• Hi Pat. Interesting post. I prefer to focus on positive words vs negative words, thoughts, or strategies. For instance, I have spent 30 years volunteering for non-profits. During that time, I have had to decline many requests or opportunities, but instead of saying NO, I prefer to explain that I cannot oblige at this point in time. My book on volunteerism shows volunteers how to decide whether they should say YES to an opportunity, or realize that their energy is best spent in another way at that point in time.

    • Doreen, this put a smile on my face. Volunteering and I know each other well. My way of not over committing is to say something like, “My calendar is full right now. Let me get back to you.” I learned that phraseology about 20 years ago. My preference is for me to manage my calendar, not others. Saying it this way totally leaves out – cannot (according to research referenced, if you believe it, cannot and can’t are least helpful to our own beliefs) or don’t, or anything negative. I think we’re on the same wavelength. Thanks!

  • Pat, your post got me thinking. I often have to say NO to my daughter. And neither she nor I enjoy it. I don’t think changing the words will make much difference, but maybe not getting so upset when she gets upset would help us both out.

    • What a great goal to pivot to Leora: be calm even if someone else is not. Sounds like it can work for sure.

  • Staying positive , however you spin it whether its to yourself or to others is always a better way to go. You can trick yourself into not being disappointed, as well as not make someone else feel let down. Good post Pat

    • AK? I didn’t recognize you! New pic? Very lovely!

      Yes ma’am, be more of a proton than an electron. Hahaha. Thanks AK.

  • Just realized I used “don’t” instead of “no” all the time back in the day for my teaching career. Served me well too. Teachers who can’t say that end up spending every waking hour at the school…

    • Teacher’s have some amazing talents Jeri! Can you imagine being able only to say yes? Yikes. Thanks.

  • Jacqueline Gum

    Excellent choice of words…I think there is a lot of positive to be heard in “don’t” because the reality is you are saying ‘yes’ to you. As Always..enlightening and thought provoking post

    • What a fabulous reframe of what is really taking place Jacqueline! “Say YES to you.” I love that.

  • As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten better at saying no to some things. I’m not sure I can relate to the significance of the word don’t versus can’t, but if I think about how and why I can say no more easily now, it’s because I realize I don’t want or need many of things our world sometimes tries to convince us we do, and because I’m choosing to say yes to other things, such as where I want to spend my time and money.

    • Donna, I think what you say is one of the points of distinction between I don’t and I can’t. Don’t – puts us in control to say YES to other things. Can’t – disempowers us possibly giving us negative feelings like guilt. It’s close to what you are saying – you are CHOOSING with don’t and you are kind of wimping out with CAN’T.


  • No is a word that doesn’t come easy for me, when I do say no my girls will nag till the no is turned into a yes, or if I must just to shut them up.

    • Many people don’t find it easy Jo-Anne? Maybe you are at your pivot point to make it easier for yourself. Who couldn’t use a little more self-love? That is how I look at my no these days.

  • Pat Amsden

    Sometimes you just have to say no. I truly believe that if you do too much and end up running around like a chicken with your head cut off no one benefits. If you explain why you don’t want to do something and that it’s not because you don’t want to help most people are OK with that. Mind you I don’t have grandkids yet.

    • Truly lovely Pat. “Explain why you don’t want to do something.” My granddaughters are adapting to my, “I don’t want to play right now. (usually after about an hour of coloring or doing a puzzle and answering their questions about why I did this or that) Give me about 30 minutes and I’ll be ready!” Then we have a blast.

  • Pat Ruppel

    I like this, Patricia. Guess I never thought of “I don’t” as an empowered refusal to motivate us for what we truly want. But I can see it in how you put it. Interesting. Thank You. 🙂

    • I never thought about the difference between can’t and don’t but yes Pat, when you think about it, can’t – most disempowering and don’t – gives more control. Thanks.

      • Pat Ruppel

        Sure does help, Patricia, in your distinguishing the two. Something I’ll need to remember.

  • Jason Butler

    I used to have a problem saying no a few years ago. Now I don’t. I’m working on some major goals in my life right now. To achieve them I realized I couldn’t say yes to everyone anymore.

    • Very wise Jason. My guess is you are already using the empowering, don’t, instead of the disempowering, can’t Thanks.

  • Jon Jefferson

    This is something I am continuously working on. It helps to have an idea of the direction you want to go. With a clear path it is easier to avoid the side trips that can derail you.

    • Direction that is YOURS versus someone else’s is one thing that will make saying no, easier. After all, no point in doing something on someone else’s to-do list versus our own! Thanks Jon.

  • Angela Brower-Hobbs

    Nice Job Patricia! Saying yes does open up new opportunities, but at some point we all need to slow down and begin picking and choosing. When you say “no” to one thing it’s because you need/want to say “yes” to something else. That’s where the “don’t” comes in. “I would love to do that but I don’t have enough time to spend with my grandchildren AND commit to you too.”

  • Vernessa Taylor

    Pat, you picked an excellent subject any time of the year. One place we (as consultants, microbiz, freelancers) inadvertently disempower ourselves is with our most precious asset: our clients.

    No to scope creep, no to discounts on top of discounts, no to … whatever it is that backs us into a corner (we know when we should have said no because later we’re thinking about it, regretting whatever we agreed to).

    I recently had a client who asked me if he could pay me after *this* and *that* and *the other* were done. He was trying to change the rules well into the project. Happily for me, I said, “No, I wouldn’t be able to eat if I did that.”

  • Niekka McDonald

    Learning to say no was hard. At some point you have to. Once I learned to stop saying yes to everything and everybody life got easier.

  • Debra Yearwood

    I used to think I was good at saying no, but I realize that I’m good at saying no to some things and terrible at others. Even the act of recognizing that you don’t say “no” is helpful to some degree. I’m going to try “don’t” the next time I’m tempted to do something that I shouldn’t. 🙂

  • Cheryl Therrien

    I have a difficult time saying no. Maybe it’s a bit of a spillover from my corporate years where I was not allowed to say no. Big sigh….

  • Pat, I did such a better job saying “no” when I worked in a corporate environment. Now that I work for myself, I’m more apt to want to “help” someone. I like the idea that the word “don’t” is more empowering and goal directing. It makes sense to me because do is a verb. I(Note to self: try this.) Thanks!