Lifestyle + Wellness Love The Journey

The art of saying NO [LTJ]

YES and NO. The words that create your life. One often brings a smile, while the other calls up a frown. NO can be a sharp rejection, surrounded by negativity, and a difficult word to say to someone you care about.

NO will change your life. And you get to decide how.

The value of NO is best understood when you truly recognize what YES means. If you skipped the YES challenge last week… well, I’m sorry to tell you that you definitely missed out! Go do the challenge. For a day, a week, however long you’re able. I’d love to hear about your experiences!

Every photo in this blog post came from saying YES – to myself or to someone else – this week.

Elk seen while exploring Vancouver Island. Photo by Crystal Veness.

I spent two years of my life YESing my way around the world. It was a way of life. Ingrained in my soul. There was no WHY, only WHY NOT? The experiences I had were unfathomable, incomparable, and completely unforgettable. From one-on-one conversations over smoothies with Sir Richard Branson, to sleeping under the stars on the Great Wall of China. Gallivanting around the Russian River Valley with new friends to watching the sun fall out of the sky with the ones I love.

YES has taken me on the most exceptional adventures you can imagine. And it all happened because I stood in front of YES with my arms spread and shouted “TAKE ME!!”.

YES! Wally Creek, Vancouver Island.

But everything in life requires balance.

A life of YES is not sustainable. Those two years were the most expensive, least healthy, and unfocused of my entire life. That said, they were the best of my life. But the path I was traveling was a fast-burning wildfire. Something had to change. I began the practice of saying NO. And this year? Better than the ones before it. Why? Because I’ve mastered the art of NO.

NO is powerful… when wielded responsibly.


Let me teach you the art of saying NO.

Sunset on the island. Photo by Crystal Veness.

Say it like you mean it.

If you know it’s a NO, make your life a little easier and just say it. Don’t beat around the bush. Don’t say YES and take it back later on. Don’t go into detailed explanations and definitely don’t invent excuses. Just say NO. If you’re sharing why, be honest.

Anytime you say something you don’t mean because you’re dancing around your NO, it compromises the value of your word.

Lost on Vancouver Island. Photo by Crystal Veness.

Know how to take a NO.

Have you ever said NO to someone, and had them try to change your mind? Have you been the person that can’t accept a NO? When someone doesn’t take your NO seriously, it shows a lack of respect. How do you resolve this? Is there a way you are communicating that causes people to question you? Are your NO’s said with confidence, or said with a question mark? Is the person on the other end putting their own wants or needs first?

How do you take a NO? You just take it. Do you respect this person? Do you love this person? Did their NO hurt your feelings? Well, that’s too bad. Because you can’t control anyone else’s life. Trust that they said NO because they meant it.

Accept the NO gracefully, and move on.

And hey, if they’re one of those people that says NO, really means YES, but wants you to work harder for it? Well, that’s their problem. They’ll figure out that you don’t play those games pretty quickly.

Carmanah Forest, Vancouver Island. Photo by Crystal Veness.

Add a little artistry.

You can say a lot with a simple NO. Whether your invitation or request is coming from an acquaintance, a friend, or a family member, how you structure your NO can artfully communicate a deeper message.

Here’s a few examples:

From an acquaintance you don’t have much interest in spending time with: “Want to go out for drinks with us tonight?” “I appreciate the invitation! No, I won’t be joining tonight.” From an acquaintance you actually do want to spend time with, you may add: “I’d love to make it happen another time. Are you free this weekend?”

From a good friend: “We’re planning a trip to the Bahamas next month, can you come?” “I would love to be there, but that trip doesn’t fit with my current work/financial priorities. I hope I can join you when those line up.”

From a close family member: “I’ll be in town next week… can I crash at your house while I’m visiting?” “I’m excited to see you’ll be in town! Unfortunately, no… we’re not in a place to have house guests. I’d love to see you for dinner while you’re here, and if you need some help finding a low cost spot, I can recommend some places!”

From a friend or acquaintance: “Can you take a look at the website for my new company? I’d love your professional opinion on how I can improve it!” “I’m so glad you reached out to me and am excited that you’re starting your own business! I’d love to support. My hourly rates and consultation rates are on my website.”

Your NO can tell a story. It can show your disinterest or your interest in building a connection with someone. You can say that you don’t work for free without having to say it. You can thoughtfully strengthen your relationships even after saying NO by offering your time or assistance. A NO does not have to be a negative.

Tofino, Vancouver Island. Photo by Crystal Veness.

Know yourself so you know when to say NO.

This is the key to mastering the art of NO, and using it to improve your life. Do you have a clear understanding of your personal values? Your priorities? Big picture goals? Do you know how to frame your decision making around what really matters to you?

Here’s how my thought process works when I receive a request or invitation:

  • Will this have a positive, neutral, or negative impact on my current priorities of physical and mental health, living purposefully, and remaining focused on developing my business?
  • Can I accomplish the tasks/responsibilities that I’ve set for myself for today/this week if I say yes?
  • Will I be able to stay aligned with my values (connection, simplicity, discovery, and inspiration) if I accept this invitation? Would one or more of my values be compromised if I say yes?
  • How does this affect my big picture goals? Will this take me closer to my goals or further away?

That series of questions is my primary tool when it comes to building my work schedule, choosing what makes it on the social calendar, and where my travels take me. Every decision is stacked up against these questions to ensure that I am building my life the way I want to.

If you want to make every NO count, make sure it’s meaningful. Know yourself. Know your needs, your wants, your hopes… and know when to put them first. Use NO to start living a purposefu;, intentional life.

Choose your own adventure. Tofino, Vancouver Island. Photo by Crystal Veness.

Think of your life as a choose-your-own-adventure novel. You don’t want to make ‘wrong’ choices that may have a negative impact and lead you off a cliff. And yet, if you make every ‘right’ or positive choice, you’ll finish the book too quickly. Where’s the fun in that?

It’s okay to prolong the adventure and amplify the experience by consciously choosing to delay achieving our goals. Because sometimes it’s worth it. But when that’s not a conscious choice, it’s easy to lose sight of ourselves, and our big pictures.

NO is necessary when it comes to designing your life, so use it. Be proud of your ability to say NO. Be thoughtful about your choices, and once you’ve made them? Trust them.

Every YES… every NO… this is how you create the story of your life.

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