No Is Not A Four-Letter Word!

I want you to dial into how well (or poorly) you say “no” to people.

Can you easily and honestly, without feeling any constriction in your body, say “no?” Or, do you say “maybe” when you really want to say “no?” Or, worse yet, do you say “yes” when you mean “no” and have no intention of fulfilling the promise you just made?

What we are really discussing here is how well you honor your feelings. There are consequences for being dishonest—to your relationships and to your sense of self. You have the right to say “no,” period. Of course, loving other people and being in relationships means doing things you may not want to do at times, but only because it is important to the other person. Consciously making that sacrifice is your choice.

There are lots of messy styles of not being able to embrace the “no” and being unable to simply say, “I don’t want to do that; this does not work for me,” without long-winded justifications but with the expectation that the other person can accept the boundary you have drawn.

The next question after considering how well you honor your desire to say “no” is: How well do you receive “no?”

What does it mean to you when someone says “no” to your request? Do you write a whole script about how they must not love or value you enough? Can you create space for the people in your life to be separate from you even though you are in a relationship? Again, this is not to say that a compromise cannot be reached, but a real compromise can only be reached if each person has the space to be honest.

There are many dysfunctional family systems in which “no” is considered disloyal and is simply not allowed. According to theorist Murray Bowen, these families have undifferentiated systems. Family differentiation refers to the degree to which differences and individuality is tolerated. In systems where saying “no” is a crime, family members’ individuality is viewed as disloyal and threatening to the family’s stability. If you come from an undifferentiated family that was emotionally stuck together, meaning the fears, anxieties, stresses or joys of one family member were felt intensely and personally by all family members, than saying no and asserting your true desires in your current relationships may feel too threatening. But remember, now is not then.

Being able to honor yourself and draw boundaries by saying “no” is essential for your mental health. It is basically the difference between living authentically and living a lie. You can start by taking baby steps. Before you give an answer to anyone about anything, take a moment to think. Give yourself time by saying you will get back to them. People’s respect for your boundaries might shock you. In order to create relationships that are fulfilling, you must know, love and honor your true self. Being able to say “no” is an important piece of that puzzle.

Did this tip resonate with you? Please share. What’s your relationship to “no?”

I hope you have an amazing week and, as always, take care of you.

Love Love Love


Update about My Big Sister Tammi…

Your responses have been so touching. My whole family, especially Tammi, is beyond grateful for your words, thoughts, prayers, and donations. The road to transplant is tough-requiring lots of patience and perseverance, but Tammi is moving along, everyday a little closer!

To learn more and to send a cyber-hug, please head to Tammi’s Liver Club (TLC) website. She had a fundraiser in her hometown in North Carolina on Friday night that raised nearly $2,000!

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Terri Cole, founder and CEO of Live Fearless and Free, is a licensed psychotherapist, transformation coach, and an expert at turning fear into freedom. For almost two decades, Terri has empowered companies, celebrities, professional athletes and individuals to Live Fearless and Free. Recently, Terri released her first CD Meditation Transformation. Follow Terri on Twitter @terri_cole.

  • Phil Garcia

    As always your blog did resonate with my current situation. According to Dr. “Pat Allens” Book “Getting to I do”, NO is the most important word we should learn.
     The more authentic no’s we are able to say, the more our yeses will be honored and trusted.  Not to blame or point fingers, I know how my partner feels, because I have felt this way before.  Having a undifferentiated family belief, and saying yes would satisfy others in the family, but would not satisfy your standards,  and beliefs could and always has led to the loss of respect by others. 

    The Word NO is a simple word with very complex emotions behind it. 

    Thank you for bringing this out today, it is very helpful.

    Peace, Love and inspiration.

    •  Very good points. If you constantly say yes and don’t follow through, no one will believe you anymore – absolutely! It’s the boy who cried wolf, right? The more honest we are in our communications, the more that honesty and authenticity is returned. And we all deserve to be authentically loved. Thank you for sharing. xo.

  • Anita

    You tip really helped! I am very bad at saying NO. Sad to say. Very motivational! Thank-you!

    • Many times it’s easiest to start saying no to people we trust and are closest or who know our habit of saying anything but no. Tell them you are trying to speak your truth more and to help you recognize it. That way they can call you out on it, saying something like, “so, are you being honest or do you really want to say no.” Keep trying! It’s gets easier 😉

  • Michelle

    Over the course of a difficult 18 year marriage, NO became an unacceptable response for me to say. I had to learn to bend, twist and contort my actions, thoughts, and words so that it didn’t come out NO. Now one year post-divorce, I’m embracing the inherent power I have inside me just by saying NO, creating healthy boundaries and standing for myself and my kids. It is not always easy, and sometimes I make mistakes, but I’m in a much better place today and it becomes more natural each time.

    •  We all make mistakes and the road can get bumpy, but it sounds like you are acknowledging yourself and forgiving yourself and regaining your confidence, which is awesome. You are on the right track! Keep it up! xo.

  • Telluselle

    I think for me the biggest problem is when people don’t give me either but stalls the decision or say yes but doesn’t follow thru, especially in professional relationships where for example I am the customer or client and might depend on the other person’s effort. The most important thing for me is the decision in itself and that brought forward so that I don’t become stalled waiting.

    •  Exactly. If someone needs to say no, you want them to just go ahead and say it so everyone can move on. Great point!

  • Joanie

    Wow! I was in an extremely codependent and abusive marriage.  Divorced a year ago and starting to rebuild ME. I was taught to take care of everyone else,  even if it meant sacrificing myself. No more of that. It is uncomfortable at times but so necessary. I feel like I have a voice again and I control my destiny. Thanks for all you do and for such positivity!

    •  So proud of you Joanie! Take as much time as you need. You are what’s important.

      Continue to exercise some serious self care.  When you self nourish
      mentally and physically, you have the best of you to share with those you love. When you are depleted, you set yourself up for resentment. xo.

  • No is a complete sentence! Thanks for sharing these tips!

  • anonymous

    I just said no to something and was shouted and sworn at and made to feel incredibly guilty and unreasonable. Now I don’t know if I am just being selfish. I was trying to honour myself and not be controlled but it just created pain and anger. I find saying no really hard when I get this kind of response for not doing what someone else wants me to do in the way they want me to do it. How can I know if I’m just being mean and selfish? Where is the line?

    • Unfortunately, this is so common. When we start to establish boundaries, people might be taken aback. But your responsibility is to set your boundary and enforce it. If you continue to say no but then go back and say yes out of guilt, you will constantly wind up being bamboozled. You cannot control another person’s reaction. All you can do is keep your side of the street clean. Buy yourself some time before you respond. If someone asks you something, tell them you need to get back to them. How does saying yes versus no to this request feel. Listen to your body. It knows the right answer and will tell you loud and clear what your truth it. That is the answer you go with.