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The Power of No - Saying No: The Key to Stronger Relationships

For as long as I can remember, ‘no’ has got bad press. ‘No’ been associated with negativity and denying. No meant you couldn't get what you wanted, and weren’t allowed what you’d asked for. But what if we change the marketing around ‘no’ and its uses?

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Person holding up their hand to say no

This blog has been contributed by Maxine Caley. If you would like to contribute a blog to this series, please email campaigns@warwicksu.com.


For as long as I can remember, ‘no’ has got bad press. ‘No’ has been associated with negativity and denying. 'No' meant you couldn't get what you wanted, and weren’t allowed what you’d asked for.

But what if we change the marketing around ‘no’ and its uses? What if we harness the power of ‘no’ and use it for good? What if we start owning and using ‘no’ for exactly what we need? Used correctly, ‘no’ is a very powerful tool, and should always be at your disposal. 


I always thought that being a good friend meant giving and sharing. Half of my sweets in the playground, sharing the latest gossip, and lending anything my friends asked for. This attitude meant my friends were happy but I wasn’t. I’d be left feeling bitter, and the friendships feeling rather hollow. 

By utilising the power of ‘no’, it is possible to move past these superficial friendships to a deeper, more meaningful one. No can help you know where you stand, and better understand each other. I love it when my friends say no. Hear me out on this one, I promise I haven’t lost the plot! 

When I ask my friend if they want to do something and they say no, it isn’t about me. It’s usually about the activity, the timing, or the weather (I’m well known for suggesting going for a walk in the pouring rain). By telling me no they are not rejecting me, but reminding me that our friendship is strong enough that they can be honest with their wants and needs. That they are comfortable enough to manage my expectations and be honest. And to me, that’s invaluable. 


Relationships should be based on honesty and trust. Honesty to tell each other the truth, and trust not to be judged for it. Without these two aspects, you’re stuck in the playground giving away your sweets. With a new friend or partner, when you’re scared to show your true feelings for fear of being rejected or judged, you will never truly know each other. The use of ‘no’ reminds us that our relationships have developed past the stage of people-pleasing. 

Boundaries are good 

When we’re in a relationship, whether it’s romantic or platonic, boundaries are healthy. Boundaries allow you to be honest with how much energy you have, and how you want to use it. Boundaries give you control over how you investing your time, effort, and sometimes money. By being clear about what you want or don’t want, you are setting boundaries – giving you the freedom to put yourself first. 

How to say ‘No’ 

Unfortunately, as powerful and positive as using ‘no’ is, it can be hard to say and even harder to stand by.  Make saying ‘no’ easier by: 

  • Outlining your priorities. If you are saying no, it helps to give context. Whether you haven’t got the time or you have a deadline, those who care about you will understand 

  • Explain your feelings. If there’s something you don’t like, say so. Talking about your feelings can be the easiest way to get someone to see from your perspective 

  • Suggest an alternative. Whether the timing or activity isn’t right, offering a suggestion can soften the blow 

  • Politely decline. As long as you are clear in your response, the other party should always respect your wishes. 

Simply ‘No’ 

At the end of the day, if you don’t want to do something or you feel uncomfortable, say no. Plainly and simply, no. You do not owe anyone an explanation or need their understanding. You are almost always free to say no to anything. That is your right, your prerogative and your power. When used correctly, ‘no’ can be a great tool for setting boundaries, making priorities clear, and being honest with friends and partners. Now go forth into the world and use the power of ‘no’ for good… unless that is, you don’t want to. 


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