No Fu – The Warriors Way to Say No

Personal Development
No Fu – The Warriors Way to Say No post image

What if you could drop all your fears that stop you from achieving whatever you like?

What if you could stay calm while saying “No” to anyone anytime you really don’t want to do, what they want you to do?

What if you could with the same strength and peace of mind say “No” to all the things that try to allure you into doing something you don’t want to do.

Would you like such a strength and power?

Then find out how the old samurais and medieval warriors gained their power of saying no and making decisions. The same power that we admire even today when we look at any movie hero. This power could be yours too. Are your ready?

What You Might Not Know About Kung Fu?

Just out of luck I came across a Wikipedia article about the term Kung Fu. I highly recommend reading it. It describes, what the term kung fu (or Gongfu) meant. What I found is quite astonishing:

Gōngfu (功夫) is a compound of two words, combining 功 (gōng) meaning “achievement” or “merit”, and 夫 (fū) which translates into “man”, so that a literal rendering would be “human achievement”.

Originally, to practice kung fu did not just mean to practice Chinese martial arts. Instead, it referred to the process of one’s training – the strengthening of the body and the mind, the learning and the perfection of one’s skills – rather than to what was being trained. It refers to excellence achieved through long practice in any endeavor. You can say that a person’s kung fu is good in cooking, or that someone has kung fu in calligraphy; saying that a person possesses kung fu in an area implies skill in that area, which they have worked hard to develop. Someone with “bad kung fu” simply has not put enough time and effort into training, or seems to lack the motivation to do so.

In this meaning, I coined the term No Fu (meaning No Man).

It is the kung fu (i.e. human achievement) of a man who has achieved mastery over the powers of the english word NO.

Why Are We Afraid of the Word No?

From our childhood on we were taught to associate the word “No” with rejection and painful feelings of being a failure. Although our mothers hopefully used the word “No” only to show us the borders, in which we can safely experience our environments, most people learned to associate saying “No” to someone with being rude, impolite or even anti-social. At least we feel a bit uncomfortable saying it to someone.

Ok, you might say “No” today without feeling this pain anymore, but look deep inside yourself and ask, how often have you done things, that you didn’t wanted to do in the current past. How often did you felt like you were not living your life, but you were the servant of other peoples will.

Since I guess that you are not living in real slavery (since you wouldn’t be reading this then), I have to tell you, that whenever you let someone dictate your life, it is not the other persons fault but your fault. You allowed the other person to do this. Either because you don’t want to disappoint them, or you fear the consequences of saying No.

In the end, it will always come down to our fear of the consequences of saying “No”.

What Are You Afraid Of?

A warrior goes into battle with a knowing that he is already destined to die. So he doesn’t need to fear death. Death for him is certain and any further thought is a waste of energy.

What if you could drop all your fears that stop you from achieving whatever you like? What if you could stay calm while saying “No” to anyone anytime you really don’t want to do, what they want you to do? What if you could with the same strength and peace of mind say “No” to all the things that try to allure you into doing something you don’t want to do. Would you like such a strength and power? That is the archetype strength that even today we admire of samurais and medieval knights. This strength that allowed them to go beyond their fears and stick to their believes and decisions. That is – what is attracting us to all those movie heroes. Strength and the power to stick to a decision, even if it means death.

The samurais knew that every decision (and saying “No” or “Yes” is a decision) has consequences (i.e. a price to pay). And they evaluated that price to pay, just like you do.

The difference is, that they were willing to pay higher prices (even if the price was their death). Now trust me, I don’t want you to pay with your life for anything. But just imagine you were such a samurai. You were so strong in yourself, that nothing could shake you, and even though you might experience fear, you won’t allow it to change your thinking and your decision. Can you imagine yourself being that strong? If you can imagine it, then you can be it.

Now imagine that you are in a situation where someone asks you to do something, that you don’t want to do. Quickly evaluate, what the worst thing really could be to happen, when you tell them straight in the face, that you won’t do it. Would you be willing to risk that payment?

Evoking the Power of No Fu

Do me a favor and let’s try an experiment. Get yourself a piece of paper or a journal.

  1. Write down the people (in your private and professional life) that you sometimes have a problem with saying “No” to what they want from you.
  2. For each person list what you would have liked to say “No” to, but instead what you have agreed on doing.
  3. For each person write down, what you think would be the worst thing that could really happen, when you tell them that you won’t do it. Would you get fired by your boss? Would your spouse leave you? Would your friends never contact you? Make a quick estimate on a scale of 1 to 10 of the probability of this worst case scenario happening. 1 being highly unlikely and 10 being absolutely sure that this will happen. Notice that very often in our minds we tend to exaggerate things. