Kathy Murphy, Ph.D.

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How To Say No

 “I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself,  if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul.” – Oriah Mountain Dreamer

This idea of disappointing another and being accused of betrayal is a powerful force.  Our fear of not being loved keeps us in a bind.  And, in particular,  when it comes to saying “No.”

One of the reasons we don’t Just Say No is because we really don’t know how to – not in a way that feels okay to us or others.  We can learn to be better at saying “No” in a more heartfelt, caring, and effective way but, make no mistake, it’s almost always difficult.

The dilemma for most of the really hard “No’s” is that it isn’t only about disappointing someone else.  Most times it’s about having to say “No” to ourselves.  But remember, ultimately, this isn’t about saying “No.”  This is about saying “Yes” to who you really are, what you really want and your true path.

One such time for me was my first marriage.  Mine was a classic story, I loved him so much and I so much wanted to get married.  But, in all honesty, I knew, clearly, beforehand, that I shouldn’t.  But I did it anyway.  I had many signs.  I heard the inner voice saying “No matter how much you want this, this isn’t good for you”. The closer it came to the marriage ceremony, the louder the voice got. I still didn’t listen.  At that point, I was consciously working very hard not to pay attention. I denied and I rationalized. Needless to say, this didn’t end well.

Here are some tips for How to Say No:

1.  Knowing When to Say No

When is it the time to  push for a dream, when is it the time to let go and flow, and when is it time to say “No”? It can be confusing.  The answer varies and requires the deeper work of knowing yourself – and not just the rational, logical facts.  We need a lot of inner wisdom and guidance about when it is time to say “No”.

2.  Know What You Know.

Don’t be reactive.  Before you make decisions, stop… take some time.  Strive for clarity. Work through feelings and circumstances.  Ask for guidance.  Learn to listen.  And when you do hear it… pay attention.

3.  Manage Your Fears.

Learn not to be scared.  Know that you will make mistakes (although we all know there is no such thing). Remember that every choice we make and every direction we take leads us somewhere and yields something and gives us an opportunity to grow.

4.  Do It Anyway.

When we hear the small still voice that says, “No, that won’t be good for you,” odds are, it won’t be good for you… no matter how much you twist, turn, deny or avoid.  Recently I had to say “no” to someone and something that greatly mattered to me. I had started hearing that voice say, “Kathy, pay attention. Something here is not good for you.”   I struggled. I wanted to turn it inside out and around. I heard myself saying “Well, maybe things would change or be different.” (Isn’t that  always a warning sign?)

5.  Learn How to Say “No.”

Megan LeBoutillier wrote a great book wherein the title alone is a life altering idea – “No” is a Complete Sentence.  And sometimes it is. Sometimes the best approach is to Just Say No, but you want to say your “No” in a way that is honest and loving. If so, here are some examples of what you could say:

  • Just like the inner wise  voice, you can simply say,  “No, this isn’t good for me.”
  • You can say, “No, this doesn’t work for me.”
  • “Thank you, but no.”

Don’t expect others to  make it easy for you.  People don’t like to hear “No.” Expect others to try to dissuade you from your clarity.  And, most times, they deserve an opportunity to state their case.  However, if your inner wisdom still says “Uh, sorry, No,” you may need to learn a few more skills.  The broken record technique is where you stay resolved and clear, yet loving and caring and, like a broken record, you repeat, “No.”  Sometimes over and over.

  • “I appreciate that you are disappointed, but No.”
  • “I know that you feel I let you down, but No…”
  • “I believe you think it would work out and that you really want it too, and I care about that, but No…”

 6.  Trust the Process.

Then step back. Trust the natural laws of the universe. Even if we can’t see it immediately, trust that when we are doing what is true for our lives, from our hearts, we are undoubtedly doing what is right for everyone. However, this is where we are most likely to fear the accusation of betrayal.  Be ready. Stand firm. And, again, know what you know.

This week, I decided to listen to my inner wisdom and say “No.”  It was hard because I was saying “No” to both myself and my friend.  Yet in that difficult moment, I realized something monumental.  I realized that I could trust myself to be true to myself and my inner guidance – that I would not betray my own soul. I realized that I would take care of myself.  This is the real reason you want to learn how to say “No.”

Powerful Questions:

What might you need to say “No” to in your life?

What would you like to say  “Yes” to in your life?



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