Peace in Relationships: The Power of No

The little word no is such a powerful word when we use it well. No can change the well-being of our life and relationships. No can also be incredibly dis-empowering when we disregard its value and power to protect our health, our sense of integrity, our dreams and the time and energy it takes to realize them.

Why is this little word so hard to use, at least well? What I hear most from people about their resistance to saying no is the fear of not being liked, of not feeling like they belong or of not being needed (translation meaning not feeling significant).

Our inner consciousness offers us ‘red flags’ when something is amiss and it often speaks to us through our senses and our body, namely the gut (hence the phrase “I have this gut feeling”). Frequently, people share with me how they dismiss or disregard their gut instinct, for many reasons. Some go so far as to say, but how can we trust our gut, our intuition, that something is amiss and we need to say no?

Years ago, when I took significant steps to learn about intuition and to trust mine, I used a systematic approach of writing down what ‘my gut said’ towards something and ‘what my head said’. I then wrote out the results of what happened when I listened to my intuition and when I dismissed it. It’s a  powerful little exercise that lets one see exactly where one went against one’s gut instinct and what happened – as well as when one went with it. It was a turning point in saying ‘no’ to over-analyzing a situation and learning to trust my own inner wisdom that supports the knowledge of my mind.

Peace of mind comes with the practice of saying yes and no in alignment with one’s sense of self-respect, truth and self-dignity, especially in relationships. I have discovered that when I say ‘no’ and mean it, while also saying ‘yes’ when I mean it helps others experience my honesty and trustworthiness. When others know that I’m speaking honestly and they can trust my response as genuine, they aren’t left guessing about what I’m saying and meaning.

6-year_old_tortoise_shell_catOne of the best examples I can think of who exemplifies the appropriate use of no is our cat Taz. Her no comes without apology, without remorse or guilt and without much hesitation. It’s an emphatic ‘no’ to anything she doesn’t want, need or like. She doesn’t eat food she doesn’t want or like. She swats at anyone who doesn’t attend to her needs (or maybe not in the right way or not long enough). She speaks clearly and cleanly. Taz has been an ally in my teaching and coaching over the years as she has a keen awareness who needs to practise and learn self-respect by applying this two letter word.

Last week I coached Rosie Fernandez, a producer at CBC, as part of a radio show about the POWER OF NO. I invite you to listen to it. It’s a fun show and perhaps you will hear yourself in the stories that are told.

The truth is that if you never say NO, you are not showing up honestly in your relationships. It also says that you aren’t saying YES to the right things, time and energy for what you really want either. No is a big word. But even a two-year old knows its power – and practises this word OFTEN! If you’ve lost touch with this word, then as Rosie discovered, it’s time to make it your new friend and gain some momentum in creating peace in your relationships.

And Taz … I trust and respect her. I never question whether she’s being honest with me. She is! Her use of no connects us and makes our relationship more peaceful … because it’s truthful. I wish this same peace in relationships for all of us.


Shirley Lynn Martin