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Positively Speaking: The power of ‘no’


By Toby Moore

For Capital Region Independent Media

Headshot of man named Toby Moore
Toby Moore

I’m a people pleaser. I have a tough time saying no. If I tell someone no, I often feel I’m letting them down. I’ve learned the hard way that saying yes when I should’ve said no has consequences that weigh heavy on the heart and soul.

Saying yes to something unimportant can lead to a minor inconvenience with minimal regret — no big deal.

Like agreeing to attend a social gathering you’re not interested in, only to find yourself trapped in small talk for hours. Or volunteering to help a colleague with a project when you already have a full plate.

These are the times when a simple no could have saved time and energy.

But what happens when the stakes are higher? The consequences can be life-altering when you say yes when you should have said no.

A passionate young artist facing pressure from family to pursue a more “stable” career in finance finds herself trapped in a job she hates, haunted by the art she never created.

A young couple, not quite ready for marriage, find themselves pressured by family and friends to push toward a premature commitment. They say yes to an engagement even though their gut tells them to wait.

After working for years in the shadows, the founder of an exciting new business finally captures the attention of prominent investors. A successful firm extends an offer filled with promises and potential. Yet this deal comes with strings attached, a bargain that would mean surrendering the very soul of his dream. His partners, who haven’t taken the same risks, sense the allure of success and urge him to take the gamble. His choice will either affirm his vision or transform it into something unrecognizable. It’s not merely a business decision, it’s a war for the integrity of his dream.

Whenever I say yes to someone because I’m being negatively pressured rather than following my gut, I always regret it. That regret is a stinging reminder that our instinct is a guide we should not ignore.

Be cautious if someone tries to manipulate you into a decision that serves their interests, whether by applying pressure and fear or condescendingly telling you that you’re incapable of accomplishing your dream. Their tactics may be part of a larger scheme to make you feel that you must do what they want or lose everything.

As a people pleaser, disappointing others is very uncomfortable, but don’t let their disappointment divert you from your destiny.

The act of saying no is more than a refusal; it’s a powerful assertion of control that affects our brain and decision-making processes. By saying no, we rewire our brain’s response to choices, enhancing our ability to think and act in alignment with our values. This simple action reinforces self-respect and helps us prioritize our needs, leading to a healthier mental state.

When you say no, you’re setting boundaries. Setting boundaries is an essential part of a healthy emotional state. Learning to say no is more than a personal stance, it’s a skill that lays the groundwork for better mental health and a more authentic life.

If you continually say yes, even to your detriment, you risk being perceived as a pushover. Although I’ve never cared all that much for what others think of me following my dreams, failing to stand up for yourself may lead you down a path that doesn’t align with your desires or values but instead follows the expectations of others.

It’s a life shaped by external influences rather than personal choice.

The truth is saying no doesn’t necessarily mean letting someone down. It means standing up for what’s right for you. It means recognizing the value of your path, dreams and well-being. It means not sacrificing yourself at the altar of others’ expectations.

The next time you’re faced with a decision, big or small, listen to that inner voice. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

The right yes can open doors, but the wrong yes can close them. Choose wisely, for the choices we make, in the end, shape the life we live.

Toby Moore is a columnist, the star of Emmy-nominated “A Separate Peace,” and the CEO of Cubestream Inc.

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