I’m sure quite how many times I have heard some variation which suggests that No! is a complete sentence. I don’t have to explain why I won’t do something. I can simply say – No.
It occurred to me today that the challenge of saying no lies in a distinction I have never quite seen until now. When I am saying No in the implied by ‘No is a complete sentence’, I am really saying ‘No, I won’t help you’. Not ‘No, I can’t help you’.
To admit that I can’t help someone is easy. I am unable to offer the assistance you request but let me point you in a direction which may be helpful.
To admit that I won’t help is something different.
In most cases the person is asking something which to them seems not unreasonable. To be fair they may not actually help in the same way in the same circumstances but we all play those double standards. In most cases the requests are usually about influence, power or money.
The cost of my effort is, therefore, often hidden but I feel it in my bones. Sometimes the ‘feeling in my bones’ is simply my own insecurity. Sometimes it is a real cost that the other doesn’t recognise.
Either way actively saying no is important. If it is the former I get to reflect on what I may need to work on. If the latter, no harm is done to me and I have honoured what I feel is important in my life. Significantly, the person who has made the request knows where they stand.
When the answer is ‘No I will not’, it can feel easier to simply procrastinate and fail to answer. But to do so does a disservice to everyone involved.
Next time someone asks you to do something that you don’t want to do ask yourself is it because you cannot do it, or because you will not do it. If you have no intention of doing what is asked of you, stand up and say no.