Are you getting over- committed? Is your plate piled high with deadlines and obligations? Are you trying to cram too many activities into too little time? If so, it is time to be straightforward and just say NO, says Anju Munshi. IBNS | 1 year ago


It is quite often said that the key to success is not known but the key to failure is trying to please everybody. In our day to day interaction with people, there is a constant fear of displeasing a person as a result of which we say yes to doing things that we would rather not.

Going to an unwanted party, taking up an extra assignment, buying policies and products that promise zero per cent interest on EMI, just because you could not refuse an offer by saying a firm yet decent No. In the process we become our worst enemies leading to a low self esteem and consequent stress.

Saying yes all the time in order not to hurt anyone leads to a gradual build-up of resentment. This resentment with time manifests in the form of criticism and anger followed by emotional withdrawal and soon the other person realises that something is amiss in the relationship and all the effort of keeping up a facade crumbles down- you just need a trigger point, it can be an argument, a comment or a mere gesture.

"Today our lives are full and packed with commitments and at the same time the innate human desire to please all makes us involuntarily say 'Yes' to things that we clearly know are not going to happen," says social scientist Bimla Jamwal from Jammu .

Why is it difficult to say a 'No'? Why do we accept unwanted chores and come under pressure ? The general thinking is that good behaviour means being subdued and giving in pleasing others even if it means wasting your time and killing peace of mind. So while others are happy and pleased, inwardly you yourself are not .


A still from English Vinglish where Sreedevi plays a housewife always forced to say Yes to her family members till she rebels in her own way during a trip to USA.

Pradiman Acharya, a sociologist in Delhi's Kamala college, calls it a kind of conditioning that we are subjected to when we grow up. "We grow up learning things like 'Be good' ,'Never hurt anyone' and we internalise it, she observes. Students are taught never to say 'No' even if it is an overload of school work, tuition work. In professional life it is sheer competition that necessitates a 'Yes' in all sorts of things. "Even in close family relationships 'No' is looked down upon;,it's not respectful to turn down an order or oft repeated burdensome requests, leading to expectations , and finally sourness comes in ," says Acharya.

Reduce the expectations gradually, make your stand clear so that saying 'No' becomes easier , advises Karuna Vyas, a counsellor from New Delhi's Prarthana, a counselling centre.

"I had this fear that my mother-in- law will bad mouth me if I didn't toe her line; so I always kept quiet. But over the years I was taken for granted and it stressed me. After 25 years, when I started using my 'No' muscle, there sure was pandemonium but I had reclaimed my happiness. It was worth the trouble. Today the same people respect my point of view. I never felt so valued before," says a beaming Sudha Rastogi (name changed).

When it comes to parenting, saying a 'No' today is a tough exercise but if you do then with time it fosters perseverance, patience and commitment in the kids and ensures a balanced parenting.

The most difficult 'No' is reserved for the boss. The solution is to be prepared to offer a good reason for doing so. You will have to explain the reasons thoroughly so the boss realises you considered the situation carefully.

Many of us reward ourselves for multi-tasking but there comes a time when we spread ourselves too thin over twenty odd things and also sacrifice our personal well-being. At this time it is important to step back and do the risk vs reward analysis. Says Rina Trivedi, a retired teacher in Kolkata: "With age one prefers to be honest and unpretentious and we know our 'No's. Before a 'Yes', it's important to know what you want to achieve ." She says prioritising the requirements for the day is important. For example, calling friends over for a meal or going shopping for your favourite saree, playing a game of tennis or staying indoors to help your friend with her problem over a cup of tea. It also adds to the sense of camaraderie with friends.

The entire premise of effective time management is when to say 'No' and when to say 'Yes' .The simplest way to decide is to visualise the consequences .Are you ready to face it ? The risk factor is always there but how you say is what makes the 'No' acceptable . Inculcating the art of saying 'No' can be a liberating experience, you will discover.

(Posted on 27-09-2013)