The (Positive) Power of NO

By , SparkPeople Blogger
By Beth Donovan aka ~Indygirl

There is one phrase that I think we may not use enough.

“No, thank you.”

There is nothing wrong with politely refusing.

Too many times I have stuffed my own feelings down and said “Yes” to things I didn’t want to do, staying in a bad situation or one that made me feel uncomfortable, or allowing someone else’s negative mood become my own. Maybe I didn’t set out to do those things, but I didn’t refuse them either. I’ve learned to draw a better line in the sand when it comes to such things and choose my battles with the power of “No.”

How do you do it?

Opt out of someone else’s bad mood. If a co-worker or a friend is having a bad day and wants to vent every now and again, that’s one thing. But we all know the friend or co-worker who does this every day and is in a perpetual bad mood. This person is always mad at something or the victim of something, and you have to listen to him or her go on and on about the same situation day after day. It sucks the bounce out of your step by the time you are done talking, if you even didn't add a word to the conversation. Next time that person approaches you, say that you just aren’t in the mood to talk about anything negative right now. Say that you are trying to focus on positive things and changes in life for personal reasons and that you hope they will respect and understand that. That may even open the door for you to tell them about SparkPeople and some of the good things going on in your life.

If a family member is just in a bad mood and you want to opt out of it, you can choose to go outside, visit a friend, go shopping, just get out. I tell my husband that if he wants to be grumpy, he can do it by himself. I find something else to do. In fact, a lot of times he will go play on the computer when he is in a mood and I’ll watch television or play on my laptop in another room.

Sometimes situations can be uncomfortable in public places. I don’t know if you have ever had anyone make fun of you in public, but at my size, it happens all the time. In my head I remind myself that I’ve lost 144 pounds and that helps me get through it, but the person making fun of me doesn’t know that. How do you say “No” in public? Let me give you an example.

Once I was at an eatery with two of my friends, and two young girls at the table next to us were giggling. I felt very self conscious but decided I was just being paranoid. The adult male at the table kept looking over at me and saying something to the girls, who would then look at me. A few minutes later, they had their camera phone out and were taking pictures of me. Rather than make a scene in the restaurant, I finished eating with my friends and then waited outside the restaurant. When the girls and man came out, I asked them politely why they were taking pictures of me.

The man hurried the girls away and said “You don’t need to talk to her.”

As they rushed to their car, “I told them that I did not appreciate it and they would not appreciate it if someone was doing that to them.”

To the man, I said: “What makes you so much better? You need to lose weight too and I didn’t take your picture.”

Believe it or not, my concern was for the girls. What kind of message was that adult sending them? Is it OK to make people feel bad in public? Should you feel bad if you don’t look like a model?

Grocery stores are another place I say “No” often. Children often make fun of me there, and while I’m used to it and have no problem with the children, it’s only when the parents join in making fun of me or ignore the child’s cruel remarks that I say anything. I usually say “That’s not nice to say to someone.” Then the parent will apologize. The apology is not what I’m looking for though; it is the awareness that it is not OK to say these things to someone just because they don’t fit the normal size range. I want to say “No” to children growing up thinking it is okay to make fun of people and let them know that it hurts. If their parents won’t say “No,” who will?

Family gatherings are sometimes a place to say “No.” Unfortunately, when families get together, usually “The talk” ensues. That’s the talk that involves “We are only saying this because we care, (your name here). You need to lose weight and exercise more blah blah.” I’m like “Really? I’m fat? That escaped me from last year’s talk. In fact I hadn’t done a thing about it and decided to get bigger just so you could belittle me in front of family again.” Not really, but you get the drift.

The point is that if they really cared, they could pick a more discreet time to care, as I’ve said before. Tell people that.

“No. We are having a family gathering, and there will be no belittling of me. You can call me discreetly if you really care to discuss it or not, and I will tell you about this fantastic plan I am on called SparkPeople.”

