The 'Magic' Word That Opens The Door To Courageous Choices Every Day

Learn your new favorite magic word (hint: it might be hard to get used to!).

young woman with long dark hair holding both hands earnestly over her heart kraken images /

Saying and receiving a “no” is fraught with a range of discomfort, fears and risks. You may also hesitate to avoid perceptions of not being nice or face rejection.

Avoiding each possibility could feel like safer ground in professional and personal relationships.

Yet, pursuing your goals risks rejection, given implicit ambitions and requests you’ll need to make in the process. And pleasing everyone with a “yes” depletes your own energy and robs you of focus.


However seemingly comfortable the safety net of niceness and avoiding requests, this emotional hideout can be porous and breached.

Why? Because regardless of how nice and generous, how undemanding you are, you can’t control how others think of and treat you. In fact, when your ambition results in successes as you define them, you may even encounter others’ resentment.

RELATED: 10 Choices To Make Today To Be Your Best Self & Achieve Your Goals

The many benefits of 'no'

Sustaining others’ positive feelings toward you and avoiding their disfavor can trap you in a continuing giving mode. That not only can be draining but also limits the authenticity and pleasure of relationships — especially when they’re based primarily on your continuing generosity.


Over time, this can attract and collect people who are takers and manipulators, even if you call them “friends.”

Probably you have already noticed that with some people, the more you accommodate or give to them, the more they expect, even demand.

For example, how many people have you encountered who continue exploiting your goodwill and inherent kindness? So, be alert to others who put only their own needs and wishes first.

RELATED: Why The Vision For Your Life Is More Important Than Your Fear

Convert fear of rejection and need to be useful into opportunity

You can serve your healthy and necessary ambitions for the personal and professional life you want by converting your fear of rejection into bridges to your goals.


Reflecting your authentic self, here are examples of a wide range of possible professional ambitions. They can include earning more money as well as work that stimulates and stretches you through continuous opportunities for learning and responsibilities.

For some, focus is on security and stability, for others, influence, power, and control. Enjoyment, meaning, and purpose, such as making a difference, could be foundational. None of these motivations and interests are mutually exclusive or just applicable to work life.

Identifying your top several values and priorities for any of these considerations will prepare you for reaching out and risking with good sense and improved chances for success, as you define it.

That clarity will alert you to taking a worthwhile risk at a “no” by asking for what you want.


In your personal life, what are your priorities, needs, and situations that support healthy life rhythms? That may include basics such as good sleep, exercise, and appropriate nutrition. Also crucial are relationships with shared values and mutual commitment and caring. Implicit are opportunities for growth and learning, for variety as well as safety, fairness, and pleasures.

In your most important relationships, what will improve their quality? As with professional priorities, time is not renewable. So, make the most of what you have.

RELATED: 5 Ways Your Career Success Depends On Your Effective Communication

Other ways of saying and risking ‘no’ to your benefit

Confronting your fear of conflict and rejection positions you to expand your possibilities. That includes transcending the discomfort of asking for what you want in personal and professional circumstances. This is especially likely if your experience and confidence for dealing with rejection are less developed. Build your resilience, then, by starting with something low risk, but worthwhile trying.


Ask yourself, what’s the worst thing that could happen? What alternatives do you have if initial outreach is rejected? How will you respond to the naysayer?

Will it be with grace, humor, and/or candidness? Examples may include what you say to yourself as well as what you say to the other person.

Examples of what to say to yourself:

  • Well, it’s their loss. Who else will I ask?
  • How could I better phrase my request to try again with this person or another one? Perhaps mention what’s in it for them.
  • What other ways to get what I want are available?

Examples of what to say to the other person:

  • I wonder what you’re thinking about my request.
  • What would you do if you were in my shoes?
  • What alternative would you offer?

Of course, adapt and add your own ideas to any of these suggestions. Include some gentle humor and non-verbal reinforcement to strengthen your approach as well.


RELATED: Why Learning To Say 'No' Is The Most Important Part Of Self-Love

Beyond being nice and being kind

Conventional definitions of kindness include being friendly, generous, and considerate. Yet among these positive aspects lurk dangers. Are you truly being kind if you perpetuate someone’s dependence on your generosity rather than encourage their self-sufficiency? Ways to do that are showing them how to do something, practicing with them, and brainstorming about how they can improve their situations.

If they are not receptive or willing what does that tell you? You may be saddled with their needs for the foreseeable future or discouraging their progress. Either way, saying “no” could contribute to their development. And it will also free your time and energy to meet your personal goals and needs.

RELATED: A Therapist Shares 10 Tips To Stop Feeling Guilty About Saying 'No'


Reap the benefits of risking and saying ‘no’

Each departure from previous habits of passivity and conflict avoidance will contribute to your balance, resilience, and experience in addressing similar situations.

Use your feelings of discomfort, fear, or anxiety as indicators of opportunities for growth and strengthening, not to mention meeting your own goals.

You have the power to choose as well as to learn from each experience. You can be nice by combining candor with empathy and effective listening. That includes asking questions starting with “what” and “how” as well as avoiding “why.”


Paraphrase what the person says to let them know you’ve heard them accurately. Finally, pay attention to and acknowledge emotions that are as significant as facts and information.

RELATED: When, Why, And How To Say No

Holistic outcomes from small steps forward

Each effort you make to convert the power of “no” to meeting your goals explicitly honors your authenticity and appreciation of your own value. The process is one way you can realize your capacity for courage as defined in my doctoral research.

Becoming courageous is a process that reflects your willingness to realize your true capacities by going through discomfort, fear, anxiety, or suffering and taking wholehearted, responsible action.


RELATED: The Psychological Trick To Guarantee Someone Does What You Ask

Ruth Schimel Ph.D. is a career and life management consultant and author of the Choose Courage series on Amazon. She guides clients in accessing their strengths and making viable visions for current and future work. Email to obtain her guide on listening skills and access to her seventh book Happiness and Joy in Work: Preparing for Your Future; benefit from your invitation to a free consultation on her website.