Why Saying No Isn’t the End of the World

It’s probably the strongest two letter word in the English language (and several others): No.

Doesn’t matter how it’s said, people usually take it’s meaning for what it is. There is never confusion when someone replies “no” without a qualifying statement.

“Would you like to join me on this walk?”

“No.” (cue: awkward stare)

“Are you interested in reading more about endangered butterflies?”

“No.” (why?!)

“Would you say that you prefer mashed potatoes over macaroni and cheese?”


But in all seriousness, I have become far more strategic and thoughtful with my use of no.

For example:

No, I don’t want to hear your twenty-seven-minute-long story about how you found the extra soft tissue today at the grocery store on sale for $3.99.”

No, I’m not coming to that meeting. I don’t see why my presence there will be beneficial to either you or myself.

I do find myself becoming more tactful with my use over time, though, as I recognize the tone of delivering a no can affect relationships and cause unnecessary tension. I am grateful, though, for my close friends who have no shame in telling me no when I’m off my rocker. (Thank you!)

But when answering questions/implementing the proper no, I sometimes do the long-winded no to soften it up: “Nooooooooooo, I think I’m OK.” Or the delay no: “…(five seconds later)…no.”(this one is particularly effective).

Saying no has empowered me to become extremely deliberate about my conversations and time spent on things/with people. Far too often we, especially women, shy away from the use of no for fear of offending. I believe the contrary is true: most people would probably prefer you tell them no from the beginning to avoid wasting your time and theirs.

Countless publications such as Forbes have written articles around why leaders should say no and what it means for the career. I really do think it boils down to just one thing, though.

It’s not just saying the word. It’s embodying the conviction to make people understand clearly how valuable your time is and that they should do the same. When people know that you have a clear compass they will think twice before asking you to do something they probably wouldn’t even do.

It takes time and practice, but we should all figure out how to say our no, unapologetically.