Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

The Power of NO

I’m delighted to have a special guest today–Susan Newman, Ph.D., author of The Book of NO: 250 Ways to Say It—and Mean It and Stop People-Pleasing Forever (McGraw-Hill, 2006) Saying NO is something many people have a problem with. This book is full of ways to learn how to say NO and mean it.

The Power of NO: Take Back Your Life One Word at a Time
By Susan Newman, Ph.D.


In today’s busy world, your most valuable commodity is time. Most of us are pulled in many directions by family, friends, or co-workers. Favors and requests come your way every day without fail, and too often without thinking, you say, “Yes. Sure. No problem. I can do that” when you really want to say “no.”

Refusing someone is rarely easy and is often downright uncomfortable. But constantly giving in creates anxiety, anger, added stress, regret, and feelings of powerlessness. One little word will let you take back your life. The power of “NO” is limitless. When used properly, the word “no” allows you to stop the yes-habit and start living your life the way YOU want to.

Stepping into NO: The Basics

Before you can say “no” readily, you will need to keep these five basic steps in mind:
1. Make a list of your yeses over the period of a week. The number of times you say “yes” may surprise you. The amount of yeses you are comfortable with will be different for everyone, but the true gauge is how pressured, tight for time, or resentful you feel.
2. Pay attention to how you parcel out your time. When your time is well managed, you’ll keep some in reserve for what’s most important to you.
3. Get your priorities straight. Decide who it is you want to say yes to, and who has first “crack” at your time.
4. Know your limits—start to define them if you don’t know what they are. Know your emotional and physical limitations. Keep these limits in mind before you commit your time, your talent, your support or merely your presence.
5. Give control to others to ease your responsibilities. Eliminating the need to run things yourself to be sure they turn out the way you like them relieves much of the pressure you put on yourself.


Flexing Your “NO Muscle”
Here are a few more thoughts from The Book of NO that will help you start flexing your “NO Muscle:”
• When approached with a request, pause briefly and analyze what is really being asked of you. Make sure you fully understand the magnitude of the job before you blurt out “yes.”
• If you decide to say “yes” to something, be very specific about the amount of time you have to devote to the task, and, if necessary, alter it to make it more manageable.
• Try repeating an affirmation to help you stick to your decisions. Repeat something like, “I will not give in,” to remind yourself that you deserve to be in control of your time.

Remember, you can say “no” and still remain a caring, committed person. Don’t fret over the consequences of your “no.” In general, people don’t think about you as much as you worry about what they think, and if you’ve handled the situation calmly, the backlash will be absent or insignificant. Remind yourself daily that “no” is liberating and to say it is your right.


You can say “no” with the best of them! For more tips, see:

Susan Newman, Ph.D. is a social psychologist and author of The Book of NO: 250 Ways to Say It–and Mean It and Stop People-pleasing Forever (McGraw-Hill, Dec. 2005), Nobody’s Baby Now: Reinventing Your Adult Relationship with Your Mother and Father, Parenting an Only Child, The Joys and Challenges of Raising Your One and Only, and Little Things Long Remembered: Making Your Children Feel Special Every Day, among others.

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