Low on energy? Running on empty from too much too much on the to-do list with friends and family asking for more? Before your energy levels drop any lower, cut back on a few things. Check your list and see what is truly essential. Sometimes we confuse “Want to do” and “Need to do.” Cut out a few “Want to dos” from your list and use that time for yourself, to work out or relax. If you know you will get bombarded the minute you get home, don’t go home. Go to the gym or go read a good book somewhere with a cup of coffee. The point is to do whatever you like and get some quality time to recharge your batteries. (Remember to let any people behind those "want-to-do" obligations know that you politely have to decline and that you need a break.)

Whatever you choose to say “No” about, remember it is about being positive and staying positive. It’s about cutting out the negative influences in your life politely. It is about preserving your self worth, your dignity, your energy level, and your happiness. It can also be about preserving awareness of diversity and social politeness. Whatever you use it for, use it politely and you could get good results in return.

When was the last time you said no? How did it feel?

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It gets easier to say No once you start. It sometimes takes us a while to get past all the programing that says we have to take care of all those others before we consider ourselves. It is a worthwhile journey to take. Report
RYCGIRL 5/17/2020
thx Report
KHALIA2 11/21/2019
It is NEVER nice to make fun of anyone! Report
thanks Report
I still have a hard time with this one! Report
I am very motivated and a little bit shocked by this article. Not because of what you said but because people can be so cruel. I am self-conscious about my weight but I have had very few instances of fat shaming. Most of the time I do this for myself. However no one has the right to make you feel less or make fun of you and that includes myself Report
I have have had an issue with this for years. Probably always will. It’s like I’m too polite but end up being the person who gets hurt... good advise in this article for me. Report
I need to learn to say no a lot more Report
I need to work on being comfortable with saying no. Report
Oh my, yes, the power of the word NO. And teachable moments, too! Report
You are an amazing woman. Report
I've added this blog to my favorites. I have had to say "no" to toxic relationships that drain me. Thanks for the reminders. Report
Completely agree! I need to start saying "No" more often. Thanks! :-) Report
I totally agree with what you've said about saying "No" and choosing NOT to partake in other people's negative attitudes. Great blog. Report
Another great blog Beth. Thank you for being such an inspiration. Report
Beth, you ALWAYS inspire me! I needed to read the good advice you gave in this blog, and I thank you for the reminders and suggestions! You are one very wise woman! (I quote you a lot!) Also, I want to tell you that the cruelty you have endured hurts me for you. I (like probably everyone in the world) have been the object of cruelty at times, but not to the degree that you have been. I wish everyone who sees you knew what great progress you have made and how much you inspire others! You are very kind and wise ... both qualities that are more important than being thin! Besides, you are very pretty!

PS: I have a dear friend who frequently says, "I may be fat, but I'm not stupid!" I also quote her a lot, but I may amend her saying (in situations such as you described) to, "I may be fat, but I'm not crude, rude, cruel and stupid!" Report
I hate saying no to things I really do want to do. I am a nurse full time and go to school for my masters full time. I have 3 small children and am a wife. I am also a volunteer paramedic for our local ambulance service. I am a preceptor for nursing students and an evaluator for EMT's testing to get their certificates. I LOVE running on the ambulance service but I don't have the time for it and I EMS that I have to quit. EMS will always be my first love yet I am realistic enough to know I can't do it all. I have had to make my "need to" and "want to" lists, and EMS is a want to. To lower stress, which can impede weight loss and health, I have will have to let it go. :( I am a person who is always in control and organized, so I have had to go through a "grieving" of sorts over the loss of "doing it all", but as ENUFF81020 said, it can be done. Report
I have the hardest time saying "No" but found this blog full of wonderful suggestions on how i can learn to say no because this means that i am taking care of myself. Thanks for the encouragement! Report
I have a daughter that has health issues and has become overweight from the Rx she is prescribed. I have heard other family members make comments when they don't think I have heard. This really upsets me because they don't know the full story but make judgements based on lack of information. HELP me control my temper when I hear these things that I know would crush my daughter and belittle her. Thanks for listening. Report
BETH! You are beautiful, accomplished and well-written! No one can belittle you without your consent and chicky you are rocking this program.

