Read My Lips…

  3 times when No is the most positive thing you can say

Quick – What’s the most positive thing you can say to someone who is asking you do something you just don’t want to do?

Answer –


It is my considered opinion, after years of dealing with people close to me who have a warped sense of what it means to be good, helpful and gracious, that the best way to stay positive in a negative situation is to simply say no to some people.

It’s counter-intuitive, I get that but we’ve been taught from a very early age that nice polite people always say yes and that’s just not the case.

Can you help me move on Saturday?


Will you drive me to the airport? Why not?

Never mind the fact that I have my own jobs that need doing, I was planning on fixing my garden on Saturday and I really just need some time to myself so I can recharge the batteries and finish that novel I started reading six months ago. But my needs aren’t as important as yours, I want to be a nice person so I’ll suck it up and say yes.

Being agreeable is seen as a virtue while saying no and standing up for or my rights and emotions somehow gets me seen as selfish.  That’s just wrong! Often times saying yes can really lead to enabling and saying no can be the most loving and gracious thing you can do to help someone take control of their own life and grow as a human. Saying no forces people to look for other options and can therefore be the most positive thing you can say to in a lot of situations.

Here are 3 situations just off the top of my head when saying no is actually a positive response.

how about no

1 – When saying yes contributes to dependency and enabling

When your alcoholic friend asks you drive him to the liquor store, say no. That’s a no brainer. But less obvious, when your disorganized sister-in-law asks you to baby sit the kids, in five minutes, while she goes to a dentist appointment that she booked 6 months ago, you should still say no. How else is she going to learn to plan ahead?

Best-selling author and syndicated radio host Dave Ramsey says that enablers are the nicest people in the world, except for one thing, they’ve defined help wrong. Saying yes to people who need to change their behavior or get professional help is not helping. No is the right answer when yes contributes to a deeper problem.

2- When saying yes damages your own well being and self-esteem

Here’s a scenario; it’s a long weekend, I’ve worked hard these last few months and I’m looking forward to working in my garden and maybe reading a book on the patio. Six months ago I asked my brother-in-law to help me trim the hedges but he never got back to me. Just as I’m about to open a beer and enjoy some “me” time he shows up unannounced with the hedge trimmers and expects me to drop everything. No, I’m not doing that today, I need some quiet time. Call ahead.

I’m sure you can think of a number of other similar situations. You have plans, someone else asks for help or worse assumes you will change them because their needs, in their eyes, are more immediate but to say yes would set you back on your own agenda. We’ve been taught that saying no in these situations is selfish but isn’t it just as selfish to expect people to change plans for you? Yes it is, so explain to me again how saying no in the first place is selfish as well?

3 – When what you really mean is no

It all comes down to how we handle our emotional response. For such a short word, No, carries a lot of emotional baggage with it. Saying yes when you really want to say no does something to our psyche, it hurts us in ways we don’t immediately recognize or understand. It makes us bitter and contributes to our own long term anger and depression.

Social researcher and author Susan Cain, has pointed out the following;

One noteworthy study suggests that people who suppress negative emotions tend to leak those emotions later in unexpected ways… Later, however, the people who hid their emotions suffered side effects. Their memory was impaired, and the negative emotions they’d suppressed seemed to color their outlook. – Susan Cain; Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

So the next time you are asked to do something, take a breath before you respond and think it through. Will saying yes ultimate hurt the person who’s asking, or yourself? Is no maybe the better response in the long run?

People might not like you in the moment, and they may never see it as a positive but sometimes it’s not about that. Sometimes you have to say no in order to remain a positive influence in people lives, especially your own.

To Thine Own Emotions Be True

One noteworthy study suggests that people who suppress negative emotions tend to leak those emotions later in unexpected ways… Later, however, the people who hid their emotions suffered side effects. Their memory was impaired, and the negative emotions they’d suppressed seemed to color their outlook. – Susan Cain; Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

Whether it be in business, or ministry or just everyday life people tend to be uncomfortable with excessive amounts of emotion. We are encouraged from an early age not to laugh too loud, cry or vocalize our anger in public. When we have an emotional outburst, we are too often told to “shake it off”, “suck it up” and “take a breath”.

While this may seem like good advice when emotions could damage relationships I believe in the long run it’s killing us. Well maybe not exactly. Stifling our emotions might not give us cancer but it certainly alters us in ways we cannot immediately see or understand until years later.

