’t always a good thing either. Sometimes the NO sets you up to get something even better, something more genuine, something more lasting.

Paulo Coelho said, “When you say YES to others, make sure you are not saying NO to yourself.” 

When we say yes to others we have to know that we’re also saying no as well. We’re saying yes to them and no to us. Make sure you’re okay with saying no to yourself before saying yes to them.

A couple of weeks ago I talked about self-confidence in the podcast and one aspect of developing self-confidence IS being able to trust yourself. It’s knowing and embracing all the parts of you AND being able to trust in yourself and your abilities. 

When you say yes to others are you also liking your reasons for saying NO to yourself? Or are you people pleasing and saying yes to them because they might not like a NO. It seems easier to say no to ourselves instead of  saying no to others but believe me, it’s not. When you say NO to yourself and you don’t like your reasons you’ve just created a whole lot of drama in your mind and believe me, you’re going to hear all about it, over and over and over again.

I remember once I planned a birthday party for one of my kiddos. It was a smaller party which made it really nice because all the things I bought came in the perfect number so it was neat and tidy and done and even better, I was done early and not having to scramble or anything. It felt so good to have it all done. Then one afternoon about a week away from the party,  one of my daughter’s friend came to play and as they were leaving I was chatting with the mom and her kids were all around us and she said, My other child really wants to come too. Mind you, this was in front of the child that wanted to come. This child was older than my kiddo and while they played together sometimes it was more so for the younger child that was my kid’s age. 

I stood there feeling so uncomfortable and awkward because in my mind, everything was done. The games, the prizes, the goodie bags, the place settings, everything. Neat and tidy, remember. Adding one more meant that they’d either get something different – which meant that I’d have to go buy, make, compile everything for this one child or make it all matching and go buy more, make more, compile again everything for this addition. 

I actually said, no at first because everything was done and bought and organized. I said, “I’m so sorry, but it’d be more uncomfortable for her to come because and I rattled on my reasons”. The mom and child were clearly annoyed and left. She sent me messages and texts that felt to me pointed and clearly still hurt. I created so much drama for myself because I didn’t want her to mad at me. I didn’t want to hurt that child’s feelings. I wanted everyone to be happy so I called her, totally against my mind saying NO and invited her to come. In my mind, how could I say no to this child? That’s what I was making it mean at the time. Saying no, meant I was being rude. It meant that I was being impolite, mean even and that’s not who I was so I HAVE to say yes, right?

So I went out and purchased everything again so I could accommodate this one child that didn’t even enjoy the party. This child wasn’t having fun because they were older and the games and activities were geared to the birthday child’s age so the entire time as I’m making, compiling, buying all these extra things for this one child I’m murmuring in my mind. I’m upset with myself for saying yes. I’m upset with myself for being manipulated – not so much by the mom but by myself, by telling myself, “how could you say no to this child? It’s just a child? You’d be mean to say no.”

So I said NO to myself. I said NO to having everything done early and I said NO to being proud of myself for having everything done early. I also did it assuming this child would love it and when they didn’t I was frustrated and resentful all over again.

I’ve since learned that being uncomfortable is a choice. 

Feeling awkward is a choice.

I wasn’t good at saying no to other people yet. I still believed that I could MAKE them happy. When you say yes to others they’re happy, right?  When you say no to others they’re not happy.

This line of thinking gets us into so much trouble. We have to stop and really know what we’re saying. Because every time you say YES to them you have to know you’re saying NO to something else – usually you. Are you okay with saying no to you?

A lot of times what really happens is that we start lying to ourselves and to others.

When we say yes but don’t really mean it, we’re lying.

Yes, I’d love to bake 500 cupcakes for the school fundraiser. But inside you’re screaming, NO!!!! Anything but this!!!

You’re lying to them and to yourself. This is terrible and it chisels away at your confidence because you don’t trust yourself to take care of you yet. 

We think we’re saying yes to  make others happy but really you’re saying no to yourself and making yourself miserable inside and that chatter will eat away at you.

Another thing that happens when we say no is that we think we owe them a huge explanation. We go on and on explaining to them why we had to say no and more often than not, it just makes matter worse because what’s important to you might not always be what’s important to them. They might not, and probably won’t understand your reasons and it’ll just give them more “ammunition” to bring up at you.

We have this desire to explain because we want them to understand. We want them to agree with us because if they did, then we’d feel better. But this is not their job my friends. This is YOUR job. They don’t make you feel better and happy. YOU DO. You don’t have to explain why. Your why doesn’t have to be anything other than, I just can’t say yes wholeheartedly. I know we’ve all heard that no is a complete sentence and I agree. I find it not authentically me either. While I choose not to divulge my reasons why a lot of time I also add a little bit more to the complete sentence than just a no as well.  In fact, Marie Forleo once said, “No might be a complete sentence but a few more words can make it a kind one”.