When someone treats me the way you have been treated, I SMILE. My Memere taught me to kill them with kindness and by golly it works. I don't smile because I am happy. I smile at their ignorance. Perhaps we need to snap a picture of that!

Keep keeping on! We are all so proud of you!

Jen Report
amazing blog! Good for you to confront that adult and his girls! I would have never had the guts to do it. I would have just walked away with my feelings hurt, but that was great! I bet his stomach dropped when heard those words come out of your mouth. Sure we are overweight, but its not like we aren't trying to change our lives. So people shouldn't criticize progress. People need to learn that everyone has a story. And if you do not know that person's story or whats going on with them, or what they are trying to do with themselves, then we shouldn't make fun, belittle, and hurt each other with our actions and words. Report
Beth, I've read several of your blogs now, and I hope you know what a truly beautiful person you are.....inside and out!!

When people make fun of someone else for looks, race, or whatever reason it just shows that they are the one with the problem. It breaks my heart when parents teach children to act with cruelty towards others. Report
Thank you for the blog...I am so shocked that someone, a full blown "adult" no less, would be so cruel and thoughtless. Good for you for politely confronting him, and making him accountable. Maybe he will think twice before insulting someone else. I am sad for the little girls, but glad for ARE the better person! Report
Thanks for sharing this. It mad my blood boil and broke my heart at the same time. You hang in there! You are an awesome inspiration and motivator!
Good for you for speaking up. Too many people are too timid to say something to others when an injustice is done. You have to stick up for yourself and "remind" people that it is not OK to belittle someone - a stranger no less - for their size or for whatever reason. Report
I have had similar experiences happen in public. I would be mortified for myself, but also for the people that thought their behavior was acceptable. Report
I said no to someone about taking care of their child this past week, because I knew she was just using me again, and it would make me feel bad. Report
Your blog beautifully captures the person on the inside....the person many of us might miss if we're caught up in appearances, fears, meanness, or whatever. I hope your journey lands you on the cover of a glossy magazine one day. But, more importantly, I hope your journey reminds you every day what a beautiful mind and spirit you have. Report
Some people are just cruel. Their arrogance and egos don't allow them to remember that "what goes comes around, goes around". Bravo for standing up to them. My prayer is that they are humble enough some day to feel regret for acting so childish and invasive. Report
Beth, I love your attitude! I always try to say something when I see injustice...I figure that people only act badly because they think they can get away with it. Usually I walk away from the situation feeling bad, because they act blase or flat out rude, but maybe they'll think next time that someone is watching their ugly behavior. I hope they were ashamed, whether they showed it or not. Report
I really needed that! Thanks for your insight. Report
When I was in grade school and high school those things were said about me too. I had no idea how to cope with them. My mother overheard the remarks one time and asked me if I wanted some ice cream. I refused at the time. If I'd had more self confidence when I was younger I probably would have said something to those people who criticized and made fun of me, but I didn't and I let them. When I was in college someone made a remark while I was running, I knew it was a college age boy, so I wrote an editorial in the college paper and asked them why they hid in the car with their friends and didn't say it to my face and I also challenged them to think of how it would make them feel if it were their sister, their mother or their grandmother on the receiving end of those insults.

Unfortunately in this world we live in, there are many who think it is okay to criticize and judge without knowing the person or without considering the feelings of the other person. It truly is unfortunate and it takes standing up to the bully (because that is what they are) to get them to stop. They think you won't say anything to them and that it's funny. I don't believe they think of how they feel when someone makes a comment about them they don't like. If they did and tried to empathize with you, they'd at least think twice and may not make the comment.

