“No” Is a Complete Sentence

What about this word, “no?” It’s a simple word. Only two letters. Yet, saying “No” out loud is harder for most people than saying, “I’ll be glad to.” That, by the way, is 11 letters. Or you’ll say, “When you need me to,” which is 17 letters. Most of us said “no” quite well when we were in the terrible twos. It was the favorite word of the twos. The authority figures in our lives at the time, parents and teachers, expected us to say no. That one word is one of the reasons why those two-year-old toddlers have been designated as the terrible twos.


Many of us grow up as people pleasers. I think there’s a little bit of that in all of us, some more than others. The word “no” eventually begins to drop out of our vocabulary and we begin to substitute lots of ways to be agreeable, to keep the other person happy, not to offend, and certainly not to say “no” to an authority figure. That one particular area changes from generation to generation.

Underneath It All, We Believe That Saying “No” Can Really Cost Us in Our Adult Lives.


With that said, in that context about the word “no,” I’d like you to draw a little stick person on a piece of paper. Put your name somewhere on that person. Be as creative as you want to. Once you have that little stick figure, write the word “no” as if you were saying it. Then write or draw immediately what comes to mind. Think further:


1.      When you think about saying “no” and whatever you may put around your stick person that represents yourself, what are you aware of? Note anything that comes to mind.


2.      When you think about any time that you have to say “no,” which one of these phrases do you connect with best? “Oh no! I can’t say no.” Is there fear in your eyes? Maybe you say, “Ugh!” Perhaps you do believe it’s okay to say “no.”


3.      When you think about saying “no,” what do you begin to experience internally? Write it down. For me, I’ve chosen to learn through the years to put aside some of those uncomfortable, anxious thoughts. I previously thought, “What are they going to think of me? Certainly, I can’t say no. Sure, I can do that. I can handle a lot of things at one time.”


These were self-sabotaging, limiting phrases in my mind. When I realized that, it no longer was a stress point to say “no.”

Why Do We Say “Yes,” When We Really Want or Need to Say “No?”


They are reasons that we sometimes convince ourselves of why we can’t say “no.” Why do you say “yes” when you want to say “no?” Is there something that’s one of your triggers and prevents you from saying “no?”


Identify your TOP reason that consistently prevents you from saying “no.” It might be pleasing others, feeling guilty or obligation. In my experience, the top two are guilt and the fear of hurting someone.


As we continue to think about why we say “yes” when we want to say “no,” consider how our brain hardwired for emotions?


Every stimuli that we take in is an electric impulse in the course of our day. Everything we see, hear, touch, enters the base of our brain and must pass through the Limbic System where our emotions lie.


Think of that as the middle, if you could look down into the brain. We have stimuli. We have a response. It comes into our brain. It has to pass through the Limbic System to get to the Rational System, which is the front of our brain. That’s where our rational thinking happens and where we want to get to. Because we are wired for our emotions to be in control, that stimuli is received and enters the Limbic System. It can be delayed a long time to get to the rational thinking, or it never gets there.


Ask yourself this question and whatever comes to mind, write down the answer. What does this have to do with saying “no?” Think back to the top reason that consistently keeps you from saying “no.” Identify your personal triggers that might alert you when you’re in the Limbic System valley and you can’t get to the rational part of saying “no.”


Here’s What This Has to Do with Saying “No.”


When our destination is “no,” we want to get to make an intelligent, informed decision. But we get stuck in the Limbic System. Therefore, we say “yes.” When you think about your triggers, consider this. Few people are brave enough to plainly say “no.” The rest are enduring courageously. My translation of that is that they’re just surviving instead of thriving.

Here is the encouraging part. There is power in saying “no.” You can be empowered when you say “no” as Dr. Henry Cloud has written in the book, Boundaries. Think about “no” as a powerful word. It helps you to be powerful. It helps create boundaries. It helps define what is me and what is not me.


There was a time in my life that I thought I had to be available 24/7. One of those reasons was that verse in scripture where Paul tells us that we have to be everything to everyone at all times. My brain interpreted that as, “Be available 24/7.” We all know that is not possible. It’s not realistic. It is not healthy. That’s not what Paul was talking about in that verse of scripture at all.

We Have to Create Boundaries with Other People.


We must first create boundaries with ourselves. Saying “no” helps define what is me and what is not me. It also helps me take responsibility for myself. If I’m clear about where I end and someone else begins, then that can lead me to a sense of ownership instead of feeling like everything else is controlling me.


