Learning to Say NO!


Anyone who is serious about accomplishing goals needs to be very firm and know when to say No! When you realise you are not “jollof rice” and can not do everything everyone wants you to do you have more time to deal with what’s really important. Now noone is saying you should never say “yes” 🙂  but you really need to learn how to pioritise and when its necessary to say a nice “no”. This is something I am glad I learnt and it has helped me immensely. Here’s something I wrote for BellaNaija last year on the importance of learning to say no.


You are checking in your luggage at London Heathrow when the pretty lady at the counter tells you rather curtly, “Sir, your bag is overweight, please step aside and sort it out, or pay for excess.”
“Ooh,” you moan in your head. You know the only reason it’s overweight is because your childhood friend Paul brought a “few things” last night for you to take home. The few things turned out to be several gifts for his mum and all of his six siblings. You knew the things were more than you had allowance for, but how on earth could you have said no to Paul?

One of the first words out of a baby’s lips is “NO”, and (much to our chagrin), our little ones relish using that word. Alas, if only we could all grow up understanding the virtue of this simple word. We learn about saying “please” and “thank you”, but as a former people pleaser, I wish I had learnt the virtue of saying no many years ago. The truth is that many times, we find ourselves in awkward situations simply because we cannot bear to say no, especially to people we love or look up to. Let’s look at a few different situations where you may need the strength to say no.

At work
It’s often said that the reward for hard work is more work. Hard workers definitely get more work done. This is one reason the boss just piles work on you. The other reason is that he knows you won’t give any excuses, a.k.a. you won’t say no. Now, while there is nothing wrong with being a hard worker or pushing yourself, there are times when you end up biting off more than you chew, and this could leave you all burnt out. Besides, if for any reason you are not able to meet all your deadlines when due, you will end up looking irresponsible. So what do you do? The next time your boss gives you “urgent” work that you know would be pushing it, how about saying, “As long as you don’t need it within a week as I also have to submit the other 5 reports you gave me next week”. Your boss may get the message and look for someone else to handle it, or be more generous with his timelines.

With your children
Children learn to manipulate their folks pretty early in life, and if you let them, they will always want their way. Recently I noticed that my 21 month old was loving TV a little too much, as whenever I turned it off, he would cry in anger. However, switching the TV back on will do him no favours. Saying yes to every request your child makes isn’t love – it’s spoiling them rotten. They could easily end up being self-centred if they are raised believing that they are entitled to getting everything they want. Remember that with children, what more important is your presence and not just presents. Yes, they may throw a tantrum when you say no, but for your own good and theirs, you must learn to stand your ground and say no when it matters.

With family
Uncle Rauf loves to send you to run all his errands. Meanwhile, his son Kunle (who has fair less responsibilities than you do) ends up doing nothing. Why? Because you and your uncle are as thick as thieves? Well, maybe, but it may also be because he knows you won’t say no. While there is nothing wrong with helping a friend or family member, the moment you begin to feel resentful then perhaps it’s time to say no sometimes. Remember, “No” should never be said rudely, but you could just say, “Uncle, I would love to help, but at the moment I am swamped. Abeg no vex, maybe at another time.” Yes, your uncle may feel bad for a moment, but as long as you have a solid relationship it should not be a problem.

With friends
You really don’t like going to loads of weddings with your friend, especially since you usually have no idea who is getting married, but because you find it hard to turn her down, you go every time and feel uncomfortable through it all. Yes, you should do things with friends, and yes, there are times you need to go out of your way and make sacrifices, but if it’s something that makes you truly uncomfortable, it’s time to say no. I know a lady that got married to her friend just because she felt sorry for him and could not turn him down! While that may seem extreme, the truth is that when you find it hard to say no to small things, you may find it even harder with big things!

Social and Religious activities
Everyone likes a performer, and if you are good at mobilising others, there is no doubt that you will keep getting requests to participate in different activities such as fundraisers, conferences and the like. While this is an honour, you need to be careful that you don’t take up all your time dealing with these activities and end up with no time for yourself or your immediate family and friends. If you are on several committees at your place of worship, or belong to several social groups, you need to be sure you are not taking on more than you can comfortably handle. The next time you receive an invitation to head yet another group, you may want to thank them for choosing you and ask for a little time to make a decision, or gracefully turn it down. It really is better to say no than to accept and then break down from stress, or do a shoddy job due to lack of time or interest.

So next time you feel the pressure piling up on you, remember you are not all things to all people, and you do have the power to nicely say one simple word: NO.


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  1. Great reminder, Chiomah: people who love to help and serve often fall into the habit of saying yes. At work, I’d also give my boss the option of prioritizing the new task ahead of the tasks already on my plate, with the understanding that I cannot do all the tasks within the original timeline.

    I listened to a great podcast by Brendon Burchard (title: Stop Being a Helpful Burnout) that mentioned the importance of saying no often and putting the onus on the other person to make your no a yes. If they can’t make a good case for why you should change your mind, then it stays a no.

    1. Yes! its comes from a place of trying to help but can easily go awry. Thats good advice unless someone gives you a good reason to say Yes then there is no point (wil look for that podast).. thanks Jummy.

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