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Why can’t I say “No!”

“Nay, nay and thrice nay!”

Does anyone reading this remember the late great Frankie Howerd?  A unique British comic performer – most famously as the lead in ‘Up Pompeii’. The title of this email was one of his catch phrases; along with “Oooer Missus!” and “Titter ye not!”  Am I showing my age?

With his ability to ‘Thrice nay” someone’s request, he obviously didn’t have a problem saying “No!” So why do around two thirds of people I meet find the utterance of that single syllable such a stretch?

With the amount of people I meet who just can’t say ‘No!’ you’d think there was a pandemic aversion to this simple word.  But when we peel back the layers of what’s REALLY going on, it becomes pretty clear that these people are often fearful of upsetting the other person.  They feel they should comply – even when their agreement will cause them personal strife or aggravation.


And I totally understand!  As someone who is primary YELLOW (overview of colour types here), an important part of my psyche is the desire for approval, and to be liked.  Saying ‘NO’ would surely fly in the face of this basic need in me?

Someone with primary GREEN energy is often a natural supporter of others.  The overwhelming instinct is to say YES to a request – as it is clear to Mr or Mrs GREEN that they have the opportunity of helping someone out.

Less affected by the ‘Anti No’ affliction are our friends with tons of Blue or Red energy – especially if a person has both these colours as their top two.

Mr/s RED will say NO immediately if the request diverts her from the pursuance of her own goals.

Mr/s BLUE is also less likely to be deviated from the process they are currently on – thus may find it relatively easy to put off a request.

That’s not to say Primary RED or BLUE is immune from being anxious about saying NO – especially if their secondary colours are YELLOW or GREEN respectively.

So – what can be done?

If you find yourself saying YES and then resenting it – or suffering because of it, perhaps you could try one of the following:

Instead of saying NO, say YES but add a timescale…

QUESTION: “John – can you help me with this report?”  ANSWER: “Yes – of course!  I have time on Friday…”

You could also say: “I’d be happy to – straight after I finish my own workload…”

Or try: “As long as you’re not up against a deadline because I’ll need to complete THIS report first!”

In reply like this, you are being subtly assertive – positioning your own time and workload as important. But crucially, you do not have to say an abrupt ‘NO’.

Yoo wisdom: You’re basically saying: “Happy to help – but NOT YET!”

When clients of mine have tried these approaches, they have found that the people doing the asking become ‘Retrained’ and ask far less.  Got to be worth a try?

Be your best Yoo


Andy and the team at Yoo

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