When Saying NO is The Most Important Word to Say

It is all rooted in our childhood. While growing up, our parents or caretakers have the primary responsibility to love and care for us and to encourage us to develop the basic skills of life and work.
Their love and care keeps us safe and secure until we are old enough to care for ourselves. Through the simplest but most important words of YES and NO, they teach us what is right or wrong. A child’s worst fear at that age is being rejected or abandoned and any child will do anything to retain this sense of belonging. So we all learn to play along to get along. We become eager to please whom we love. We carry this from home into schools and elsewhere. In the schools, we want to bond with the peers to the point of sacrificing a sense of self to belong to the group. We have all been there and done that. Hair has been bleached, noses pierced, ear lobes pierced, bodies tattooed and alcohol tasted all for the sake of fitting in.

Through the guidance of our parents, relatives and teachers and the experiences we go through, we learn and grow. Among the important things we learn is that each one of us is different and has different skills and talents. This gives each child the responsibility for finding and getting what he/she wants in life. Secondly we learn that we are simply human and fallible and cannot please all the people all the time. At the same time, we are reminded to take responsibility to live our lives interdependent on others. A sense of own identity helps each one of us to create her/his own boundaries and defend them. Gradually you develop principles and values and over time you learn to trust yourself and stand up for yourself. You begin to assert your own desires and wishes where you are while at the same time respecting the needs and feeling of the other person. Since you are now free to be yourself and it is coming naturally to you, saying NO to what you do not believe in becomes easier.

All over the world, the professional woman faces the biggest challenge of finding a healthy work-life balance as she rises to the top. Many of us have found ourselves taking on too much and too fast. Getting to the top has come to us at a cost. This is one major milestone in one’s life where you have to pause to learn or re-learn saying a firm NO when choosing to take on commitments. This has to be done every day otherwise you get overwhelmed with work. You do not just stumble into this place; you have to work towards it with the help of others. Once achieved, you have to protect it. Nothing is as frightening as being out of control. The simple words YES and NO that our parents used to prepare and guide us through life are the same words we use to run our lives smoothly. They become more significant as we walk through life. One has to think carefully before using them and when one does, one has to say them confidently.

Here are a few quotes to indicate that each one of us still has the basic right to say NO.

“No ‘’ is a complete sentence. It does not require an explanation to follow. You can truly answer someone’s request with a simple No.” Sharon . E. Rainey

“It takes true courage and real humility to say No or Yes.” Ernest Agyemang Yeboah.

The common thread that runs through the lives of great men and women who lived rich and fulfilling lives and worked for the common good, is that they were able to balance Yes and No in their lives.
Tony Blair( Prime Minister of the United Kingdom 1997-2007) once said : “ The art of leadership is saying No not saying Yes. It is very easy to say Yes.”

Over time most of us learn to  say NO to unfair demands or requests and not to allow anyone to argue you out of your NO.Similarly, learn to respect others when they say NO to you. Keep practicing it ; it gets better with time.

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4 thoughts on “When Saying NO is The Most Important Word to Say

  1. Muteesa said in his book that “Seldom do you find anybody as gifted as Katikkiro Kintu in saying ‘No’. During the Lancaster Hoise negotians in the 50, Kintu was alone in foreseeing the catastrophe that was to engulf country. He was alone in saying ‘No’ to proposals that nobody else foresaw. History was to prove him catastrophically right.


    1. Thank you for this comment. By the time I wrote this post I had come across many people who were having difficulty in saying a bold NO.No doubt we all struggle with this every day. It is easier to say YES than NO. So I am thrilled to learn that Katikkiro Kintu was one man on record who could not be argued out of his NO. We should learn from him. Years later,the Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair had come to same conclusion in that quote: The art of leadership is saying NO, not saying YES. It is very easy to say YES. And someone whom I cannot remember now had said that until you learn how to confidently say NO to so many things, you still always say YES to many things. I would say that we all need to learn the art of saying NO confidently if we are to live balanced lives.


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