Personal Journey

Saying NO Does Not Make You Difficult

By Cynthia Maldonado on July 8, 2024

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A woman is making a stop sign with her hand.

No, no, thank you, absolutely not, hard pass. *aggressive head shake*

Oh my goodness, how I have grown to love that one small word in all of its iterations.

Last month, I wrote about the surprising power and importance of saying no and alluded to how embracing it could transform your life. Like many of us, I have spent years worrying that saying no to friends and in the workplace would make me seem uncooperative, difficult, or selfish. I spent so much time believing that turning down requests would disappoint others, create conflict, and lead to diminished opportunities. I’d like to go on the record and say that I now believe I had it entirely wrong. I’ve come to realize, in large part due to unfortunate and entirely avoidable scenarios, that saying no in certain situations makes you less difficult and creates more opportunities in the long run. Much like a toddler asserting their newfound agency, saying “no thanks” has become a satisfying and liberating pastime of mine. Aside from the many personal benefits, I believe that putting this tiny word into regular rotation can also positively affect those around you. Let’s delve into the many advantages of saying NO!

Protecting your time and energy

Your time and energy are important. At the risk of sounding like a total millennial, I am going to point out the obvious and say that adulting is hard! The responsibilities can sometimes feel endless. Days off are often spent running errands, and there are extended periods in which it feels impossible to prioritize self-care or plain old fun. This last year of my life, for example, has been an absolute blur. I have been spread too thin, and, on occasion, my poor body has paid the price. I speak from experience when I say that there is a price to be paid for being in a continuous spiral of DOING. I’m not advocating neglecting responsibilities or giving up on hard work and ambition. I am instead suggesting that pausing to evaluate your to-do list is necessary for your well-being. A lot of the things we think we must do are entirely self-imposed.

 It is possible to pick and choose what you allow to take your time and energy and to do so without apology. This is not only beneficial for your physical health, but it will also do wonders for your mental health. Rejecting unnecessary pressure can only lead to less mental and emotional stress. This is the only way to avoid burnout from overcommitting and saying yes to things that did not require that yes. 

Stress aside, saying no as needed can do wonders for your self-esteem. You are taking an action that reaffirms the belief that you deserve to make choices that benefit your overall well-being. With each no, you are reminding yourself that it is ok to prioritize your health, values, and goals over the demands/opinions of others.

This is also beneficial for those around you.

As they say, you cannot pour from an empty cup. Think of saying no as giving yourself the chance to fill your own cup and, in turn, be able to show up for others as they fill theirs.

Self-awareness, clarity, focus of intention

As you take the time to fill your cup as needed (as opposed to letting it deplete with too many yeses) , you also begin to lead a more intentional life. Every no comes from careful consideration and examination of what it is you truly desire. When we take on too much, we are not giving ourselves a chance to get clear on what exactly it is that we want or are working towards. Sometimes, it can feel like we are simply working towards the next project, the next client, the next event, the next responsibility, the next…

The breathing room accomplished by turning something down – as well as a look at the reasons behind that no – can offer huge personal insights. It can help move you away from autopilot and towards clarity on who you are and where you are going.

It becomes much easier to give your full focus to your personal and professional commitments when they are heartfelt, honest, and in alignment with your goals and values. 

This leads us to the next benefit:

Authenticity

More and more, people are craving authenticity. In a world that can often feel uncertain, it is more important than ever to cultivate trust with those around you. While saying yes to everything may be well-intentioned, it can sometimes create confusion amongst your audience, peers, clients, and friends. You run the risk of coming across as inconsistent and untrustworthy. This is particularly true in PR. If you accept clients whose values do not align with yours, you are showing people you do not stand by your values. Any stance you take publicly becomes performative. 

One thing we are not accepting in 2024 is performative allyship. PR & Lattes founder Matisse Hamel-Nelis has plenty to say about this and I assure you that a quick look at any of her writing will relay the importance of action in allyship.

Saying no to certain people, situations, and clients is one of many ways to put your money where your mouth is.

Expanding on this, showing up authentically in this way leads to deeper connections. When you are clear about who you are and honest about your limits, people will usually notice. When you draw a clear line showing what you stand for, who you are, and what you will tolerate, you give people a chance to do the same. You can empower others by creating an environment that encourages open communication.

Everyone is tired of pretending. Give yourself and others permission not to.

More Opportunities

I realize it sounds counterintuitive to say that saying no will give you more opportunities. It may not appear that way immediately, but I promise you that saying no to the wrong things will create the space needed to welcome the new opportunities you are craving.

Not only that, but you are making way for others to receive what they are looking for. You may not want to work with that specific client or write that specific article, but I promise you that there is someone who would love nothing more. In a collaborative environment, your no could give someone else the chance to contribute. Never underestimate the ripple effect of your words and actions. Remind yourself of this when the people-pleasing guilt kicks in.

Saying no is much more meaningful than it may appear on the surface. It is a form of self-care and an avenue for personal growth that can foster an environment of respect and open communication. Embracing the power of “no” can lead to a more balanced and intentional life that ensures you stay present as your best self. I genuinely hope the next time you feel pressure to say “yes” to something that is not in your best interest, you think back on this article and give yourself permission to say “NO!”.

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