The struggle to say no

California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) and the Student Engagement and Leadership Development team presented a Student Knowledge In Life, Leadership Series

(SKILLS) workshop entitled When to say no: Self-Empowerment on Feb. 17. Headed by Dan Burfeind and Mckinley Wright, they delved into the word empowerment and its meaning. 

There are many definitions and interpretations of the word “empowerment,” but SKILLS speakers explained what it really means. According to the Oxford dictionary, empowerment is “the authority or power given to someone to do something.” Speakers then pondered the question: are individuals empowered when they say “no” and choose not to do something? Burfeind and Wright assert the answer is “yes,” depending on the person and situation.

Defining empowerment, the word authority was brought to attention, due to its association with a negative connotation. Putting “self” in front of authority changes the delivery and intent. Then one is empowering themselves to make their own decisions. There can be tremendous power and confidence in saying “no.” 

SKILLS speakers discussed why it is so hard to say “no.” Depending on the person, individuals may feel more inclined to appease them, despite it bringing on stress. 

Discussing a workplace scenario, speakers said being firm with limitations and communicating with superiors can prove challenging. In avoidance of certain reactions – sadness, disappointment or anger – saying yes seems like the easiest option. However, saying no sets boundaries and creates a respectable understanding with the person. 

The answer to knowing when to say “no” is situational. Most times, it is almost instinctive to reply, if one does not wish to do something that is asked of them. Saying yes takes more of a deliberation because it requires future thought processes of how it might affect an individual at a later time.

When saying “no,” initial feelings of relief or guilt are common. Remember, everyone has the right to turn someone down, whether it be to have a day to oneself, not going to work or taking a night off from socializing to study.

SKILLS speakers said folks should recognize people in their life to reach out to when they need advice or a pick-me-up, especially those who have cheered them on throughout life. Speakers also said individuals can recall the times someone has turned to them to feel an empowerment boost when deciding who to ask for advice. 

Individuals can realize what they can and cannot control in life. Above all, SKILLS speakers said an individual should know themselves, be honest and know their limitations and how far they are willing to push their comfort level before saying yes. 

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