The Art of Saying No


Hey Adam,

Could you elaborate on how to stand up for yourself in moments of aggression, manipulation or control? How to firmly and effectively say "no" without it being purely based on anger? I realize that holding on to anger clouds your judgement and is only an indicator that something must be done about the situation whether it be complete surrender/acceptance, walking away or expressing your feelings. 

I live with an extremely negative family member and arguing with him about his behavior is not a good idea, as he is extremely defensive. Still, I do think that a good balance is required of personal power in order to determine what is right and not for you in a situation. Also, I'd like to learn how to do this as a general skill (as a lot of anger/fear creeps in when I do).


This can be one of the most challenging situations in day to day life to deal with. To start with, it may make things easier if you have no expectation that it should be easy or hard. Without your expectation that you handle it with a certain amount of effectiveness, suddenly you are free from the burden of handling it in a particular way, or judging yourself for how the situation is handled.

Gurus In Disguise

Other people can be like gurus in disguise – they show you the fear or negativity that lives inside you, that otherwise would go unnoticed.

If possible, you can be grateful that this family member is triggering your internal reactions. Triggering them means they can be released through awareness and acceptance. Let the reactions happen, just witness them without labeling them. Then you can begin to disidentify from them (which happens automatically when you allow and witness). Be aware that you are simply the awareness of them.  

This does not mean reactions should not occur, or they should not be expressed. If you have no preference whether or not fear or anger arises in the body, then you can witness these things act out. They may even take over speech and action. If you remain as a witness, they will not become out of control. Give them space. From here they will be used or dissolved most effectively.

The negativity in others can seek to trigger the negativity in you. When people seem to enjoy upsetting others or creating drama, it is the painful energy in them looking to feed and sustain itself through the similar energy of others. Don’t take these behavioural traits to be the identity of other people – it is just the hellish energetic state that controls them, which is looking to stay alive. The family member is not defensive, it is the ego that has taken over – which is defensive.

Natural Silence

Never underestimate natural silence. Silence is the foundation of all wisdom and right action. Appreciating and giving space to silence also allows others to realise what they are doing. When you remain internally silent (as simple awareness), you become like a mirror - without effort others can become more conscious.  

However if you do not (in unchallenging situations) make space for space, allow silence, or treat unchallenging situations with acceptance and awareness , then when someone starts arguing with you, it will seem almost impossible to be calm and silent. Adopt the witnessing attitude with simple things. Walking, sitting, breathing, drinking - just observe, surrender expectation, allow the moment freedom to be. Then when challenges do arise, you are not so swept up by the content of the moment, but can remain with some attention within, surrendered.

Whenever someone does anything hurtful - they do not really realise it, they can not hear themselves speaking, or be aware of themselves acting. Silence, especially in verbal confrontations, can make the other aware of how they sound. You may find yourself speaking, but there is always an inner silence that is unaffected, that does not contribute. Speech and action arise from here, or they don’t if they are not needed.

This silence, however, is different from paralysis. If paralysis happens – where you feel too scared to speak or act – then what can you do? All you can do is watch this happen as well. It may be useful, or it may not, either way, if you fight it or try to think yourself out of it, it gets worse. Its hold loosens when you watch fear happen, without identifying or taking ownership of it.

Useful silence is that which comes with not resisting the moment, with letting life act out as it wishes. Then you become an empty tool that life is free to act through, if needed.

Don’t Bother Justifying Yourself

Don’t hold any attitude that you have to justify yourself or answer to anyone. This is just conditioning, and is something that can get you dragged in to pointless arguments. Trust that the right words will come from a surrendered state. Or there will be a simple silence. Not a silence due to fear of action, but natural silence, which is always beneath the mind chatter, in the space between two thoughts. Dynamic action can even take place, but from a surrendered state it doesn’t even feel as if “you” are responsible – action just naturally happens, in the same way your body is breathing all day, and your heart is always beating – it happens without your preparation.

