Lesson from your younger self: say no


“No.” A simple, two-letter word used to answer many questions. For just a vowel and a consonant, it sure holds a lot of weight regarding suggestions, dislikes and sexual offers, to name a few.

At 18 months, a toddler might use between six and 20 simple words, and at 25 months it is expected that a toddler will say no a lot, according to Baby Centre’s article “Developmental milestones: talking.” When a child begins to say no, it is a way of asserting independence from his or her caretaker.

If we can develop the ability to say no at such an early age and use it to assert ourselves, why do some of us lack the ability to use it as adults?

I find many of my friends, as well as myself, saying yes more often than not. We say yes to something as simple as a Sonic run and then turn around and say yes to something as committal as running for a leadership position we never wanted in the first place.

“One benefit (saying yes) provides is that everybody gets to save face and, most of all, everyone is saved from the dreaded ‘C word’ — conflict,” Hank Davis, professor emeritus at the University of Guelph, said in his Psychology Today article, “Why So Many People Just Can’t Say No.”

I agree with Davis’ logic. In fact, I have said yes in efforts to avoid conflict. I have also said yes to make people happy because my personality lends itself to people pleasing.

Saying yes may help you to avoid conflict in the moment, but in the long run saying the opposite of what you want only helps you put off the conflict.

Regardless, if that means putting off the conflict until a later date or just making it an internal battle for you, saying yes just to appease someone else is not worth it.

Saying no is not something we can simply practice throughout our lives. We sure practice it as a child, a time when we are not afraid of saying it; however, as we become adults, the ability to say no needs to be learned again.

It is also a big part of growing up to say no more, especially if you are a people pleaser or believe you can do everything. No one can do everything. I’ve tried.

When you say no, you are not admitting weakness. Giving yourself the chance to not be chasing every opportunity can ultimately give you the chance to succeed at a few things that drive you, according to Bill Carmody’s Inc. 5000 article titled “How Saying ‘No’ Can Help You Grow.”

Saying no takes practice, especially if you are like me: a yes person and a people pleaser. Yet, in the end it is something that will help you grow and become stronger as an individual.

At the age of 2, you were beginning to assert your independence, so take a tip from your 2-year-old self and start saying no again — it is as easy as saying one syllable.