The Power of… NO!

Making Choices

Making Choices


“…[the warrior] never says ‘yes’ with his lips if,
in his heart, he is saying ‘no’.”
– Paulo Coelho

NO. Have you ever agreed to do something you really didn’t want or have time to do? Have you ever said “No” to something that seemed like an opportunity to other people, but just didn’t “feel” right for you? How do you respond when you are told “No”?

There’s a funny thing about this simple two-letter word. It is a word we’ve all used and we’ve all heard before. When it’s said to you, you may not like it very much; when you say it, it can be quite liberating. Sometimes the word is open for interpretation; other times, it is absolute. For example, when making a sales call, “No” may very well mean, “Not right now.” However, when asking for a romantic date, “No” most likely means “NO!”

Your relationship with this word probably started when you were very young. A parent or guardian said “No” to something you really wanted. You may have cried, or even thrown a temper tantrum – like I did once when I was three years old (that tactic didn’t work with my parents, so I abandoned it for more effective forms of communication). Over time, it may have become more challenging for you to accept and say “No.” Some people like to keep their calendar full because it makes them feel important or they are avoiding doing something they really want or need to do. Most people have a need to be liked, so they fall into the trap of “people-pleasing.” They don’t want to deal with the emotional consequences of giving or receiving rejection. Sometimes we simply forget that with every “Yes” comes a built-in “No.” For example, when you say “Yes” to leading the conference call at 9pm, then you are saying “No” to connection time with your partner.

As a newly-minted entrepreneur, “No” was both hard to hear and hard to say – it brought me emotionally back to that temper tantrum. After all, why would anyone say “No” to what I have to offer?! And, why would I say “No” to something that could expand my company? Now I have learned to embrace the word. At one point, for example, I was approached to host a wellness-related DVD series. On the surface it seemed like a major “break” because it was being produced by a well-known celebrity. However, when I really looked at it through the lenses of my Purpose, it was just not right for me. It would have given me a boost in media attention, but the business deal was not favorable and the project would not have supported my brand. After some deliberation with my Circle of Support, I chose to say “No.” Looking back, it was one of my best decisions. The video ended up failing and my brand was not taken down with it. Now we are producing our own DVD series… making that “No” a “Yes,” by waiting!

As you become more successful, you may find that you have an “embarrassment of riches” with multiple opportunities coming your way. However, one of the most important things for you to do is to focus; ensuring that every choice you make is aligned with your over-arching life vision. When you say “No,” it is a way to proactively manage your energy, set boundaries, and teach people how to treat you. It gives you time to say “Yes” to the things that really matter. People will respect you more when you have outlined the rules of engagement, and you will demonstrate self-love by raising your own standards. When “No” is said to you, it is often a blessing in disguise. As my Mom says, “God is saving you from yourself!” The timing or situation might just not be right. Instead of being disappointed, view it as a chance to clarify your desires, outline the request in more concrete terms, and possibly work on your Self a little more. When you learn how to say “No” to the right things and receive “No” as an invitation to grow, “YES” becomes even sweeter!


  • Make values-driven decisions that support your Purpose. Focus on one or two major initiatives until they are completed, then move on to the next. Make sure seemingly “little” requests fit your chosen projects.
  • Get all the facts. When someone has made a request for your time, make sure you understand the full impact it will have on your energy. Ask questions and take your time to respond. “I’ll get back to you” works just fine. After you evaluate it, go with your gut.
  • Say it with a smile. When you have decided to say “No,” say it firmly and with a smile. Don’t offer excuses or apologies; feel good about your decision. Remember to be polite in doing so.
  • Embrace the word “No.”. When you are rejected, use it as an opportunity to grow. It may be setting you up for a bigger “Yes.”
  • Remove “have to” from your vocabulary. You don’t “have to” do anything. Everything is a choice!


    Today, I focus my energy.

    I have the strength to say “No” and the flexibility to accept rejection. I take personal responsibility for my wellbeing and my growth. I make values-driven decisions and protect my mental, physical and spiritual space. By setting clear boundaries, I teach people how to treat me. By owning my choices, I am a victor not a victim.

    Today, I focus my energy.

    Listen to the Affirmation:


    Copyright Teresa Kay-Aba Kennedy. Power Living® Column Vol. 59.07, originally published March 2007. Teresa Kennedy has written over 70 “The Power of…” columns that are a part of the Power Living® Empowerment Series and available for syndication. Call 212-901-6913 for more information.

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