You did and are doing the right thing. There is no shame in standing up to people who do this. Weight might be our issue, but I'd say they have plenty of their own and should worry about their own instead of pointing out yours. If it's not constructive it's not worth saying. Report
Loved your blog! It was so relate-able. Especially about the children/grownup. Thank you for sharing your feelings because when it happens, it's so painful and I feel like it only happens to me. Report
WOW, what a great blog. And of course you are right and might I say very insightful. Several things touched me Beth. First, the family thing. I have always wondered what gives our family members the right to belittle, embarrass and demoralize us. They are never discreet and can be really hateful in the guise of "just doing what's best for us". Walk a mile in my shoes, family member and see what I see. What happened to "casting the first stone"?
As for the public...My daughter was retarded, but a simply beautiful child. She had every vestige of normalcy to the outside observer until she acted her retardation. Then people would stare and whisper. I NEVER, EVER had a problem confronting someone who stared at my less than "normal" child. More than once I would tell an adult that staring was rude and if they had something to say about my daughter, they could certainly say it out loud to me. I am proud of you for taking issue with stupid people and not letting them get away with hurting you. You are a beautiful woman and have inspired me by your journey. Keep it up and please keep sharing your thoughts with us. Report
I love your courage and love the spark it has brought to others here. I wish more people had the courage you do to just say "No". The last thing I had to say no to is doing all hubbys paper work. with having to take care of the house and cats and garden and etc etc it was to much of a burden when he could do it himself. It was one way to get a lot of stress off my back to. If I did any of it wrong it would come back to me. that's scary when your dealing with school paper work. Report
Boy did I need this today. I am in day 4+ of watching my nieces' sons while she is on vacation! I have had to get them to school, stay home one day from work due to a snow day just when our busy season is starting, and I am furious with myself for not saying 'no'. I am notorious for saying yes all the time - my co-worker bought me a coffee mug last year that said 'stop me before I volunteer again'. I thought I had learned my lesson but apparently not. Thanks for the reminder - I am going to start saying 'no' and putting me first. Report
I only have about 40 pounds to lose and people don't really make fun of my weight, but you have so much more self-confidence than I do. I get out there and say "no" sometimes, but I worry too much about looking like a doofus. You inspire me to have more positive self-talk and not worry so much about what others think. Report
One of my new year's resolutions was to say no more -- to people trying to overload me, including myself, but I didn't think of it in this way, that I don't have to listen to others' negativity. Makes me think of what negativity I may give to others. I think I will mentally amend that resolution to include my own negative self-talk! Report
This was a really great and insightful blog!! I can't believe that people are that rude!! It just amazes me!! Does no one have any respect for anyone anymore? That is an awful thing to teach your kids. You handled it very well though! Kudos to you! Your viewpoint and reflections on everything is really refreshing!! Congratulations on the progress that you have made thus far!! Report
What a wonderful satisfying blog. Your sharing your experience is so helpful. It teaches us so much. The responses are quite extraordinary as well. Being strong without striking out angrily it is so glorious. Report
I told my mom no when she kept talking about negative things every time I talked to her on the phone. I told her that I'd like to talk about more positive subjects (mind over matter) and she got the hint. Report
Thanks. One of my favorite titles of a book is "No is a complete setnance". While I haven't actually ever read the book the title is one reminder I keep telling myself when I feel obligated to do something or accept soemthing I don't want to! People have no thoughts to putting their limits on someone else so why don't we put limits on what we will allow others to put on us? Thanks, as always, for being such an inspiration to us all! Report
Beth, your bravery and self-assertiveness continue to amaze me! Bravo to you! I learn something from every one of your blogs. Thank You. Report
I can't tell you how shocked I was at this idiot and his terrible behavior, Beth. You dealt with them in a wise, mature way. People seem to be getting more and more rude all the time, don't they? It's a good idea to weed out one's garden of friends from time to time as well. We deserve people in our lives who treat us with basic human decency - nothing less! Report
I terminated a friendship with someone so needy, OCD-ridden, self-centered and self-absorbed, and demanding of my time and soul, that I felt she would suck the oxygen from my lungs. Through the years she often told me she respected my opinion, had made positive changes because of what I gave her, and had learned from me in many ways. It finally occurred to me that I was unable to say I'd benefited similarly from the association. I believe an important component of friendship is learning from each other and making each other's lives better just from the fact of the connection.

