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The Power of Saying “No”

Posted June 24, 2014 by Marie Arcidiacono in On the Ladder
“No” it’s one of the first words babies learn how to say. If you are around small children you have probably heard them say the word “No” and have probably laughed at how “cute” they sound when they say the word “No.”

So what happens as we grow up? Why do some of us become uncomfortable using the word “No” or reversely, why do some of us have a hard time understanding and respecting when someone who tells us “No?”

Why is the word “No” somewhat confusing for us? What is it about this one, two letter word that causes us anxiety, uncertainty, anger, frustration, annoyance, etc.?

Why have we become so accustomed to the word “No” having a negative connotation to it? Think about it, how often do you say or hear the word “No” and feel good about it?

I’ve been wondering about this for some time now, and the communication scholar in me in curious.


Saying “No” to people is not any easy task for many of us, and seriously, if you are someone who can tell people “No” relatively easily then PLEASE share in the comments! Some of us are good at saying “No” in certain situations or with certain people, but then completely uncomfortable with it in other situations.

From a communication standpoint, this makes sense. Our environment and our relationships with people affect our ability to communicate with them and with our ability to say “No” to them.

Sometimes it’s “easier” to tell someone “Yes” but if that’s not what we truly want to say to them, does that instant, short term “feel relived” feeling stick around? Probably not. I’m willing to guess that some of us out there have said “Yes” to taking on ANOTHER project at work, or ANOTHER volunteer opportunity or ANOTHER social obligation because we felt like we “needed to” or because we didn’t want to “make the other person feel bad.” Any of this ringing true for anyone?

The problem is we can become resentful or regretful or remorseful of these short term “Yes” responses and that’s not good for us or our well-being.

So, what can we do? How can we get better at saying “No” and not feeling guilty about it?

I wish I had the answer, so readers (I sure hope there are readers of this post, ha-ha) I want to know: How do you feel about the word “No?” How comfortable are you/how does it make you feel to tell someone “No?” How comfortable are you/ how does it make you feel to be told “No?” How have you gotten better at saying “No” in your life? 

And hey, it’s perfectly okay to read this and say, “No, I’m not going to comment” because if there’s one thing I’ve learned: It’s OKAY to say “No.”

About the Author

Marie Arcidiacono

Marie is a Speech Communication professor who also coaches a debate team. She truly loves what she does and hopes to continue to teach for decades to come. In her "free time" she is an avid runner. Marie enjoys running a variety of distances, including the Half Marathon. She is dedicated to living as healthy a lifestyle as she can while balancing a very busy schedule. Marie loves to network and share ideas so writing for Career Girl Network is perfect for her. You can also read about her adventures on Why Not Girl!.