How to Say “No”

If every shell represented a no ...“So why don’t you just say “no”?”

I put my cell back in my pocket and exhaled loudly as we continued our walk.  “I dunno, Jen.  My knee-jerk reaction is to always try to accommodate – if I can.”

“When they asked you, did you know right away what your answer was?  Did you know right away that you wanted to say no?”

“Well, sure I knew I didn’t want to say yes – my stomach clenched.  Yikes.  That’s a pretty good indication that I want to say no.  I don’t need more on my plate.”

She moved me closer to the sidewalk as a car approached – ever the protector, that one.  “How come you don’t just say no right away?”

“I don’t know.”


So I got to thinking about all the reasons I don’t say no right away.  I thought of the times I’ve said yes when my gut said no.  I thought of how frustrated I’ve gotten; how over-extended I’ve been.  I thought of where my projects would be if I said no more often.  I thought of the sleep I’ve missed out on because I struggle with saying no.  I thought of how far down my own path I’d be if I started saying no.

What motivates me to put my needs aside and say yes to another person’s agenda?




If I say no, will they no longer love me?

There it is.  That’s it.  I feel like I won’t be loved if I say no.  (But more likely, it’s all those things.)

No, I don’t want to come for dinner, but thanks for asking.  Do you still love me?  No, I don’t want to spend the afternoon listening to you vent about your problems.  Do you still love me?  No, I don’t want to meet for lunch.  Do you still love me?  No, I don’t want to go shopping or hang out at the bar or pretend to enjoy what you enjoy.  Do you still love me?




“I guess I’ve reached my limit, Jen.”

“What do you mean?”

We stopped at the corner.  I pulled out my cell and dialed the number.  She watched as the line rang.  She started grinning, because she knew what I was going to do.  My heart began to race.  My palm dampened against the back of the phone.  (How can I be 52 years old and still be afraid to tell someone no?)  He said, “Hello?”  And with all the warmth I could muster, I briefly explained why I had to say no.

Here’s what happened….

He said, “That’s fine.”  His words weren’t cold or harsh.  He said, “I completely understand.  I just thought I’d ask.”

I got off the phone and looked at Jen.  “He doesn’t sound mad!”

Jen laughed and said, “Of course he isn’t mad.  He loves you!”

Then we fist bumped and laughed some more.


As we walked down the hill to the house, I got to thinking about all the other times I could have said no.

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  1. Jesse,

    I sensed the weight lifting with the fist bump and great big smiles. I love that!!

    Cheering for you and yours always . . .

  2. Hello again

    It’s been a year and a half (I think) since I commented last. I just wanted to say that I understand how saying “no” leads to feeling as though someone won’t love you. As former partners of Ns, I think we learn to accommodate everyone else over ourselves, and be treated nastily if we can’t or won’t. I suffer from the difficulty of telling people that I just don’t want to hang out. I look for a million different excuses about why I have to miss things, instead of just saying that I just don’t want to. It seems that we all have a lot to learn about respecting our own time.

  3. Lynn,

    It’s a process…


  4. Kristin,

    Hello, again. Thanks for being here.

    I know what you mean about learning to respect our own time.

    No one warned us – when we were young and figuring out who we were or wanted to be – that we would spend so many years putting ourselves at the bottom of our list of priorities.

    It’s a shame. And there is so damn much guilt in putting ourselves near the top.

  5. Building trust…one NO at a time. Proud of you!

  6. Loved this post Jesse. It’s a hard thing to say no, but a healthy thing to learn to do for ourselves. When people asked me to do things I didn’t want to do, I would simply say yes to save face. To simply make peace! When I learned to say no, it would always be followed by this unnecessary explanation. I would say things like, “no, I don’t feel well,” or “no, because I have so much work to do.” I soon realized I didn’t have to find explanations/reasons to just want time to myself. No soon was followed with nothing else. We never are really taught it’s okay to say no, and once we learn to, it creates a separate peace. Glad your finding your groove. And in case you forget, you have a pretty insightful 10 year old to nudge you in the right direction.

    Love & continued light to you & the troop :)

  7. Kira,

    I hope my two learn to graciously say no sooner than I did! How will they learn that if I don’t model it for them? And I know what you mean about saving face and keeping the peace. But then what about our own peace?

    I do believe it is much harder for women, in general, to say no.

    (Would you believe she’s turning 13 this summer? I know! Right?)

  8. I think your troop will be just fine. You are at a place now where you can reflect on things and do differently going forward. It’s a learning curve, and we can model better behaviors going forward as we progress in our growth. They have a good teacher, Jesse. Trust that! And just by chance you see them struggling, you will be there, as you have always been, to provide a helpful reminder. I get the feeling they do the same for you :)

    I can’t believe your beauty will be 13 this summer. Just like I can’t believe you now have a 16 year old!! I am in awe with how fast time truly flies. Hopefully she is excited? 13 is an important milestone. How are you coping lol?!

  9. Kira,

    I turned 53 in May. It’s true what they say about having kids later in life… I’m forced to keep up with them, and it keeps me younger. I think….


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