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NO – One of the most powerful words in English language I think. Being a monosyllable it has a story in it. Recently, the Hindi movie “Pink” in its last dialogue, spoke about “no” – not just as a word, but a complete sentence. At times, there is no need to give a reference to context, because it is so obvious. The moment is now and the circumstance is “as is”. Also, why is that we have to give a reason for our ‘no’. Why are our sentences framed as “I don’t want to do this, because” or “I don’t believe in this because”.

There is a change in our social behaviour. Earlier, saying no was considered rude, inappropriate and in some families almost forbidden. But now-a-days, with the busy lifestyle and demands, saying no to a few things and to some people has become a necessity. Although I must add, as a corollary to this, the manner in which the ‘no’ is said is equally important.

In the court of law, when one lawyer says, “No, I disagree with my learned friend” (opposing counsel), he has to give reasons for his ‘no’ and disagreement. But in our daily lives, we are not in a court of law. We should be able to say no, without giving justification for it. The party hearing the refusal should also accept the same in a gracious manner.

Thinking that you are a bad person for saying no is a symptom of “the disease to please”. “Saying yes when you need to say no causes burnout. You do yourself and the person making the request a disservice by saying yes all of the time,” says author Duke Robinson. Don’t feel guilty. Just take tips from experts on etiquette and communication¯and a cue from your favourite two-year-old¯and say no.

Let us analyze why is it so difficult to say the word “no”? It’s just a word, right?

People are afraid of saying no because their biggest fear is rejection. They are afraid that they would disappoint someone, make someone angry, hurt someone’s feelings, or appear unkind or rude. Having people think negatively is the ultimate rejection. It is a heavy burden to carry because with the urge to say yes also comes a lack of self-confidence and self-value.

Saying no doesn’t mean that you are being rude, selfish, or unkind. These are all unhelpful beliefs that make it hard to say no. Learning where these beliefs have come from is a great way to learn to let go of them. Well, as children, we learned that saying no was impolite or inappropriate. If you said no to your mom, dad, teacher, uncle, grandparents, and so on, you were most certainly considered rude, and you would have probably been told off for it. Saying ‘no’ was off limits, and ‘yes’ was the polite and likable thing to say.

Now that we are all adults, we are more mature and capable of making our own choices, as well as knowing the difference between wrong and right. Therefore, ‘no’ shouldn’t be an off-limit word, but rather something that we decide on ourselves, based on our own discretion. But sadly, we hold onto our childhood beliefs and we continue to associate ‘no’ with being dislikeable, bad mannered, unkind, or selfish. We worry that if we say ‘no’, we would end up being alone, rejected, or abandoned.

Another pivotal step in learning to say ‘no’ is realizing that you are valuable and have a right to choose your own opinion about yourself over others. I have learned that if you live your life depending on other people’s approval, you will never feel free and truly happy. If you depend on other people’s approval, what you are basically saying is “Their opinion of me is more important than my opinion about myself.”

The most important step to learning to say ‘no’ is deciding if saying ‘yes’ is really worth it. After committing to something, doubt eventually sets in and you may begin to think of ways you can get out of it. And if you don’t have any good excuses, you then have to decide if you are going to tell the truth or come up with a lie. Think about the anguish, stress, and resentment that saying ‘yes’ has caused you. Wouldn’t it be so much easier and straightforward to just say ‘no’ in the first place? I have a right to say ‘no’ and shouldn’t be afraid of letting other people down at the cost of my own happiness.

I quote Derek Sivers : “Don’t say yes to everything. Say yes to less, and simplify your life.” Create room in your life. Some breathing space. Some time for what’s most important to you — your work, the things that you love and most importantly, the people you love.

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