Saying "no" has never been more important. 

 

No is the new Yes.

 

Do you remember the film Yes Man (2008) with Jim Carey? The one where he goes to a seminar and decides from that day on to say “yes” to every question he’s asked. He’s taken on a whirlwind journey of discovery – from the dizzy heights of a Harry Potter costume party, to a spontaneous trip to Lincoln, Nebraska and of course, before the credits roll, he falls in love.  It’s silly, but a fun watch. Though don’t believe you’d be better off for saying ‘yes’ more often.

‘Unleashing the power of “yes”’ is wildly celebrated in the self-help industry and by life coaches. They claim it to be the key to unlocking a world of unrealised potential and success. “If only you could allow ‘yes’ into your life” – I can hear being said on their Instagram stories.

So what’s wrong with ‘no’?

‘Yes’s’ ugly little brother has been hung out to dry, an outcast on the edges of society.

Is saying ‘no’ to things really that bad?

You’ve heard that nothing worth having comes easy- well I doubt you’ve ever had trouble saying ‘yes’. It’s far harder instead to say ‘no’. For Instance:  

 

  • When your boss asks if you’re willing to work overtime - How hard does saying ‘no’ seem then?

 

  • When you’re in a store and a pushy sales rep hassles you to sign up for the loyalty card - How much easier would it be to say ‘yeah, sure’?

 

  • When a friend invites you to a social function you have no interest in whatsoever – How often have you said “Yes, I should be able to make it”?

 

When caught off guard without time to think of an excuse, saying ‘yes’ becomes instinctual. All the while your head is shouting “Shit! Why didn’t I just say ‘no’?”.

Being willing to say ‘no’ is a lost necessity – a life skill that should be passed down from generation to generation. I use the term ‘Saying no’ generally - I’m also referring to disagreeing with people, challenging points of view and rejecting unwanted advances or offers.

Western culture criticises a ‘no’ state of mind. It’s associated with negativity, cynicism and confrontation purely because it can be unpleasant. It can hurt feelings and it can cause people to dislike you, but it’s imperative nonetheless. Saying ‘yes’ all the time, constantly being agreeable or non-confrontational, and worrying too much about causing offence isn’t productive or attractive.

So how do you approach hard conversations? Would you challenge shitty behaviour? Do you complain about bland food in restaurants? Would you agree to pay full price at a market? Or would you haggle it down?

Some men take pride in being nice all the time. They try to be friendly with everyone, avoid causing offence, and hate to make a big deal out of stuff. Nothing is ever an issue – they’d do anything for anyone. They believe they’re good men but end up getting walked all over and wonder why girls don’t stick around for long.

If you glance a moment longer, you’ll see they aren’t the shining young men they purport to be. Being overly nice, or overly ‘yes’, is synonymous with anxious men looking for love. To these guys, being loved and liked is paramount. They can’t stand making a negative impact on anyone, so never risk upsetting people through disagreements or confrontation. They justify their inability to say what they really think by convincing themselves they are good old-fashioned respectful gentlemen. What’s really going on is that they fail to set and maintain standards.   

On dates, they laugh at everything the girl says and agree with her all night without ever really having an opinion about anything. They pretend to be interested in the same stuff she is and have a hard time being themselves.

Women sense it and find it needy. It clearly communicates low self-worth. It is a big bold sign post that says “wet blanket”.

No longer is a man’s sole purpose to hunt and provide for his family. No longer is his strength and power measured by muscle or the warmth of his cave come nightfall. Masculinity has evolved with the times.

Being a ‘Yes-Man’ is not a sign of manliness. Women rightly assume that if you aren’t brave enough to disagree with her, if you’re unable to handle pressure, or your generally can’t stick up for yourself, then you probably won’t be standing up for her any time soon either (socially or physically). You won’t provide her with any sort of protection or support.

Every man wanting to develop his masculinity should aim to be more of a “No-Man”. A ‘No-Man’ means to be willing to hurt someone’s feelings if needs be.

