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The Power of Saying 'No'

03/15/2015 11:16 EDT | Updated 05/15/2015 05:59 EDT
PhotoAlto/Jerome Gorin via Getty Images
No vehicles sign in front of forest

As Coco Chanel once said, "Elegance is refusal." It's a quote that my friend, designer Lori Morris, introduced me to and it really resonates with me; it makes me think about the power of no.

As we go through life, we are often told to open ourselves up to opportunities, to not limit ourselves, to say "yes" to new experiences, to meeting new people and to stepping out of our comfort zone. People tell us that there's joy in abundance and that it's good to have it all.

But at some point during all this, we come to realize that our mouths may be saying yes but our gut is saying no. Becoming aware of these moments is part of our evolution towards authenticity, and it's something we must consciously learn to do. There's power in saying "no."

"Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity." W. Clement Stone

"No" is a tool. It's a way to stop misappropriations of your time, maintain your energy and, frankly, take care of your self. The power of no, for me, is about setting boundaries; it's about being aware of what I am prepared to be and do. The power of no is about honouring my own power. Saving it for the things that truly matter to me and using it in a way that authentically represents my true self.

For Ella Woodward, the blogger behind the popular food site DeliciouslyElla.com, saying "no" was a response to her overwhelming skyrocket to fame. She took a month off from all of it and says it was the best thing she ever did: "Up to that point, I'd literally never said no and was completely overstretching myself. Yes is definitely better than no, but you can't keep giving and giving and giving." Saying no can help you reenergize.

"You have to learn to get up from the table when love is no longer being served." Nina Simone

Saying "no" can also refer to ending bad relationships, whether that means with lovers or friends. It can be hard to walk away from someone you want a relationship with. Some people tend to only see the potential in their partners and often have a hard time letting go of the possibility of that potential becoming reality. Did you know that women actually make the decision to end relationships faster than men? According to a 2014 survey, women take on average six days to break up with someone, whereas men can take a month! But saying no to a relationship that isn't working can make room for someone new to enter your life.

"Disappointment to a noble soul is what cold water is to burning metal; it strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it." Eliza Tabor

Why is it hard to say 'no'? It's usually because we don't want to let people down. We don't want to hurt their feelings or disappoint them any more than we would want to be disappointed ourselves. We are afraid of closing the door on opportunities, of burning bridges, of losing something we once fought hard to get. It's disappointing to accept that things don't always work out the way we wanted them to. But disappointment won't destroy us; we need to remember that everything happens for a reason, and saying no to what isn't working could make space for something that will. Besides, there's joy in missing out; just like ending a relationship, saying no to what everyone else wants to do allows you to say yes to what's right for YOU.

"Let today mark a new beginning for you. Give yourself permission to say NO without feeling guilty, mean, or selfish. Anybody who gets upset and/or expects you to say YES all of the time clearly doesn't have your best interest at heart. Always remember: You have a right to say NO without having to explain yourself. Be at peace with your decisions." Stephanie Lahart

How do you handle the people who make you feel bad for saying no? Are they bullies? I think they can come across that way, whether they mean to or not. Don't we all have that one friend who never accepts no for an answer -- so much so that we often agree to their demands just to avoid the inevitable confrontation. The people I say no to, and feel comfortable doing so, are the ones who are reasonable about my need to say it. They understand that saying no is sometimes necessary. Eat, Pray, Love author Liz Gilbert recently wrote about this on her Facebook page, saying "We don't like it when we don't get what we want. That is the way of the world. But the problem is - I am not emotionally or physically capable of giving everyone everything they want. Neither are you."

"Mindfulness is about love and loving life. When you cultivate this love, it gives you clarity and compassion for life, and your actions happen in accordance with that." Jon Kabat-Zinn

Saying 'no' is not the same as being negative. Negativity closes yourself off from the world, whereas saying no is about being selective, deliberate and mindful of your yes's. Where negativity creates roadblocks that hold you back, saying no clears the path so you can move forward. This article from Psychology Today says negativity is an ongoing attitude but NO is a moment of clear choice. I totally agree with that - and the quote above - that saying no gives you clarity. The article goes on to state that "No is an instrument of integrity and a shield against exploitation. It often takes courage to say. It is hard to receive. But setting limits sets us free."

"Say no to everything, so you can say yes to the one thing." Richie Norton

While I do think saying no to everything is a little excessive, what I love about this quote by Richie Norton is its emphasis on specificity. I believe there's value in curating our yes's and saying no to the wrong things allows you to say yes to the right things. It puts you in the driver's seat. I don't believe in saying 'no' for the sake of it - we need to be as mindful with our No's as we are with our Yes's. "The Power of Saying No" in the Financial Times explains it well: "Every time we say yes to a request, we are also saying no to anything else we might accomplish with the time." When we keep this in mind, we understand how important each little Yes and No can be.

"Learn to say no to the good so you can say yes to the best." - John C. Maxwell

Can you learn to say no? I think so. Like all tools in life, we can hone our ability to say 'no' with mindful practice. It's harder to learn than saying yes, but it is possible. Saying no is about being dedicated to what you ultimately want to be known for. It's about being true to yourself, and sticking to your authentic path. There's definitely power in saying no. It might be a tough lesson, but I guarantee there will come a time in your life when you'll be ready to learn it.

Do you have difficulty saying No? How does it make you feel? Share your story below or tweet me @NatashaNKPR.

xo Natasha