I love what my colleague, Jody says, “I love you, but no.” 

That’s actually one I use quite often. My sister asked me to do something kind of big and I wanted to help her but it just wasn’t something that I’d feel comfortable doing so I told her how much I love her and it’s still a no.

Here’s the thing. We cannot hurt other people. We can’t. This doesn’t mean we’re mean, or rude, or inauthentic. It means we need to show up as ourselves and the more we do this, the more we can take our relationships to a deeper level. If I’m saying yes all the time or if someone else says yes all the time how do we know when they’re really wanting to say yes or really wanting to say not but saying yes anyway because they’re afraid they’ll hurt our feelings?

I’d much rather be told no when they really truly don’t want to do something then have them say yes and do it resentfully. You don’t know if they really are enjoying themselves, if they are serving out of love or serving out of obligation. We need to be honest with ourselves and others.

When someone is able to tell you how they feel you can trust that when they do say yes, they actually mean it.

You can trust them and it feels so much better than being told yes all the time. It’s okay to be told no. It’s okay to tell people no too. It’s okay for them to be disappointed, in fact, I’d encourage you to expect it.

Of course they’re not going to be over jazzed that you said no, to baking 500 cupcakes. In their minds, you make the best cupcakes. Of course they’re going to be disappointed. Now they’ve got to ask someone else and asking is uncomfortable so expect some disappointment. It’s okay to be disappointed. 

My daughter is an amazing dancer. I can remember a couple of times she was offered two really big, very generous offers to dance and these two times we had to say no. We had really good reasons to say no because it meant saying yes to other things and those things were best for her and for our family. Now, the people we had to say no to were sorely disappointed. I actually think one of them said, this is a bitter disappointment. It didn’t feel good to say no because it also meant that we had to let her be wrong about us. She didn’t understand and how could she? We didn’t give her reasons to understand but we couldn’t and we chose not to. But our reasons were important to us and saying no to that meant saying yes to a greater reason, one that we valued and wanted to honor. We could have said yes. We could have made that work but it wouldn’t have been genuine. We would have been lying to ourselves and to her. “Sure, she’d love to do that” when deep down, she didn’t. 

The more you let yourself down, the more you say no to yourself so you can avoid feeling uncomfortable with others the more you’re teaching yourself that you don’t really matter. That other people and what they want is more important than you. This chisels away at your self-confidence.

There are times that I wholeheartedly believe that we should say yes even when it’s uncomfortable. Callings for example, there are callings we’re asked to accept that maybe weren’t what you would have envisioned for yourself but you want to grow and it feels like a good stretch to you.

There are other times though that you might say yes out of fear and people pleasing. This is not a good reason to say yes. When your only reason for saying yes is so the other person won’t feel uncomfortable that’s a terrible reason to say yes. One because you’re saying NO to you and two, because you’re not in charge of their emotional bucket! 

So,  HOW can we say no when we need or want to without the guilt?

Know what you’re saying YES to. Anytime you say NO, you’re saying yes to something or someone else.

Saying NO to baking 500 cupcakes for the school fundraiser is saying YES to hours of your time and energy. 

It’s okay to say no. It doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad mom or a bad anything. Will they be disappointed, sure, of course! But that’s okay, it’s not on you to bake 500 cupcakes or to say yes to “make them feel good”. It’s okay to say no and still love them. Try that phrase, “oh my goodness, I love you – but no.”

No is a complete sentence but adding those few words can make it kinder. I love you – this is how I feel about you – you can choose to think differently but this is how I feel – and it’s a no.

The guilt seeps in because you think that somehow you have access to their emotional buckets. You think that it’s because of you that they’re uncomfortable and that they shouldn’t be uncomfortable or disappointed. Whaaaat? First, you can’t. If their disappointed (and they will be and it’s okay) it’s because they’re having a thought about it. “Man, I really was hoping she’d make those cupcakes. Now I’ve got to ask someone else” – totally not on you. She could easily think instead, “Well, I was hoping she’d make them but that’s okay there’s so many people to ask. Who’s next?” – that’s it. If she thinks that, then she’d probably feel hopeful. Maybe she’d find someone with a hidden talent who secretly wants to shine but they need an invitation and if you’re saying yes all the time they’re not getting it. So…let them be disappointed. It’s okay. It’s not on you.

Drop the guilt because you’re not in charge of their emotional well-being. 

