Saying ‘Yes’ Makes Life More Palatable & Fun; But There are Times to Say ‘No’ Too


Right now, it’s tough to be positive with so many existential stresses affecting us. In our personal lives, we have control over how we feel, what we choose to do and how we relate to others. That’s why we are campaigning for more “yesses” in our lives.  

This doesn’t preclude the fact that there are times when a “no” is highly acceptable and better for us emotionally, financially or logistically.

Barbara cites an example when someone she barely knows asked if she could have one of her free gym passes. She was surprised and quickly replied, “I’m sorry, but I don’t have that many and save them for my daughters to use when they visit.” She didn’t feel guilty but added, “If you email the manager, I bet she’ll offer you one to try a class if you might join.” The woman did and signed up for a membership. Phew, no hard feelings.

Margaret got a similar-type request. A new group of friends asked her to go to a movie. She declined for what she felt was a good reason. Too many viruses are still floating around and being stuck inside for a couple of hours with a bunch of strangers not wearing masks she thought was unsound after trying so hard to remain safe and healthy. Her friends understood.   

But in more cases, we say “yes” and view those responses as positives. They open doors, make life more fun and invite collaboration, according to Fortune 50 exec turned women’s empowerment coach, Stacey Aaron Domanico.

We are an example. When one of us suggested writing our first book on family business, the other could have said, “No, not interested,” and that would have been that. Instead, we both said “yes,” which has led to a 36-year writing partnership, collaboration and great friendship. We decided to take a risk and the worst that could have happened was that we hated working together and never would again.

To put ourselves in “yes” mode sometimes takes some work. Here’s what we suggest to get there. First, take inventory of yourself: how do you relate to family and friends, how do you spend your time, how you can turn negatives (guilt, worry, for example that lead nowhere) into positive experiences. Work on staying sanguine. It’s hard but can be worth the payoff.

Also, think about how you might feel if you didn’t do so; you might have many regrets, especially if it involves getting to know a possible new friend. And if you’re still unsure, you might run the decision by a good friend or group, your “yes” and “no” police. That’s what we sometimes do with each other when we’re unsure of how to respond.

A few scenarios when it’s wise to say “yes.”

--Someone you just met wants to go to a matinee concert during the week, something you’ve never done. Because you’re a contract worker, you have control over your time. But you have a deadline. Be spontaneous and play hooky for once. It will clear your head. It’s me time that you really need. And you might make a good new friend in the process.

--A friend asks you for a favor such as driving her to a doctor’s appointment. Your first inclination might be to say, “I wish I could but I’m so busy right now.” Well, think twice. A “yes of course, I’ll take you,” might mean that someday if you need the favor in kind, she’ll reciprocate. Also, you’re doing an act of kindness. And we can never be too kind.

--Your parent texts or calls you at work. You roll your eyes and think, “I don’t want to take the time to text or to talk to them right now.” It’s easy ignore the text or call. However, ironically, that parent might be calling to tell you they’ll babysit, want to take you to dinner or bring you that kitchen item you’ve been eyeing in the Williams Sonoma catalogue.

--You’re in a class and the woman next to you wants to get together after. You don’t know her and figure why, your time is limited. It would be easy to say, “I can’t today,”  (translation a “no”) and that would be that. However, you discover the two of you have a lot in common—maybe you both lost your spouses-- and going for coffee and a chat after class might be just what you need as you work through your grief.

--It’s a Friday night and you’re in your PJ’s getting ready to read in bed. A friend calls and asks if you’d like to meet her for a drink at a corner restaurant. You think “No way, I’m hunkered down for the night.” She sounds disappointed so you relent, especially when she tells you she has something to tell you. Okay, you say, give me about 30 minutes. You meet and find out she’s going to adopt a baby after many years of unsuccessful IVF. You’re so happy for her and happy that you made the effort to get together.

--Saying “yes” (when you’re thinking “no way”) to taking a golf lesson, a sport in which you have no interest, but your partner loves it and wants you to learn to play with them. It can add so much to your relationship. You try it like a good sport and find you like it. Moreover, you’re actually pretty good. You say to your partner, “When can we do this again?”

--You’re asked to host a holiday dinner. You want to say “no,” but instead say “yes” and actually have fun doing the preparation. You enjoy the evening filled not only with good food but laughter and camaraderie as well. Also, you have lots of help cleaning up. And these days we all need good laughs and togetherness after years of isolation.

--You learn a friend has had an operation and is having a tough time. You offer to bring a meal; she says “no” that’s too much trouble, and you say, “I’m delighted to do this for you, please don’t argue.” And you both feel great and enjoy some time together.

Times when you should say “no”.

--You’ve been inundated with charitable asks and money is tight. You’ve given to a couple of organizations you care about—feeding families and helping kids—but you’re maxed out. It’s okay to say “no” in this case. Next time, you just might.

--Having a piece of chocolate right before bedtime when you know you should say “no.”  The caffeine might keep you up, the sugar could upset your stomach and it might give you a bad headache. Or go ahead and eat it once and then when you get sick remind yourself, so you don’t do it again.

--In a dating situation when you know you should “just say no” for safety’s sake.

--Say “no” to too many commitments. You just don’t have time and taking on one more task might add too much stress. Put yourself first so you stay healthy.  

--Also say “no” to someone asking you once again for a favor---can you please ask your husband, who is one of the producers of a show, to get me a free ticket to see it. You know she can afford to buy a ticket so kindly say, “I’m so sorry, but I can’t ask again. I hope you understand.” And if she doesn’t, well, that’s life! Or when you’re asked again for a referral for anything—contractor or doctor—when you know the person will never use it or will critique your choice.

--Say “no” to something that is against the law or could get you in trouble such as stealing or lying or trying illegal drugs. And, when it’s against your moral compass.

--Say “no” to your grandchild who wants an expensive toy when she has too many already. But you can soften her disappointment by suggesting it might be a good gift for her/his birthday or Christmas or Hanukkah.

--Say “no” to an invitation to a party when you learn your ex-husband or ex-boyfriend whom you’re not on amicable terms with will be there. You’re doing everyone a big favor, including your host who didn’t know which of you to invite. Bow out gracefully or be upfront and honest. Your call.

--Say “no” to an event when you feel there will be too many people who won’t mask up when you still do or ask ahead if there’s a requirement for vaccinations or masks. We’ve turned down indoor meals, classes of all kinds, milestone events when we’re concerned about the potential spread of Covid-19 and now another new variant. We do have to get selfish at times.  

Can you share any time you said “No” when you wish you had said “yes” or vice versa? We’d love to hear from you.


1 comment

  • Audrey Steuer

    36 years working together – Wow! Congratulations!

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