No is a short word that carries great power and sometimes negative connections with the use of it.  No means refusal, denial, not at all. No has been around since before 900AD according to Quora. Other ways to say no are absolutely not, nope, no thanks, never. No can be a game changer for people.

So why is it we have trouble saying no?

Let’s look at the prefrontal cortex of the brain. This is the area that controls executive function, communication, guiding, and coordinating functions of the brain. Impulse control, planning, reasoning, judgement, and self regulation all are happening. It is command central. It is estimated that 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts are going on every day in your brain. Lots of communication is going on. Human beings can be impulsive creatures who have difficulty with delaying our gratification when it comes to numerous decisions we make.

In the 1960’s a Stanford professor named Walter Mischel completed a psychological study with kids and marshmallows. The study was completed with four and five year olds. The kids where given a choice. They were given the option of eating one marshmallow when the researcher left the room OR if  they did not eat the marshmallow in front of them they would get an additional marshmallow to eat when the researcher returned. Say no to eating one marshmallow in the moment  would get you two. Tough choices for little kids to make. Yet those kids who were able to say no and delay their gratification to get two delicious treats where shown to be happier, healthier, and more successful in life.

We reside in a world of yes and immediacy. Our world is faced pace filled with opportunities for instant gratification. Being busy can feel like a badge of honor. Think about some of your interactions when you ask people how they are, or they ask you how you are, the answer is “busy”.  Busy doing what? Busy can be a great way to avoid being alone with your thoughts and your you. Busy can occur because saying no to others feels so uncomfortable and you do not want to let anyone down. What about letting yourself down because you are not treating yourself with respect and consideration? Being too busy is not good for anyone. It is emotionally draining and bad for your health.

Sometimes the choices we have to make are connected to things we really want to do and other things we really want to accomplish. William Leith wrote an article in The Guardian “Say ‘NO’ and change your life”.  He had to choose between his friends 50th birthday party and finishing his book. He said:

“We live in a world where ‘yes’ is the default. But we need to tame our inner ‘chimp’ and embrace the power of ‘no’”.

You have the right to say no. To have healthy boundaries and time for yourself. No one can do it all. No one. For those struggling with ‘no’ start with saying the word no in your head and practice scenarios. For example,  “No, I can’t make it to lunch this week. Let’s schedule another time”. At work when they are adding on to your job duties above and beyond you can say “Please tell me what jobs you do not want me to do because I cannot do all of this additional work”. Yep you can also say no at work. You can say no to all of the people in your life. Yes you can.

The best way to get comfortable with saying no is to start saying no. To put in pauses before you respond. Slow down the impulsive side of you everyone has and say I will get back to you. Give yourself time to figure out what you really want to do. To honor and own your no and say yes to what is best for you.  Saying no does not require an apology or an excuse.  You have the right to say no. When you say no to something you are saying yes to what feels right and true for you.

No does not have anything to do with being kind or nice. No is about your right as a human being to make choices and decisions that are right for you. You have the right to lead a life that contains experiences and choices that are your yes’s. Yes you do.

May the ‘No’ be with you💜