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“Learn to say ‘no.’ It will be of more use to you than to be able to read Latin.” ~Charles H. Spurgeon

Popular aphorisms proclaim the positive power of saying ‘YES’ to self, life, love, etc.

But there’s a big difference between saying ‘yes’ to a short-term discomfort to achieve a long-term benefit (I’m thinking exercise), and saying ‘yes’ to avoid short-term discomfort, but incurring longer-term costs (I’m thinking giving in to your child’s demand because you’re just plain tired).

Saying ‘yes’ too often means inviting ‘yes’ to other things we didn’t intend:

  • When we say yes to too many purchases, we’re inviting clutter and debt
  • When we say yes to too much alcohol, we’re inviting sluggish thinking and guilt
  • When we say yes to too many invitations, we’re inviting resentment and anxiety
  • When we say yes too often to our children, we’re inviting self-indulgence and behavioural issues

I suspect we know these things innately. So, why do we have such a problem saying no?

Beneath the surface “I don’t want to hurt their feelings” or “it’s uncomfortable to change” moves a deeper current.

Whatever we avoid saying “no” to are the things controlling us. Whatever our reason in the moment to avoid saying ‘no’, it reveals a fear: fear of conflict, fear of loss of control, fear of loss of approval, etc.

These are invitations to grow.

Some examples of when to say no:

  • No, I won’t micro-manage right now just because I fear loss of control.
  • No, I won’t stay silent in this meeting right now because I fear potential rejection.
  • No, I won’t buy whatever my child thinks he/she can’t live without at the moment simply because I fear conflict or am motivated by guilt.
  • No, I won’t agree to the invitation I don’t want to attend anyway because I fear loss of the host’s approval.

Being able to say ‘no’ to others when needed and appropriate, begins by being able to say ‘no’ to ourselves first.

“The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is very easy to say yes.” ~Tony Blair

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