Don’t try to hold any personal power. Give it up. True power is not personal. It is there when you as a person, are not there. Instead of being a person, be the awareness that the person arises in. True power can then mature inside. It acts spontaneously, without rehearsal or defensiveness.  

When you are not caught up in trying to “be someone” eg. someone who can stand up for themselves – then you become natural, more intelligent

“Standing up for myself” is a common phrase, but what does it mean? What is “myself” – is it real, or a thought? Is “myself” a set of beliefs or opinions? Beliefs, opinions, thoughts and identity do not need defending. When you take them to be who you are, then you will feel threatened when a concept is threatened. Opinions are ok, but when you identify with them, rather than knowing yourself as the witness of them – then you will feel the need to defend that which needs none.

Let Them Be

Let other people be as they are. If that is your foundation, you will not act with a conflicting energy. If you give other people the freedom to think and say what they like, then what can you be angry about? Then you also become more free to act however the moment takes you. You may hear yourself saying “no” to someone, but it will not seem so heavy, not so serious.

This may take a bit of time, or it may not. The ego may not like these words and may protest. You are not any voice in the head, you are that which hears the voice.  

Don’t place expectation on yourself, don’t place expectation on anyone else. That in itself is a huge freedom. If someone acts negatively, if you had no expectation that they should be acting a different way, then you will not get caught up in tension and resistance. This attitude is also healing, it creates a different energy in interaction compared to the normal strenuous one.

I once heard someone say “without an ego you becomes passive, docile and easy to control”. You may become more passive as you feel you are not effected by so many things, and things are not all so serious as we are always told, but an egoless person is practically immune to control, certainly in the sense of psychological manipulation. When your sense of being a limited, transitory, solid entity diminishes, so does fear. Fear is the basis of control. So in terms of responding to control or manipulation attempts, why even respond? Is it actually worth your energy to turn towards it and give it greater reality? Or is it easier to just let it drift past you, or let it remain with the person that is attempting to control?

If you don’t seek to control someone else, then it is very difficult for them to control you. You may find yourself doing as they ask, if that is what you are moved to do, but you will not get sucked in to any fear-based mind games.

Hope that helped somehow, comment below if you wish to ask anything more.

If you have not read it, this recent page on confrontation may help.

All the best,


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Comments for The Art of Saying No

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Aug 18, 2014
"The Art of Saying No 
by: Aubrey Coleman

Well, I do not know where to start, this article was so inspiring. I always thought and felt this way since I was able to form words and, use my words and thought and put them into sentences. 

However I was made to feel and, think that my thinking was obscured, bizarre, and not normal. 
Reading this article just make so much sense to me, I totally understand the thought process that associated and mention in the article. 
This article validated what I was thinking all these years. It give me an foundation to stand on now, as I move forward through life journey, and continue on the path of "PEACE OF MIND" 

I also must commend you on a well written article,that allow me to understand what I thinking for so many year. The article put into words what I was thinking, I will continue to revisit this article form time to time to refresh my thinking process, so that one day I will able to articulate this article to my friends and colleagues. 

Perhaps I and can help them on there the road to "Peace of Mind" I know that it will be challenging and arduous task but I am determine. 

I feel real confident now after reading this article,knowing that the majority of people are operating from their false "EGO" and from fear base mind. I will never underestimate my thinking process again, and moving forward, I will never allow anyone to make me feel or think that my way of thinking is not normal, or that something is wrong with me. 

I realize now, more than every, that people in general feel threaten by a different way of thinking, and because of their insecurities and, fears they become threaten and try to intimidate you. 


Thank you. 

Aug 19, 2014
by: Adam -

Thanks for your comments Aubrey, glad the article helped, 


Jun 30, 2015
Nice post 
by: Jhonny

What a wonderful post is it, i am very happy and i appreciate your effort. You are doing great job. Thanks for sharing your blog.