  • To say difficult things that need to be said.
  • To turn down the girl you aren’t attracted to, who asks for your number. Or the charity worker in the street who wants a moment of your time.
  • It’s to say ‘no’ to plans you don’t want to be a part of – a blind date with the girl your friend tried to set you up with.
  • It’s to challenge unacceptable behaviour from the colleague who treats you like shit, the friendly guy who covertly takes advantage of you, or the girl that turns up late for a date.   
  • It’s to probe views and opinions when others would say “Yeh, I see what you mean, I completely agree”.
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Boiled down, it means to prioritise your values and standards before the need to be polite, despite possibly hurting feelings and pissing people off.

A “No-Man” is an attitude that communicates self-worth.

It’s a way of living that builds trust and respect. The people in your life learn that you won’t cater to their every need, you won’t put up with being treated like shit and you will stand up for yourself. But they’ll also learn that they can depend on you. They’ll count on you to stand up for them when they need you. They’ll trust your honest opinion on tough subjects. And soon enough, the type of girls you’d like to be with will be glad to depend on your strength of character also. It is untamed attraction.

Sometimes “No-Men” hurt feelings, but that doesn’t make them bad.

Shutting people down and telling them things they don’t want to hear will occasionally upset them. You may even get called a dick, or a cunt. But society depends on dicks (both metaphorically and literally) - We depend on the people who make the tough decisions and say difficult things because it’s the right thing to do, not what’s popular. Good business deals don’t happen when the need to be polite and courteous is put before the needs of the company.

From an early age we’re taught to be nice boys and girls – ‘do what your told’, ‘respect your elders’ and ‘don’t step out of line’. We carry these good manners into adulthood, and if we aren’t careful, they lead us into trouble. We leave ourselves vulnerable to exploitation, however insignificant or harmless. We become inept at standing up for ourselves and saying ‘no’ fills us with anxiety. It’s because we spend so much time trying to get along and act like everything is okay. It happens all the time, and it only takes an unethical “No-Man” (or “No-Person”) to take advantage, confident they won’t be challenged.

How often is it reported that a crime takes place in a busy public space whilst everyone looks on and does nothing, acting like it’s okay? – An unwanted sexual advance on a crowded bus or a drunk guy pissing in the street in the middle of the day- It’s not that our fellow citizens don’t care, they’re just too afraid. They’re too scared to cause a fuss, they freeze, ill-equipped to become involved.

Even in the less serious, mundane circumstances people are the same.

Recently I was sat on the Tube in London, when to my annoyance a couple of students were playing music from a Bluetooth speaker loud enough for the whole carriage to hear. After the initial frustration I thought to myself ‘Somebody should say something….…Maybe I should say something” For the next couple of stops, whilst the two guys were singing along and waving their arms around, I wrestled with the idea, one minute talking myself out of it, the next -waiting for the right moment to interject. I worried what might happen if they said ‘no’- would I feel embarrassed? Would they shout abuse at me? Would my pants fall down?... Well anyway I eventually leaned forward and loudly said something like “excuse me, could you use your headphones instead or turn your music off please?”. The guys turned it off immediately and apologised.  The rest of the journey was spent in blissful silence.

Whilst the music was playing the carriage was full of other passengers rolling their eyes and deeply sighing. Surprisingly, after I spoke up, some of these passengers came to thank me as they left. “Good job mate”, “I’m glad somebody said something!”, “I would’ve said it myself, but I was only here for a couple of stops”. Despite feeling as outraged as I did, they all just sat there enduring it, saying nothing and making excuses. And they will do this in all seemingly insignificant uncomfortable situations. They won’t complain in restaurants, they won’t voice their unpopular point of view and they’ll be agreeable all the time because that’s their comfort zone – to act like everything is okay.

Society depends on ethical ‘No-Men’ to fight their battles for them.

Anxious men don’t exercise their standards with the women they like, instead ending up in relationships with women they were never too excited to be with, just because it was easy and didn’t want the heartache of stopping it. Despite not being overly interested, they’re ‘too nice’ to end things. After months of wishy-washy feelings and avoiding getting serious they disappear from her life with only a text or a call, unable to have the decency for an honest but painful conversation. How great are these so-called gentlemen?

