You can always say ‘no’

When we first moved to Kansas from Canada in 1966, I felt very free. We knew few people, so there were no social obligations.
I had no responsibilities except being a young mother.
No meetings to attend. No committee obligations. No fundraising cookbooks to edit. No Sunday School class to teach.
No speeches to make. No job to go to.
No one expected anything from me. No one knew me—and no one knew my skills!
Even before we moved, I knew it would be this way. And I realized this was my chance for a reprieve from the busyness of life. My chance to take some time off!
For an entire year, I planned to say “no” to every request. And I did it!
It was a delightful year. I biked around town with my four-year-old son and met many new people. I helped my young children find friends. And had frequent coffees with my new-found friends.
Best of all, I had lots of time to write—and even made a little money writing greeting card verses.
But as all good things end, the 1966-67 school year came to a close. And I was ready to say “yes.”
Indiscriminately, it seems!
The first thing I was asked to do was to be second vice-president of the College Women’s Association. It sounded innocuous enough, so I casually said “yes.”
Only to find out later that I would be in charge of all fundraising dinners two years down the road. Hardly my thing!
That was a lesson to me. It is one time I should have said “no.” Politely, but firmly!
“No” is a very simple word. Only one syllable and two letters. Everybody knows how to pronounce it—and everyone knows what it means.
But if “no” is such a simple word, why is it so hard for some people to say?
Two-year-olds know how to say “no.” Where do you think the nickname “the terrible twos” came from!
“Do you want to go out?” you ask.
They answer, “NO!” just on principle, even if they want to go out.
Oprah says, “If a two-year-old can do it, why is it so hard for a grown woman [or man]?”
Unfortunately, as we get socialized, we learn to be nice. We learn to say “yes” when we really want to say “no.”
But is saying “yes” always our best choice?
“Sure, it’s easier to say ‘yes’ but at what price to your peace of mind,” writes the Mayo Clinic staff. “Saying ‘no’ may be a healthier option for stress relief.”
The Mayo website has a few tips to help you make the right choice:
1). Saying no isn’t necessarily selfish. If you commit too much, you may slight your existing obligations.
2). Sleep on it. Weigh the options. Ask for some time to decide.
3). Be brief and honest. You don’t have to make up excuses, or apologize.
A simple “I have too much on my plate right now” will do.
4). Take guilt out of the equation. Don’t agree because of feelings of guilt or obligation.
And most important of all:
5). Always saying yes isn’t healthy.
So remember, if you are feeling overwhelmed, you can say “No.” Make your choice judiciously and never feel guilty about the decision you make.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at or visit

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