THE BLOG
12/15/2014 01:30 pm ET Updated Feb 14, 2015

The Power of No

"I'm as proud of what we don't do as I am of what we do." --Steve Jobs

No. Nyet. Non. Nein. No matter you say it, the meaning is still the same, but this tiny word can be very hard to say. What is it about the word no that makes us feel uncomfortable? If you have difficulty saying no, you're not alone. There are a thousand ways to say no, yet too often we say yes.

Saying Yes When We Want to Say No

There are many reasons why we are afraid to say no:

• The fear of being rude

• The fear of alienating yourself from another person or a group

• The fear of conflict

• The fear of being rejected by others

• The fear of being thought selfish

• The fear of confrontation

• The fear of lost opportunity

Saying No Is Liberating

In spite of all these fears, saying no can be a powerful and liberating act. It means being true to yourself and putting your own agenda first. After all, if you overcommit yourself, you'll be good to no one. Carol Simone, an author who teaches workshops in self-empowerment, offers this advice:

"A strong no takes an immense amount of courage and self-worth. Saying no is a key to the soul's liberation. When you have a hard time saying no, immediately ask yourself, 'What am I afraid of?' Then talk to the part of yourself that is afraid until it calms down and feels that it is safe to speak the truth."

It's easier to say no if you practice some responses to a set of familiar requests ahead of time.
Just say no to . . .

Hosting events: "I can't commit to this, as I have other priorities at the moment."

Chairing evenings: "I'd love to do this, but I've already committed to working with . . ."

Requests for donations: "I'm not the best person to help with this, but I have some ideas about others who could make major donations."

Serving on a board: "I'm flattered to be asked, but now's not a good time as I'm in the middle of something."

If small children have no problem saying no all day every day, surely we can, too. We just have to learn how to say it and when.

Lisa Mirza Grotts is a recognized etiquette expert, an on-air contributor, and the author of A Traveler's Passport to Etiquette. She is a former director of protocol for the city and county of San Francisco and the founder and CEO of The AML Group (Lisagrotts.com), certified etiquette and protocol consultants. Her clients range from Stanford Hospital to Cornell University and Levi Strauss. She has been quoted by Condé Nast Traveler, InStyle magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times. To learn more about Lisa, follow her on Twitter.com/LisaGrotts and Facebook.com/LisaGrotts.