Why No Is Nice

I often hear stories about people who over-extend themselves. Maybe its making cakes for a school function, loaning money, running errands for a family member, or donating time. People often say yes when that’s not what’s right for them. I believe saying yes when really you need to say no is a big problem.

I’m not against generosity, charity, or volunteering. These are good things that you should do as much as possible, but not more than possible. When you try to do something you really can’t, it doesn’t end up with a positive result. (You can see my skill for forming obvious conclusions). Here’s how it plays out:

You are asked to do something. You are not truly wanting/able/willing to do this something. But you feel bad so you say that you will. You do the something. It takes great energy, juggling of the schedule or neglecting things that are truly more of a priority for you. You complain to your family and friends who are not even involved. Or you keep it to yourself and get grumpy or irritated. When the something is done, you look for acknowledgement for the heroics that it took to get accomplished. Or you think the person you did this for will surely reward you in some way at some point in time. The people you now feel owe you are not actually mind readers. They fail to thank you in just the way you are looking for. You get angry, resentful and think “I will not do anything for them again.” You start ignoring them or being a bit curt. They have no idea why you are angry. The relationship suffers. They might be hurt or baffled. You are left with bitterness and disappointment.

I admit that it doesn’t always play out just like that, but I’m guessing that this is a vaguely familiar scenario for most of you never say noers. You can start to see how good intentions actually lead to real negativity. Frankly, the world doesn’t need any more of it. So, I urge you to do your part. Say no to the many things you are asked to do that just aren’t workable. Say yes where you have the energy and passion for giving. The chances are that the things you say yes to will bring much more satisfaction. You will not be filled with resentment. Those who receive your generosity will appreciate the effort and that there are no strings or expectations attached. That’s real giving in my point of view.

I know from talking to you lovely people who only say yes, that no still feels like a dirty word. I encourage you to develop some statements that feel kind but clear. An example might be politely saying: “Thanks for thinking of me, unfortunately I just can’t make that work right now.” Say that and remember, you are doing the right thing.


  1. another jennifer

    Great advice. I’ve worked hard over the past few years at saying no. It’s too easy to overextend yourself. Everyone’s happier when you can find that balance between giving and allowing time for yourself.

  2. Cameron

    What if you feel guilty after saying no and do it anyway?

    • Hannah

      That’s a great question. I think a lot of very nice people are motivated out of guilt. The challenge is to see that saying no is completely acceptable. When we are asked to do something, we need to think of it as a choice. Like any choice, we need to evaluate what works best for us. I truly believe that saying no is a healthy thing when that’s what’s right for you. I encourage using friends to support us in our quest of saying no when we need to. Remember, it is a change and a challenge so you might not say no when you mean it every time. But, there will always be more opportunities to practice!

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