The Power of No

Mike Robbins
3 min readMay 24, 2024

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There is real power in saying no. However, this isn’t always easy to do, especially for those of us, like me, who struggle with people-pleasing or worry about upsetting others.

It’s often particularly challenging to say no to certain people and in specific situations. Have you ever said yes when you really meant no? Most of us have.

What makes saying no difficult?

What is it about saying no that many of us have a hard time with? For me, it comes down to a few specific things:

  1. I get scared that people will get upset, be disappointed, and/or will judge me.
  2. I’m not a huge fan of hearing no from others myself, so being the one saying it can be difficult.
  3. I pride myself on being open, willing, and ready to say yes at all times. In other words, saying no often seems like a failure, an admission of weakness, or just a negative thing in general.

However, saying no is one of the most important aspects of operating with balance, integrity, and authenticity. Our ability to say no with confidence is one of the most important aspects of creating peace and having healthy boundaries. This is about honoring ourselves and being real — it’s not about being cynical or unwilling.

The power of saying no is essential for healthy boundaries

Saying no is about prioritizing our own needs and well-being, and maintaining autonomy over our time and energy. When we say no to things that don’t align with our goals, values, or interests, we create space for activities and relationships that are truly meaningful and fulfilling. Saying no can also prevent burnout, reduce stress, and help us focus on what truly matters. It’s a vital skill in maintaining balance and fostering healthy relationships, both personally and professionally.

The majority of people I know, especially these days, live their lives with a feeling of overwhelm that either runs them or at least gets in their way from time to time. At the root of a lot of our stress, struggle, and overwhelm — at work and in life — is our inability to say no when necessary.

When we don’t say no in an authentic way, we end up feeling burdened, resentful, and even victimized (although, ironically, we forget that we’re the ones who said yes in the first place).

Saying no has both consequences and benefits

Sometimes we will upset, disappoint, or annoy people when we say no. We also may have quite a bit of fear about saying no to certain people (spouse, boss, co-worker, friend, child, etc.) or in certain situations (at work, with clients, with our in-laws, and more).

However, there are huge benefits to us enhancing our capacity and comfort with no. Tapping into the power of no gives us a sense of freedom and liberation. It also fosters trust in our relationships. When we consistently express our genuine intentions by saying both yes when we mean it and no when we mean it, people can truly count on us.

When we say no with confidence, honesty, and compassion, we do one of the best things we can possibly do to honor ourselves and create a healthy environment around us.

How do you feel about saying “no?” What can you do to enhance your ability and capacity to say “no” with confidence and ease? Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more below.

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Mike Robbins

Mike Robbins is the author of five books including his latest, We’re All in This Together, which released April 2020. He’s an expert in teamwork and leadership.