The Power of Saying No!


Written by: Anita Barnes of Leslieville Yoga in Toronto, Canada.

Learning to say No! Do you get anxious just thinking about it?   Saying no is challenging for most of us. We want to make people happy, be liked, and not disappoint those that we care about or annoy a boss.  If you are always saying yes, not only will it impede your self-care, it will leave you open to exploitation.

I have always been amazed and inspired by the few individuals that I know that seem to say “no” so effortlessly. They don’t second-guess their decision; they don’t feel guilty and are not too concerned what the recipient of the no thinks. This is something to aspire to!

It goes beyond saying no to a request. Maybe you need to say no to long hours at work, relationships that are a drain and lack reciprocity, an unhealthy diet or lifestyle.

Learning to deny a request confidently is a boundary issue. Having good and healthy boundaries is critical to your well-being. I’ve been in many situations in which I have said yes only to feel the regret as the yes was leaving my lips. Occasionally I have felt put on the spot because it happened in front of a group of people and I wanted to be a nice person.

At times I have followed through with whatever I said yes to with great resentment or had to cancel because what I said yes to wasn’t possible. Neither situation is respectable. Walking around with resentment when the recipient of your yes is unaware of how you feel can turn into a poisonous situation.   Letting the person down by reneging on your yes can have a negative impact on your relationship as you will come across as unreliable.

Since some of these awful and very awkward situations I have been practicing saying “no.” Some requests are very easy to say no to, while others feel like I have to say yes. Now, with most requests, I say, “I’ll think about it, let me get back to you.” This gives me time to think about the request, check my calendar and with my husband. I find it very helpful to sit quietly with it, take a few deep breaths, and notice what feelings come up. It helps to ask yourself: “ Do I really have time for this? Will this interfere with my self-care in any way?”

I also believe that it is important to be as nice and friendly as you can with your nos. There is no need to be rude or curt. You can politely decline: “no thank-you.”

With these soft responses most people have respected my decision and dropped the subject. I also realized that if someone gets really annoyed with my no, then I have to ask myself if I want that person in my life.

Years ago I knew an individual that I didn’t particularly like or trust. They were very aggressive insisting that we go for a coffee. It was something that I had no desire to do. I didn’t say yes, which was good, but I didn’t say a clear no either. For months, this person kept asking and I kept making excuses. Finally, I responded by saying: “Thank-you so much for your kind offer. I’m going to pass though.” Polite and very clear. I did not give a reason. This person never asked me for a coffee again or bothered me about anything else.

At times you may have a very valid reason to saying no: “Sorry, I can’t watch your cat when you are away because I will be away at the same time.” It is also essential to be mindful of excuses.   You don’t need to explain yourself and your no will lose its’ strength and clarity if you go on and on with an explanation. If your new to this “no” concept and feel you need to give a reason, keep it short: “sorry, this is not a good time for me”, “my schedule won’t allow it” or “that is not possible.” Keep in mind that pushy or demanding people will keep trying and you will have to be firm and may need to repeat your response without adding to it or giving in.

It is imperative to find some balance. You don’t want to go to the extreme of saying no all of the time because that will disconnect and isolate you from your community. You also don’t want to continue saying yes all of the time because that will cause exhaustion and resentment.

Make the decision that your self-care is important. It takes practice and some courage. With practice, it does get easier. Ask yourself: “by saying yes to this request, what I’m I saying no to in my life.” Saying no is being honest and is as important to your happiness as getting a good night’s sleep, eating well, and exercising. Saying no is saying yes to your well-being and life.

Written by Anita Barnes of Leslieville Yoga in Toronto, Canada.

Anita first became curious about yoga at a young age wondering why her mother was standing on her head. In 1993 she walked into a yoga studio and her life changed forever. Yoga and meditation are responsible for her twisted back remaining pain free and her recovery from depression.

She is a certified Hatha Yoga Teacher and received her training from the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Ashram in Val Morin, Quebec in 1998. She has also received training in Yin and Restorative Yoga and has a certificate in Trauma Sensitive Yoga. She is also a certified Thai Yoga Massage Practioner. She taught at the Sivananda Yoga Centre in Toronto from 1998 -2010, and has also taught yoga in a Toronto courthouse and hospital. She is a member of the Natural Health Practioners of Canada and the Canadian Yoga Alliance.

She has created a “Yoga On And Off The Mat Program” which introduces individuals in the corporate world to yoga and teaches how one can incorporate yoga into everyday life. She has a long history of working in mental health and with individuals that experience homelessness, and is currently exploring ways to bring yoga to both.

She continues to be a student of various types of yoga, yoga philosophy and theory.

You can learn more by contacting her at:

241 Leslie Street (north of Dundas)
Toronto, Ontario , M4M 3C8
Phone: (416) 838-9461
[email protected]

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