The art of saying no

Are you a people pleaser? Or does the thought of telling someone no make you terribly uncomfortable? Maybe you’re sick of being taken advantage of, or fed up with putting other people’s priorities ahead of your own! Well the time is now to make a change, and it all starts with a small, simple word -- no.

I recently discovered a life changing book by Amazon best selling author Damon Zahariades -- The Art of Saying No. This book offers realistic advice and breaks down why people really struggle with saying no, plus how to overcome it using simple tips that can immediately be applied to your life. 

That’s right, just say no! It can’t be that hard right? Well the truth is, for many of us it really is. But why do we associate the word no with so much negativity?

Because that’s what we were conditioned to believe! Growing up we learned that the word no was affiliated with being rude and egocentric or not getting what we want. Hence, from a young age we attempt to live our lives in a way that reflects a more positive and honourable image. That’s where saying yes to everyone and everything comes into play!

What happens when you’re a “yes man”

  • Lower self-esteem
  • Become more cynical   
  • Put other people’s priorities ahead of your own
  • Develop strong frustration, irritation and resentfulness towards others

Each time you say yes to someone, you’re putting their priorities ahead of your own which results in less time and energy to get your tasks done. 

Breaking down the word no

Why does one of the smallest words in the English language hold so much power? Because we give it power, when it really doesn’t deserve all that credit. 

Logically speaking, the word no is not intended to be an offensive word, however it is typical that “people often take offense to things that aren’t intended to give offense” as Damon describes in the book. So the first and most valuable pieces of advice he offers (in my opinion) is to recognize that A) "no" is not a bad word, and B) you are not responsible for how someone takes the word “no.”

To put this into perspective: let’s say someone asks you for a ride home from work, but they live 20 minutes out of the way and there’s traffic. Your inner people pleaser is saying “just do it, it’s only an additional x amount of time, and if you don’t do it maybe they won’t like you, or maybe they will be mad at you!”

But the reality is, you don’t have the energy, you straight up don’t want to, you will have to fill up on gas if you drive them, or your partner is at home waiting to make dinner for example. So the logical thing to do is just say no, right? Yet here we are here fighting with our inner “people pleaser” because we want to do the right thing. But, what if we changed our perception of what the right thing really meant, instead of sucking more time, energy, money or whatever it may be by trying to please another person and putting yourself last (again), you just said no I can’t drive you. Now the thought of that probably sounds pretty scary, and the truth is mustering up the confidence to say no can be, especially if you’re not used to saying it. So think of it this way -- "no" is not a negative word, it gains respect and it builds your self-confidence. Sometimes you have to just do it, the more you say no the easier it becomes and hey there’s no better time than right now to start.  

Now here is the second most valuable piece of advice I found in this book to help settle the ongoing fight with your inner people pleaser -- you are not responsible for how the requestor takes “no.” People often create expectations then become disappointed when they are unmet. When offence is taken from being told “no” it’s typically a them problem, as it reflects their own insecurities, and more often than not people internalize the word "no" as rejection. Take your coworker expecting a ride home from you (again) for example, if you say “no” and they become disappointed, is their disappointment truly your fault? No, it’s not, because you cannot be held responsible for other people's unmet expectations.  

To summarize: “no” is not a rude word! It’s direct and to the point. Those who have the ability to say no are well-respected and tend to have higher self-esteem and confidence. Surrendering (saying yes) reinforces to that person that your feelings or time is less important than others. But guess what? They’re not less important, they’re actually more important and you need to remind yourself of that all the time. Once you recognize that you deserve to put yourself first (which means saying no more often), you can take back your life, time, energy and confidence in order to achieve the things you want and need! 

“Each time you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else”

-- Damon Zahariades


  • Contrary to what we were brought up to believe the word “no” is not evil nor is it negative 
  • Being direct shows the other person and yourself respect
  • The requestors reaction isn’t your responsibility 
  • Don’t hold yourself responsible for how people take their unmet expectations 
  • Saying “no” will strengthen your confidence and help you overcome your fears
  • By saying no more often you will eventually become less concerned by how people will react 

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