Listening to my Life – Learning to say No

Many years ago, I was part of a church leadewrship team in Essex, In the office we had a young lady who worked hard and took care of much of the admin. What I never forgot was her tactic of how she would deal with any request from one of us to take on a task that was way more than she had time to handle. She would simply say NO. I capitalise the word because that’s how she said it. Loudly and definitively she would send us retreating out the door; the word uttered with such force.

It was a crude tactic but surprisingly effective. I wonder how many hundreds, thousands of administrators over the years have lacked an effective means of saying no to the job which makes life miserable, getting home late, working into the night, neglecting partners, children and biting into much needed leisure time.

As I look back over my life I can see so many times when I said yes when I should have said no. I’m getting better at it; at my great age expectations are low so it ain’t such a difficult word.

But what about you, gentle reader. Have you learned the art of saying no? When you say an easy yes instead of a difficult no we risk overcommitting our time, our energy and our finances.

Our ability to say no, puts us into the driving seat of our lives; it really can be quite empowering.

Some simple tips on saying no without risking the relationship. You need a refusal strategy. Statements like, ‘I don’t’, instead of ‘I can’t’ can help extract you from a commitment you might regret. ‘Can’t’ sounds like an excuse; ‘Don’t’ is a stronger word, it shows you have established rules for yourself.

Practice being more assertive, (not aggressive, though that can certainly work as we’ve seen from my opening words). Get comfortable with being assertive; you won’t lose your important relationships and you might win some respect. Of course I’m generalising and you might work for the horrible manager in last week’s blog. (If you do, some hard thinking and planning and a bit of prayer is needed.)

In my own life I’ve said no to 4 promotions. Those refusals made tremendous impacts on my life, and on other people’s lives for that matter. I also said no to a deal which promised a profit of around half a million pounds. That was easy though as it involved sacrificing my integrity in a shady property transaction.

Some of us who find it hard to say no (actually I think we all do), may need to change our story to fit into our own life goals and not please other people who want us to fit into their life goals.

If all else fails, go back to my opening paragraph and learn to say NO very loudly.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

God's Word informing you,
God's peace encircling you,
God's Spirit upholding you,
God's love defining you,
Go gently into the world,
Becoming the difference
so many are searching for,
and have yet to find.
(John Birch)

2 thoughts on “Listening to my Life – Learning to say No

Add yours

  1. So true! ‘No’ is a tiny word but it holds such power. It is not all about the word itself, but about how a person uses it.


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