“No” allows me to be in charge of my life effectively. One of my coaching colleagues sent me an email this week to let me know that she was not going to be able to be involved in a gathering in a couple of weeks because of her boundaries. She had to rein herself in. That’s healthy. She was saying “no.”


Here is another example of the power of saying “no.” It helps you take off that “Badge of Busy.” How many of us think we are projecting and modeling effective leadership when we can say, “I’m busy?” In essence, what we’re modeling with that badge, is that we are saying “yes” to more than is manageable. We’re undermining ourselves, stretching our time, energy and resources so thin that we can’t be effective with ourselves or anyone else.

Here Are Three Strategies That You Can Start with Immediately:


Strategy #1


Choose your non-negotiables.Think about your day tomorrow. Identify no more than five non-negotiables that you will say “yes” to. For example, if you’re working, you’re going to say “yes” to work.

Here Is Where We Shift Our Thinking.


As you’re thinking about your non-negotiables tomorrow that you will say “yes” to, that results in identifying what you will say “no” to. List what you will say “no” to as a result of saying “yes.”  A suggested visual is to list the top five things you are saying “yes” to in a column. Then draw a line out to the side of each “yes” to what you are saying “no” to.


Let me give you an example from my client who gave me permission to share this. She is a very policies and procedures type thinker so she created her policies and procedures for the next 10 days.


In order for her to say “yes” to her husband, she will have less work and more time at home. In order for her to say “yes” to her children and have family dinners every night, she will leave the office on time. To have girlfriend time, she will have less work on the weekends and reach out to her friends. You can see how she’s doing this.  This action will work in any area of your life that you apply it to.

Strategy #2


Develop key phrases and practice them. Here are two key phrases as examples that you can consider using. Saying “no” comes in many forms. When someone asks you a question that is too personal, and you want to say “no,” you can say, “That’s not something I talk about outside of family.”


When asked to participate in an event, you can simply say, “I have a commitment” or “I’m not available this time.” Period. No is a complete sentence. Nine point nine times out of ten, there is no additional commentary needed. Those are examples for developing key phrases. Practice them. Create phrases using words that fit you. You may not be comfortable saying, “Please stop doing that. I don’t like it.” Communicate that same thought using different words. The key is to create your own words and phrases that work for you and begin to practice them.

Strategy #3


Give yourself permission to say “no.”Are you content with life managing you and only surviving, or would you rather thrive and manage life? I want you to visualize for a moment you are getting ready to say “no” to someone. You know it’s the right thing to do, but a lot of internal emotions are beginning to be experienced. When you begin to experience that, stop. Then do something physically to shift yourself.


For example, if you’re standing, sit down. If you are sitting, stand up. Create some kind of physical shift right now. I could lean back in my chair. That’s a physical shift. I could lean forward. I could choose to prop.


When those emotions start surfacing quickly, stop. Physically shift something. Step forward. Step back. Step sideways. Stand up. Sit down. Do whatever you need to do. And then respond. Give yourself permission to say “no” while practicing the stopshift and respond strategy.


There are many benefits to saying “no.” One suggested resource is Marginby Richard Swenson.

What Happens If I Need to Say No to My Boss?


There are diplomatic ways to say it to those who are in authority. Obviously, it’s not in our best interest to just automatically say “no.” Based on the relationship, and learning and creating where I end and my boss begins, that’s where you learn to execute the stopshift and respond strategy.


Here’s an example. You’re asked to do something that will not realistically work in your schedule. Your boss or supervisor doesn’t see that. Here’s onr way to say “no” without using the word “no.” You can say, “That is great. Which one of the other deadlines would you ask me not to meet, in order to meet this one?” In essence, you’ve drawn a boundary. You’ve gotten them to give you guidance about where you can stop, and someone else begins.


 “When will you start practicing saying no? Who will you ask to hold you accountable?”


I invite you to schedule a no-obligation, free coaching consultation where it would be my absolute pleasure to get you on the journey of “saying no” more often, so you can “say YES!” to only that which truly inspires you.


Click here to schedule your complimentary coaching session with Jane.


“Jane Bishop brings passion and skill to her coaching and leading of groups. I have experienced her gifted-ness and highly recommend her.”
–Dr. Jim Robey, Professional Certified Coach
Certified Professional Co-Active Coach

“Jane is an excellent teacher, facilitator and coach. She has a great understanding of how organizations and teams work and how to help them develop and execute their vision and mission. Jane understands what it means to be a leader and help other leaders reach their full potential.”
–Stan Bricker
Sending Team Leader
Montana Southern Baptist Convention


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