The Galleon - Portsmouth's Student Newspaper


Your View

Why We Need To Learn To Say ‘NO’ More

The hidden power in not overstretching yourself

Saying ‘no’ is such a horrible thing to do. As social creatures we struggle with the concept of letting others down however there is a time and a place to draw the line. But first of all we need to learn how to say that dreaded word.

First things first, it is perfectly okay to say ‘no’ to someone. In fact the more we open ourselves to the possibility of saying it the more we are comfortable when people say it to us. I am not saying that everyone should run around screaming ‘NO!’ to one another. I struggle to say no to things and this in the past has seen me in some pretty awkward situations, such as; helping an elderly lady do all of her shopping, taking a bus journey that took me an hour away from home to show someone how to get to their destination and entering the grounds of the Shugborough Hall somewhat illegally while helping a man search for the Holy Grail. It wasn’t through fear of missing out that these events occurred, it was merely that I felt I was obliged to help in someway and when we only give out a quick and easy ‘yes’ we find that we can overcommit our time, energy and financial resources.

According to the associate professor of marketing at the C.T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston, Vanessa M. Patrick; “The ability to communicate ‘no’ really reflects that you are in the driver’s seat of your own life…it gives you a sense of empowerment.”

However it is always easier said in theory than literally said in practise. One technique found by Professor Patrick and Henrik Hagvedt, in a study in the Journal of Consumer Research, is that participants that said ‘I don’t’ rather than ‘I can’t’ were able to remove themselves from commitments being made of them.

“We live in a ‘yes’ culture, we fear missing out and not experiencing everything and where it’s expected that the person who is going to get ahead in their life or career is a go-getter who says yes to everything that comes their way.”

While ‘I can’t’ sounds like an excuse that is up to debate or negotiation, ‘I don’t’ gives the impression that you have very specific limitations that the task you are being asked about isn’t meeting or respecting. Although with that in mind, saying ‘I don’t want to’ will make you sound uncaring, instead saying ‘I don’t have the time, I’m sorry, I feel that if I did it I would not be able to give my full attention to it’. This clarifies your answer as a clear no while also admitting that you feel the task at hand being offered to you is of importance and that you don’t want it to suffer as you would have to rush it.

I remember as a teenager being home alone and some Jehovah’s Witnesses came to the door. I didn’t know how to, in all good faith, tell them to go away and that I wasn’t interested. Instead I made an excuse about being late for a blood transfusion which led to a reading on why that is ultimately a sin and how I could absolve.

Charity workers in town centre who want you to sign up with your bank details are some of the easiest people to say no to. The worst are co-workers asking if you will cover a shift or friends asking for you to help on their essays (despite the fact that yours is still unfinished and due the same day) and family members who ask all sorts of things and because you share the same DNA* you feel you must (*you share similar DNA with a lot of people).

Sarah Knight wrote a book entitled, The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving A F**k, in this book she explains that “personal policies are an excellent way to conserve your f**ks swiftly, efficiently, and with an extremely low risk of hurt feelings”. These personal policies work by, for example, telling your friend who has set up a Kickstarter campaign that you have a personal policy not to pay toward them. If you pay toward one Kickstarter campaign, why that one? why not another? Or all? which is financially impossible, trust me. Using the word ‘policy’ makes it appear to be a binding obligation you have already set up and it goes for a lot of things.

We live in a ‘yes’ culture, we fear missing out and not experiencing everything and where it’s expected that the person who is going to get ahead in their life or career is a go-getter who says yes to everything that comes their way. This may lead to us burning ourselves out and after a while of saying ‘yes’ to everything it can become difficult.

“No is word that demonstrates how much power you have over your own time.”

Learning to say ‘no’ and understanding your own goals is when you really see people starting to shine in their lives. This way you can say yes to the opportunities that really push you toward where you wanna be instead of floating in a sea of tasks you kinda agreed to thinking there would be a pay off later down the line. Secondly, if you are the sort of person who utilises to-do lists and plans a schedule, leave some free space in your day or week to allow yourself to explore some new opportunities and interests.

If you are worried about coming across as rude or that your ‘no’ may seem threatening, new research from the University of Columbia found that our preconceptions of our own assertiveness are vastly misinformed. According to the study, people who thought they were being reasonable to over assertive were in fact seen by others as being under assertive. If you are feeling confrontational there is a good chance the person or people you are talking to cannot see that.

Everyone has a different amount they can pile on like a somewhat varying Buckaroo having tiny items piled on your back until you kick off and scream at someone that your so very tired, that person normally being an innocent person who merely asked you the time. No is word that demonstrates how much power you have over your own time.

You will have obligations but they are within the limits of your control, it’s about operating at the most sufficient level possible for you to achieve the most.

For many of us that means living a less stressful life which is easier when you know how to safe guard yourself from unreasonable demands.

This content is one individual's opinion and does not represent the opinion of The Galleon. If you disagree with this article or have any further comment to make please email

Comments are closed.