Being nice is not the same as being compassionate or spiritual. The best lesson for anyone on a sacred journey to enlightenment is to learn how and when to say no.
When we say yes to please others, and hopelessly overcommit ourselves, we actually are saying no. We don’t realize that when we say yes to the frivolous, we are saying no to the real. Our dreams, our hearts, our dearest loved ones are the ones we say no to when we say yes to busy-ness, compulsive pleasing, and inauthentic authority figures.
Saying ‘No’ is an Act of Compassion
The most compassionate choice, for you and for others is, to be honest, and say no clearly when it’s a no for you. You are a being of light and energy, you’re connected to the entire cosmos. So if your truest urge is to turn down a request, then you must say no.
Because if it’s a ‘no’ for you, then it’s a ‘no’ for everyone. The person you’re saying no to may not realize it at the time, but trust yourself and your intuition and say a kind no.
Saying no is scary. It had me terrified for a very long time. I had to eventually realize that I was the authority in my own life. Only I know what is best for me. Learning to say no in a firm, clear and loving way is a skill I had to learn.
One phenomenal book that will help you say no with love and grace is The Art of Extreme Self-Care: 12 Practical and Inspiring Ways to Love Yourself More by Cheryl Richardson. It is absolutely crucial to take care of yourself and sometimes to do that you need to say yes to recharging tasks and no to draining ones. Resting is important to having a balanced and happy life.
I study my friends who have mastered it the way others study art or cooking. I collect examples of how to elegantly say no. A scrapbook of beautiful boundaries. I see each memory of a beautiful ‘no’ as a wonderful moment of ‘yes’. I know that when my friends tell me no they are saying yes to a deeper part of themselves. For that I am grateful.
Setting kind and wise boundaries creates space for freedom. It is empowering for you, but it is also immensely helpful for others. One of the easiest ways to get started saying no to others is to open the conversation with gratitude.
How You Can Say No
Say thank you for the offer or request with something like, “Thank you for thinking of me, that’s nice of you”. Acknowledge the kind intent underneath the person’s request of your time. They like you! Then say something like “I checked in and I won’t be able to.” Or even clearer, “No thank you, it doesn’t align with me at this time.”
You do not need to say why it’s a ‘no’ for you. Simple is best.
Of course, you can have a discussion with the other person for clarity and closure. Usually though, clear, simple, and true statements are best.
What if They Get Mad?
If you absolutely know it’s a ‘no forever’ and you’ll never change your mind in the future, then be as firm as the situation requires. Don’t leave the door open and say you might be able to later; it just creates a more difficult conversation later. If you get push back, you can say “No, that doesn’t work for me”.
And of course, if you get caught in a conversation where the other person isn’t respecting your kind no, then change the subject or leave the conversation. When you set a boundary with others, especially a clearly stated one, it is completely reasonable to have them respect your decisions.
Boundaries are the containers for our connections with others. A healthy relationship has healthy boundaries where each person can say yes and no as it aligns with them. This is a work in progress of course! It can take time to learn how to communicate with both compassion and clarity. For a great resource on boundaries, check out Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brene Brown.