The Awesome Power of a “No”

Knowing when to give in and when to hold your ground.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Wherever you go,
wherever you be,
do not say yes
when you mean
to say no.

I’m not so sure I even knew how to rhyme it properly along with my kid mates then. After over 40 years, the youngest of my kids is well past that age now. They used to hum it as well but I’ve not heard them sing it in a long while. At home last week, I deliberately started hymning it, slowly. One of my boy’s caught up with me and completed the second half of the rhymes.

Doubtless, you might have found yourself in this unflattering position many a time past. Author, Jana Kemp’s book, NO! How One Simple Word Can Transform Your Life, might just be the answer you need. Hear him out. “No, is not a nasty word. In fact, sometimes no is the most honest, reasonable, and ethical response that a situation calls for.”

Why do we often resort to saying ‘Yes” when the most appropriate answer to give in many situations is “No”? Many reasons are behind our self-defeating response. According to the author, these among other factors, often stem from pressure of the work environment, the need to be in the good books of our bosses at work, the desire to be seen as a team player, or just the momentary need to get the heat and the pressure off our backs.

We all need to and we can indeed reclaim the power of No. Here are some reasons we need to give heed to his wake up call;

1. We lose out when we default indiscriminately to a “yes” response

What do we lose out when we say “yes” where “no” should have been our most appropriate responses?

  • We end up losing ourselves, our time, and sometimes our lives.
  • We become our own worst enemies and we often lose our self-respect before those whom we often desire to please no matter what.
  • We make ourselves victims by permitting others to prey on our lap-dog attitude of always putting others first at our own expense all the time.  
  • Our inability to say “no” give others free invitations to turn against us. 
  • Constantly saying “no” give others permission to do against us those things we don’t want, like, or desire to be done against us.

When we say yes to every request and demand, we become our own worst enemies. And we make ourselves victims of our constant decisions to say yes.
~ Jana Kemp

2. What class are you in?

According to the author, there are three main types of people classified according to their responses to typical situations. These are;

  • The Master of No (you can say no effectively)
  • The Waffler (you mostly say maybe)
  • A Yes-ism Person (you usually say yes).

So, to which of these classes do you belong?

Saying yes always is not necessarily bad but, a default response of “yes” in all situations and at all times could be detrimental to individuals and the progress of organizations and their management. Saying “no” is not always easy, and it is easier to line up with the majority who say yes even when yes is unsafe and dangerously detrimental in the long run.

3. What should my answer be? A “yes” or “no”?

How then can you recognize when to say “yes” and when is “no” the best response? The answer, according to the author, is in the Power of No Model. This model provides decision points that will guide us towards reaching the best response in every situation. The author’s five decision points of the model are easily remembered by the acronym POWER:

  • Purpose
  • Options/Resources
  • When
  • Emotional Ties
  • Rights and Responsibilities.


“These five decision-points include subsets of questions, conversations, and agreements that will lead you to say yes and to say no when it is most fitting. These subsets of discussion will also help you protect you and others as you determine whether you’ll say yes or no to a request, an invitation, or a demand.”


Once you’ve learned to apply the Power of No Model, it takes just a few minutes to apply and to use in a conversation.”

Here are the suggestions he provided on how to use The POWER of No Model to make more effective Yes & No Decisions as in the following example:

4. Saying “Yes” out and loud. 

When building a yes statement that means yes, you want all YES answers to the author’s Power of No Model questions that follow.


  1. Purpose: Does the word yes appear in the sentence?
  2. Options and Resources: Do you know what your options and resources are to help get this done?
  3. When: Does the sentence say clearly when your yes takes effect?
  4. Emotional Ties: Have you acknowledged how you feel about what you are going to say?
  5. Rights: Have you considered your rights, responsibilities, and the consequences of saying yes?


If you can’t say yes to all five questions, you may be putting yourself in the maybe-waffler position, a position in which others may think you are not answering or are saying no. If you say no to any of these questions, ask for more information that will help you discover the details of each of the Five Powers of No. Then, revisit these five questions and make your clear internal yes or no decision so that you can state your best response to loud and follow through.

5. Using the Power of No Model

From the author, answering yes or no to the questions below will help you to arrive at more effective “Yes’ or “No” responses. These are as follows;
  • Purpose: Do I understand the purpose?
  • Options and Resources: Have I been given options? Do I need them?
  • When: Can I deliver on the requested deadline?
  • Emotional Ties: Do I feel good about taking this on?
  • Rights and Responsibilities: Are my rights being respected?

If you end up with more yes answers to these questions, yes might be the best answer or response. If you end up with more no answers to these questions, then no is the best response. Make your best possible decision.

It takes a lot of courage to say “No” and stick to it, especially when organizational group-think sets in and it seems far easier to say yes.


Developing your capacity to say “no” rather than “yes” when you mean to say “no” is one of the most liberating experiences. This is a must, if ever you are going to reach and lead the life of your dreams. The power of “No” is in you. Don’t let it go to waste. Go ahead, start using it.



Copyright by (c) Jana Kemp, NO! How One Simple Word Can Transform Your Life, AMACOM, 2005

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