From the beginning of time saying No has been difficult for humans. According to Genesis 3, Eve could not say No to the serpent tempting her to eat the fruit from the tree in the center of the Garden of Eden.

The male of our species failed just as miserably when Adam was unable to tell Eve No when she offered him succulent fruit from the forbidden tree. Think humans have made great progress since the creation of the world? Perhaps we have in some areas, but we often still cannot manage to spit out that small word No.

Self-worth should not depend on pleasing other people.

Why is saying a word consisting of a mere two letters so daunting? Part of the problem is that we suffer from the disease to please. If we say No to someone, then that person may not like us as much or not at all anymore. Self-worth should not depend on pleasing other people. Consider what is being requested and not who is doing the requesting. Is the request important? Something only you can do? If the answer to these two questions is Yes then an affirmative answer may be appropriate. If the answer to either of these two questions is No then it may be best to give the unpopular, but appropriate, response of No. You will never be able to please everyone, so do not even try.

Sometimes a No is simply the most responsible response to give.

Another reason a No answer is difficult to give is because the responder feels this answer is uncaring or selfish. We equate refusing a request to a toddler in his Terrible Two’s screaming NO! Toddlers say No because they can. There is no high level thought process behind their response. Unlike toddlers, adults have the ability to consider all the circumstances, including what they are able to do and what resources are available to them. Sometimes a No is simply the most responsible response to give.

If you are constantly saying Yes then you set yourself up for being overcommitted, giving short shrift to relationships, and unable to give a task your best effort.

Why would turning down a request for assistance be a responsible answer? If you are constantly saying Yes then you set yourself up for being overcommitted, giving short shrift to relationships, and unable to give a task your best effort. Always saying yes may also lead to your being viewed as a pushover. You will generate more respect if you set boundaries and say No when that answer is appropriate. You cannot do everything, so allocating your time, energy, and resources, is prudent.

A different way to view giving a No answer is that you are giving a Yes answer to something else. Leadership mentor Michael Hyatt notes, “Every time we say NO to something that is not important, we are saying Yes to something that is.” If you utter the one syllable word, you may be saying No to taking on another work project, but Yes to a manageable schedule. You might be saying No to making homemade cookies for the bake sale at your child’s school, but Yes to keeping your sanity. You may say No to helping your friend clean out his garage, but Yes to spending more of your weekend with your loved ones.

Recognize that saying No is a matter of prioritizing.

As you are saying No, be sure to say No to guilt. Responding to a request with a refusal does not constitute a rejection of that person. Of course you care about your friend, but you cannot spend the day with him to clean out his garage if it means not attending your son’s baseball game. Recognize that saying No is a matter of prioritizing. Your relationship with your family and your sanity come before de-cluttering your friend’s garage. A No response does not mean you do not value your friend, it means that your family and mental health are a priority.

Another reason people avoid giving a No answer is they feel that they have to explain why they are saying No. Writer Elana Gross advises: “Remember: No is a complete sentence.” An explanation is not required. Of course, it is fine to give a reason if you have one and wish to provide it. Your friend will certainly understand that you cannot assist with cleaning his garage because you will be attending Aunt Betty’s funeral. You are not required to reveal that you cannot help clean your friend’s garage because you are tired and plan to nap on Saturday afternoon. Just saying “no” may be the prudent response to certain requests from friends as well as to all sales pitches from drug pushers.

Having a To Do list is a great organizational tool, but do not become a slave to your list. It is okay to tell yourself, “No, I am not going to do everything I wrote down.”

It is not always others to whom we have to say “no.” Sometimes the person whose request we need to refuse is ourselves. We place unreasonable demands upon ourselves and then wonder why we are exhausted and frazzled. Yes, having a To Do list is a great organizational tool, but do not become a slave to your list. It is okay to tell yourself, “No, I am not going to do everything I wrote down.” If no one will be hurt if you fail to complete an item on the day’s to do list, then by all means feel free to say “no” to doing it. The socks in the sock drawer will still be there for organizing tomorrow.

Saying No when appropriate can be a step in the right direction to nourishing family relationships, maintaining sanity, and keeping workloads under control. When viewed from this perspective, saying No more often may be a great goal. In fact, author/chef Ayesha Curry set saying No more often as a resolution for herself for 2019. Let’s aim to use No more in order to say Yes to positive and meaningful things in our lives. No is not a four letter word either literally or figuratively, so go ahead and say it!No

Alice H. Murray is a Florida attorney who has practiced in the area of adoption for thirty years. In college she majored in political science and worked on the reapportionment staff at the Georgia State Capitol following graduation. Alice writes a weekly blog at www.aliceinwonderingland.wordpress.com, is a staff writer for www.adoption.com, and has had her work appear in the Short And Sweet book series and in a Chicken Soup book.