It’s not that they hate hurting people’s feelings, it’s that they hate how uncomfortable hurting feelings makes them feel. So they avoid it, selfishly, even though it’s the right thing to do.

See, being a ‘no’ man and ethically putting yourself first doesn’t make you a bad guy, even if you upset people from time to time and even if they hate your guts. It is far more respectful to honestly tell people what you’re thinking and feeling than telling them what you think they want to hear.

If you’ve listened to my podcast on why most dating advice doesn’t work, and what you should focus on instead, you’ll have listened to my guidance on “killing your ego” – how to deal with anxiety and bad feelings – Which will help with this next part.

Make a decision to prioritise your values and standards before the need to be nice or polite.

Get comfortable exercising these standards and sticking up for yourself through having tough conversations and potentially hurting feelings.

Say ‘no’ more often, disagree, challenge views and behaviour. Be mindful of any time your actions and words are motivated by a need to please, appease or act like everything’s okay.

It’s easy to hide behind emails and phones so get used to saying ‘no’ on the spot, in person. You’ll catch yourself automatically saying ‘yes’, commit to plans you’re not interested in or ignore something that you should challenge. In that moment, bite the bullet and change your tune. Put yourself first and if they don’t like it, too bad, endure the awkwardness. Doing what is best for you is more important than being polite.

Many feel the need to make excuses or justify turning a person down –

“I’m seeing the dentist”, “I’m not feeling well”, “I’ll get back to you”, “I’ve shit myself”

You are allowed to say no. You are allowed to move seats on the train when a smelly person sits next to you, without pretending to get off entirely. You don’t owe anyone an explanation. You don’t need to justify your no’s even when people probe into them. If you’re asked “why?” - just say “because I don’t want to, I’d rather not”.

But what if feelings get hurt? What if you get challenged? What if they don’t apologise? – It doesn’t matter. The important part is highlighting the existence of your standards – your boundaries (what you will and won’t put up with). Just speaking up is enough. It’s not about winning arguments, proving yourself or saving face - none of that matters. You could make a complete fool of yourself but as long as you’ve stuck up for your values instead of denying their existence, you’ll always be moving in the right direction. You’ll soon weed out the people who genuinely like you, from the people who just like to hear what they want.

It never feels nice to hurt feelings, but sometimes it needs to happen for their benefit and yours. Sometimes cold harsh truths need to be told, even to you. And that’s okay. It’s okay to be called a prick - it doesn’t make you one. You don’t have to be liked by every random person in your town or city or even most of the people you know. You are who you define yourself to be.

But this needn’t concern you. The majority of the time you won’t upset people or piss them off. Your dates and friendships won’t be filled with endless arguments and clashes – that’s at the far end of the spectrum. Most of the time you’ll exercise your no’s in friendly environments and in good jest. It’ll be fun, playful and in romantic circumstances it’ll cause some sexual tension. You could be discussing why you’re not a fan of her favourite T.V show, or politics or country, or challenging her views on them. You could be telling your colleagues that you aren’t going to the Christmas party this year- “Why?”

 

“Because I can’t……….”

 

It doesn’t mean that you’re not allowed to agree or do something nice. You’re allowed to say ‘yes’.

 As always it all boils down to why. Why are you agreeing or disagreeing? – because you want to? Or because you feel like you probably should?

Being a ‘No-Man’ doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is. It’s more than just saying ‘no’, it’s an attitude that informs your whole character.

Women love it. It’s so rare. They’re more used to guys saying anything they think will be impressive. Instead, your dates will see the real you. Your conversations will have an air of playfulness and cheekiness to them, that’ll make sexual tension come naturally.

The beauty of becoming a ‘No-Man’ is that you don’t have to practice pickup lines or learn weird techniques - you can work through your anxiety every day. At work, home or with friends, without realising, you’ll be developing your life and relationship skills. You’ll become more attractive without ever trying.

 

 

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