By Belinda Porter

It is likely one of the first words you learned as a child and you probably had no problem saying it when you were two years old. It is an easy to pronounce word – just one syllable, two simple letters. So why as adults do some of us find it so hard to just say – no?

A friend helped me learn the importance of being able so say no. She needed a partner for an activity and asked me to help her out. She asked again … and again … and again. I was getting frustrated. Why wasn’t she getting the message? It finally dawned on me that I had never told her no. I knew from the beginning that I wasn’t interested in the activity but I told her I’d think about it, I told her I’d get back to her, I told her I might know someone else who would be interested in partnering with her but I never actually came out and said no.

Why didn’t I? For the same reason many people find it hard to say no to other people. I didn’t want to disappoint her; I wanted her to have the opportunity to follow a desire she had expressed; I was afraid she wouldn’t like me if I said no. The next time she asked me to be her partner my response was ‘No.’ She never brought it up again.

The truth is many of us tend to be very good at saying no to ourselves and not so good as saying it to other people. Do you realize that not saying no to others is another form of saying no to yourself? When you say “Maybe”, “I’ll think about it”, or “I’ll get back to you” when what you really mean is no you are denying yourself the right to make your own decisions, the right to spend your time as you wish, the right to take care of yourself. You are also denying the other person a clear and honest answer that allows them to move forward without you.

It doesn’t help that we are a society that has a problem taking no for an answer. Think about it – what often happens after a person says no? The asker tries to talk them into it. What do you mean you don’t want any cake- one bite won’t hurt you. How can you not want to go dancing – it’ll be fun. Oh, come on – I can’t do this without you.

If you don’t feel comfortable saying no and/or if you feel rejected when someone says no to you start by playing a game with a friend. Set a timer for 5 minutes and take turns extending an invitation and saying no. See who can come up with the most outrageous invitation.

Would you like to eat this handful of dirt? No.

Would you like to dive into the cesspool? No.

As you get more comfortable with saying and receiving no try playing with some invitations that are actually inviting but maybe you’re not interested at the moment. After all, no doesn’t mean never.

Would you like to make out? No.

May I kiss you? No.

No really is a simple word; we are the ones who make it complicated. I am working to make it easy again. Would you like to join me? Just say Yes or No.