Don’t Say Can’t, Say Don’t

23 Feb 2022

I wrote last week about the importance of saying No and gave some ideas on how you can decide when to say No.

One of the things I have discovered is that others respect you more when you say No. They are less likely to take you for granted and more likely to recognise your principles and priorities. We are, after all, not saying No to be selfish, but to ensure that our own needs are met first, so we can be ultimately more generous with our time and resources, not less.

Once we know when to say No, we need to find ways of saying No that are respectful and do not harm our relationships. If our No is rude and abrupt, then it’s counterproductive; everyone concerned will feel bad.

People are less likely to feel rejected by your No if they understand that your decision is not personal, so one way of saying No is to refer to a principle you have. In my business I am sometimes asked if I will offer a discount on a service. I used to get flustered by this, feel obliged to make a reduction in the price and then feel resentful. I now just smile and say, “I have a rule that I don’t offer discounts.” The subject is closed, and I haven’t even had to use the word No.

Another way is to refer to other commitments. “I don’t have time right now, as I have a lot of things on today,” or “I’ve promised to take my children out this weekend, so I’m going to pass on this one, thanks.” Again, you have said no, without saying no.

If you would like to help the person who is asking you, then consider a counteroffer. Maybe you don’t have the time or skills to do what the person is asking but you could offer to ask your co-worker John, who does have those skills. You don’t have the energy to take your friend to see their mother in the care home today, but you could do it on Friday.

You may have noticed in all the above examples I have been careful not to use the word ‘don’t’ instead of ‘can’t.’ When we say ‘can’t’ we present ourselves as a victim of circumstances. We leave the door open for persuasion or manipulative negotiation. We are not standing firm on our principles or owning our commitments.

The most difficult person to say no to is often yourself. How often have we started a diet or exercise regime and ended up saying yes to that chocolate cake or another hour under the duvet?

The word Don’t has been so useful to me as I committed to being sober. When I went through the bad times and cravings, I would repeat to myself, like a mantra, the phrase, “I don’t drink anymore.”

The word Don’t has power.

Have you any areas in your life where you could use that power?


A Moodscope member.

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Moodscope members seek to support each other by sharing their experiences through this blog. Posts and comments on the blog are the personal views of Moodscope members, they are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice.

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