We’ve seen the statement: “No is a sentence”. For most women, the word “no” is barely a part of our vocabulary, least of all when it counts.

If you’re just a girl who can’t say no, I’m right there with you. I’ve been thinking a lot about why it’s hard to simply say no. No disclaimers, no explanations, just plain old “no.” I’ve reviewed my history with saying no, and it saddens me to say that it was mostly said when I was protecting my virtue as a teen. Even then, it was couched with excuses, platitudes and reasons. Other than physical protection, “No! Don’t hurt me!” or concern for property, “No! That’s mine,” we HATE to say no. Our mommies taught us to be agreeable and helpful. We say “yes, of course” before we have even made a decision. Why doesn’t this happen to men?

Men have no problem saying no. I listen to men, especially when talking to other guys and their “no” answer is definitive. It’s final. The most you’ll get is a maximum of 5 or 6 words:

“No man, sorry, can’t do it.”

“Can’t go, I’ve got plans.”

“Nope, I’m busy.”

“No dude, another time.”

WHAT??? That’s it? And here’s the thing, their buddies ACCEPT those answers. They may say, “You sure?” “Yeah” is the reply. And that’s IT. In fact, a guy might throw this one at you:

“No, I don’t want to.”

Hold on…you don’t WANT to? Since when does that matter? But why should this be offensive or wrong? It’s a fact. How many times do we agree to do things we don’t want to do just to be nice? I’m not talking about obligations, like work, major family events, etc. I’m talking about game night with the neighbors, another happy hour with the girls…things that are, well, skippable.

The first time I realized “not wanting to” was a valid response was when I asked my guy to accompany me somewhere, like the mall. He said, “Baby, I don’t want to.” Incredulous, wide-eyed and stunned into silence, I had no idea where to go with that answer. Was it about me? (of course that was my first thought) I realized when he continued folding his laundry that it wasn’t personal. It had nothing to do with me, or not wanting to spend time together. He hates the mall. He doesn’t want to go there. What a revelation. You can say ‘no thanks, don’t want to” without being struck by lightning. I use it on him – sparingly…I’m still working up to it, but it’s remarkably freeing to just say no because you’d rather do something else, or nothing at all.

Maybe part of the problem is that our fellow women won’t take no for an answer. “Oh no! Why not?”. Yikes…now what? We go through the list of ready-made excuses, pick one and hope it suffices. It usually doesn’t. A host of helpful ways to solve your fake predicament come flowing from our counterparts. If you do end up sticking to your decision to say no, you’ve deflected so much assistance and created such a broad background story you wish you had taken notes.

If we are going to learn to refuse, we need to give each other a break. No means no. Even when it’s NOT about sex. Why can’t we gals just accept no as an answer? Because we “feel bad”. People “need us”. UGH. We need to get out of our own way, sisters! And it starts with each one of us. Next time one of your girls says no to an outing, a favor or anything else, let’s make a pact to say, “Ok- maybe next time”, or “You sure?” and stop there. Let’s not guilt, coerce or cajole. If we can get this rolling socially, maybe we can help each other be more decisive in work, in parenting and in our marriages when necessary. Let’s pass this on to our daughters. Imagine how much happier they’ll be when they say no to the extra night at the book fair or the date they’d rather skip.

For more on women’s empowerment, visit me at JoyfulforLife!