The truth is we, as a society, are not comfortable with our emotions. Sure, we collectively rejoice when our team wins the championship and we may shed a tear when the soldiers come home or the police officers are shot but even in those corporate moments of shared joy and grief we are encouraged to move on quickly. Nobody wants to spend time with Debbie Downer and we are equally uncomfortable around the perpetually “up”. It’s as if we have all agreed that our society functions best in a state of quiet, emotionless equilibrium. Whether we admit it or not we all what to be Mr. Spock, from StarTrek.


I’ll admit I’m not an overly emotional guy. I’m not easily impressed, I don’t get excited about things, I don’t get angry and although I have admitted to crying quite a bit privately I hardly ever cry in public. This works for me. I never feel unsafe expressing my emotions. And because I tend to express them sparingly, on the rare occasions when I do I believe they carry more weight.

I’ll never forget the last time I had a major emotional outburst at work, there was no mistaking that I was angry about the circumstances, my coworkers and the one client involved talked about it for years afterwards, and the situation never repeated itself. In that case I was able to use my emotions to great effect but I also believe that deep down I damaged relationships and hurt myself and my reputation in the process. You see, in that case my anger and frustration had actually been mounting for weeks, had I let it out more slowly over time, like air out of a balloon, I don’t think the situation would have ever escalated to the point in did. And why did I allow my emotions to mount for that long? Because I had been listening to the voices of our society tell me to “shake it off”, “suck it up” and “take a breath.”

Why are we so uncomfortable with emotions? I think it’s partly due to jealousy. When we see an emotional outburst our first response is to join in, misery loves company and so does euphoria, but then we remember we’re not supposed to feel this way for long so we “suck it up” and then look down on the people who don’t or can’t as somehow less evolved that we are.

There’s a bit of neuroscience involve here too. The more we suck it up the more we train our brains how to react and build neuro-pathways that make it easier to react that way the next time. But sooner or later our emotions always find a way out and the balloon pops.

We can’t all be Mr. Spock as much as certain parts of our society lionize his emotionless demeanor. But do you remember the back story of the Vulcan Empire? It seems that the Vulcan people trained themselves to think only in terms of logic because their history was plagued with violence. They had made a conscious effort to evolve and viewed emotions as primitive. Sound familiar?

The fact is, emotions are not primitive. They are what make us who we are and stifling them only makes us less than who we are meant to be. Yes we need to learn appropriate behaviours but that doesn’t mean we need to deny the way we feel about things. It is only by being true to your emotions can you be true to yourself.




Persistence isn’t very glamorous. If genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration, then as a culture we tend to lionize the one percent. We love its flash and dazzle. But great power lies in the other ninety-nine percent. – Susan Cain; Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

If there is one thing an Entrepreneur needs its persistence.

People use different ways to describe the quality of persistence. They call it heart, drive or gumption but what they really mean is persistence.

The history of the world is full or stories of persistence, people who had a big idea or a big vision and worked at it, day and night until they became an “overnight” success. But we all know there is no such thing as an overnight success, unless by overnight you mean people who work while the rest of the world sleeps.  Entrepreneurs, ministry leaders and just everyday folks who want to be successful in their endeavors know that persistence is the key to success.



Three Feet From Gold

There is a piece of American history that has often come to mind for me whenever I think about persistence. It’s one of those stories that is hard to verify but as a result has taken on the qualities of folklore.

Apparently there was a man who went into the mountains in search of gold. He found a small vein a decided that he would need a lot more help in the form of capital investment in order to make his mine profitable so he covered up the vein and went back to the city to raise the needed money. When he returned, deeply in debt, and started digging it turned out the vein was not nearly as profitable as he had originally hoped. He was eventually forced to sell his claim and all of his equipment to satisfy his debts. Years later the new owner of the mine began digging in the same spot and just three feet from where the original owner quit, hit a mother-load of gold worth millions.

People have used this story to explain and further a variety of agendas. I most often hear it as an inspirational tale of persistence but it can also be given as a cautionary tale about the toll of too much debt. Had the original owner built out his business more slowly he could have purchased equipment with cash and not have had to worry so much about making payments on the debt before the vein paid off. But at the end of the day the idea remains the same.

Persistence pays.

I tend to write with a double emphasis on entrepreneurship and Christ-following. The story of the miner who quit just three feet from gold has applications and implications in both worlds. The call of the entrepreneur and the Christ-follower are similar in that both have a vision for the “now and the not yet”. Persistence is required in both cases to see the vision come to fruition. So the next time you are tempted to loss heart, remember the story of the miner who was three feet from gold.

Pray and dig a little deeper. The reward could be great.

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. [Philippians 3:14]