Tracy Playle

Coach. Public speaker. Consultant

Saying no is a selfless act

How do you feel when you say no to someone or something? Guilty? Frustrated? Sad? Worried? 

As kind and compassionate human beings, our default can easily be to say yes to every request that comes our way. 

“Will you help me with…?” “Yes of course”

“Do you fancy doing this with me…?” “Count me in! I’ll buy the first round!”

Sound familiar? It certainly is to me. 

We have so many stories that stop us from saying no. Check off how many of these have ran through your head one time or another:

  • “They’ll hate me if I say no”

  • “They’ll never ask me again”

  • “I owe them”

  • “I want them to like me”

  • “They expect me to say yes”

  • “I’d already said yes, so I can’t say no now”

  • “They’ll do something for me if I do this thing for them”

  • “I’m the only one that can do this”

  • “They deserve it”

  • “This is a great chance to prove myself”

  • “My head is saying no… but my mouth just said yes”

  • “My mother will never forgive me if I say no”

  • “I watched that programme about saying yes to everything to create opportunities in our lives and now I feel like it’s the right thing to do”.

I could go on… and on. This list is probably just a small sample of reasons why I personally have said yes to doing things over the years. 

Now, look at that list again. Do you see that every single item on this list is about somebody else deciding how you live your life? Every time we say yes, we agree to live a moment of our lives on somebody else’s terms. Sound like an empowered life? Nope. Not to me. 

Now, I’m not for a second saying that we should start saying no to everything. Here are some great reasons to say yes:

  • It’s something that you actually want to do

  • It’s something that you’ll learn from

  • It will create real opportunity and possibility for you

  • Being in service and support of others can be a powerful way to source ourselves

  • You just fancy getting out of the house

  • It completely serves your goals and dreams and who you are. 

So, this isn’t an argument for selfishness (what the hell is selfishness anyway? Oh yes, somebody else’s judging critical voice that we can choose to ignore…). Instead, it’s an argument for living a life that serves us, empowering ourselves. And here’s the really magical part. By saying no, you serve the person that you’re saying no to too.

Have you ever invited someone out for a coffee or dinner and then on the day just really not felt up to it? But you went along anyway because it was your idea and you didn’t want to change a commitment? Well, what if an hour before the commitment they were also thinking to themselves “Gah, I really don’t fancy that coffee with Tracy today. I mean, I really like her - she’s great - but I just want to take a bath and have some alone time right now. But I’ll go along anyway as I don’t want to let her down.” 

I bet that this has happened in your life. You probably don’t know it happened. But I bet it has. Probably multiple times.  

What if instead you just posed the idea of saying no? Or just rescheduled? Or just said no altogether?

It doesn’t stop there. By saying no you serve the other person at a far deeper level. You set an example for them and thus empower them to start serving their own needs. In other words, you start a chain reaction of people living a life that empowers and fulfils them. And you started that but - with kindness and compassion - being the one bold enough to say “no, thank you. I love you but…”. In a way, by saying no from an empowered place, you become a mini life coach to everybody in your life. 

And those stories that we create that stop us from saying no? They are all pure fantasy. The future hasn’t happened. As brilliant as you are, I’m quite sure you actually can’t predict it. So that’s all they are: stories, fantasies. Stop making shit up that hasn’t happened. 

So, how about we tell a different story? Ready to take that on? Ready to say no to something that isn’t serving you? Off you go. Empower yourself and set the best of examples to others.