Then if need be, LET THEM BE WRONG about you. She can think things about you. She can make up a crazy story about you and it’s okay. They don’t have to know all your why’s. In fact, your why’s won’t make much sense to them. As long as you like your WHY then that’s enough.

I knew a lady that would say no a lot. Like, you knew going into it that she would most likely say no but she didn’t just say no, she said no with about 20 minutes or more of her why’s and explanations was long and kinda crazy and seemed more insulting than just saying no. Like she had to make up some grand scheme and story so we’d believe her. Then you get caught up in looking for ways to help her out – oh, well if that’s why you can’t do it then here, I’ll help you…when it’s so much easier to just say no. 

Are they disappointed? For sure! You’re awesome, who wouldn’t want to hang out with you?

It’s okay for others to be disappointed. It makes perfect sense.

When you get invited out and you need to say NO to them so you can say YES to you or something else that’s a higher priority at that moment. It’s not saying that they’re not a priority. It’s saying, “I love you, you’re awesome, but no.” Are they going to be disappointed? Absolutely! They like you, that’s why they invited you out. But that’s okay. Feeling disappointment is only a feeling. It’s only a vibration in your body. It’s perfectly okay to feel that. It’s perfectly okay for you and for them to feel that.

Stephen Covey said, “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage pleasantly, smilingly, and non-apologetically — to say “no” to other things. And the way to do that is by having a bigger yes burning inside.”

When you can say NO to others it invites that relationship to go deeper.

It’s requiring that you take it from the surface level to a deeper level of being able to be authentic and genuine. When my friends feel comfortable saying no to me I know that when they say YES they really mean it. I don’t have to wonder if they’re only saying yes to people please.

Be really honest with yourself about what you’re saying YES to and what and who you’re saying NO to. It’s not easier to just say yes. I promise you, it’s damaging more than you realize and it’s hurting YOU and your confidence.

The more honest you can be about this it will strengthen your relationship. I promise you this. The more real, genuine, authentic you can be, transparent, the less there is to hide, to avoid, to walk on egg shells. You just know. Give your friends and family an opportunity to learn something about you and visa versa.

Practice saying to your friend who asked you to watch her kids, “Oh, love to you friend but it’s a no today.” That’s it. Rehearse that in your mind a lot. Practice it over and over again. Know she’s going to be disappointed and that’s okay. You’re an amazing babysitter, of course she’d want to ask you! If you can and genuinely MEAN it you can offer an alternative solution, “I can’t today but I’m free next Tuesday if that helps” – 

but don’t feel like you have to. It’s not your job to make people happy.  You’re not that powerful, remember?

Your job is to show up as your best you – that means honoring you.

When you show up as your best self you’re more than likely able to say more yeses from a genuine place vs a resentful, fearful space.

We’re afraid that saying no will damage the relationship or rock the boat but when you say yes you’re building the relationship on a shaky or rocky foundation. This will hurt the relationship much more than being honest and saying no will. Saying yes when inside you’re screaming no will build up resentment and negativity which is far worse than the temporary discomfort of saying no. Remember, it’s okay to feel discomfort. It’s okay for them to feel discomfort. It’s just a vibration in your body. You can totally handle that. 

When you say, I love you but no. It allows them to see that you’re not saying no to be mean. You’re telling them that you care for them and if you could genuinely you’d absolutely help them out but this time it’s a no. 

Remember to focus on who and what you’re saying yes to. You’re not just saying no to say no. You have a reason and good one. If you like your reasons for saying no, it drops the guilt. 

When my kids ask for sugar first thing in the morning and I say, I love you but no. I don’t feel bad that they’re disappointed because what I’m really saying yes to is a healthier start for them. Focus not on the no and the fear that they’ll be disappointed – focus on then yes.

It’s okay to make you, actually it’s imperative that you make YOU a high priority in your life. You need to be able to say NO when you need and want to. Be authentic and real to yourself and to others. Be honest with yourself and others and always check your reasons. You don’t have to respond right away either. A lot of times we feel like we have to give an immediate response. It’s okay to say, “hey I need a few minutes.” In that space ask yourself, Are my reasons for wanting to say yes fear based? Or can I say yes and genuinely mean it? If I say yes to them, am I willing to say no to me and to other things?

Then if it’s a no, practice saying, “I love you, but no.”

Saying no is a necessary skill to develop. Saying no doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t make you impolite. What it does make you is honest and genuine. 

Strengthen your relationships by practicing the word NO and let them do the same.

Okay, have a fantastic week practicing how to say no without the guilt and still keeping your friends and family. It’s a beautiful art and worthy skill to develop. Spend some time on it. You’ll be so grateful you did.

Talk to you next week everybody.


LDS Life Coach Hannah Coles


LDS life coach Hannah Coles



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