The adult male didn't only teach the girls by example that it's acceptable to ridicule, but he compounded it by then teaching them that, once their 'work' was finished, it was alright to ignore a human being.and that they are not accountable for their behavior.

As to family gatherings, it does well to respond along the line of, "Thanks for your concern, but it serves no purpose to tell people what they already know, especially when you've told them previously." Short and sweet without inviting later phone calls for a “discreet chat.”

Often when someone is inappropriate toward me or I witness a scene, it calms my heart and stomach to be mindful that the offending party has to go through life being himself. Alternately, I'm sometimes able to say, "Better me than someone else," meaning that my emotions or intellect haven't being harmed, whereas another person shabbily treated might succumb.
This last year, I've said no to and cut back on certain activities and people that I felt were not helping me at all and even sapping my energy. Honestly, I don't really miss any of it. A lot of it I did because I felt I should in order to be a good friend or good member of the community, not because I really wanted to. I still need to cut a few more things out, but I definitely felt like I've had more time to do things that are meaningful and enjoyable. Saying 'no' was a good thing for me. I plan to do more of it this year. Report
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
O you who have believed, let not a people ridicule [another] people; perhaps they may be better than them; nor let women ridicule [other] women; perhaps they may be better than them. And do not insult one another and do not call each other by [offensive] nicknames. Wretched is the name of disobedience after [one's] faith. And whoever does not repent - then it is those who are the wrongdoers. 11-Surat Al-Ĥujurât (The Rooms),The Holy Qur'an.
My weight is at a point where, due to my body type, I look like I'm over-weight some, but certainly not obese (as my friends and acquaintances tell me when I opt for the kids size).
But when I was REALLY overweight, there were comments made. Maybe it's because I'm male and more aggressive, I've not had a problem with addressing those issues. I've been of the opinion if someone is making negative comments about you, loud enough for you to hear, they are assaulting you (as well as insulting you).
My DW doesn't like confrontation, and I usually bow to her request not to make an issue. At a Cracker Barrel, three young, fit men were having a hilarious time pointing out my problems. As I sat there with my wife asking me to just ignore them, they got louder and louder until people from five different tables were staring.
Finally I arose quickly and took the two steps necessary to get to their table. They immediately looked prepared to fight, but I leaned on the table and said, "Guys, I have a physical disability that requires me to take medication that slows my metabolism. I also have a broken back, so doing weight work, or even walking more than 10 minutes causes me excruciating pain. I hope none of you EVER has to experience what I'm going through, but if you do and you over-hear someone making fun of you, just remember today, because it will simply be what goes around coming back to haunt you." After looking each of them in the eye until they broke eye contact, I went back to my table.
The young men finished their meal and left, but a couple of minutes later, one came back and said, "Sir, my Dad's fat, I mean, uh, like, overweight. You made me think of how I'd feel if someone was making fun of him and I wouldn't have been as cool as you were. I'm really sorry."
I said, "Thank you, apology accepted", and he left.
I've since dropped the medication, but fighting diabetes makes is hard, not impossible, to lose weight. Some people just need to be reminded of their rudeness, and I suggest you remind them when they can't run away. Report
Beth, it's really sensational to hear that there is someone out there willing to stand up for herself. Too often we are taught to just grit our teeth and bear it. I'm from the south and we elevate this Stiff Upper Lip approach to an art form. Recently, I've had to say to my partner regarding our current living arrangement. I want to take control of my career and my financial future by returning to school and working 2 jobs to finance this endeavor. Which requires my partner to adjust her work schedule and assume more at home responsibilities. I've been the primary caregiver for a while now and it's time for me to focus on my goals. It was hard to say No and rock the boat, but ultimately, it's resulted in a happier family life for all of us. No is a powerful word! Report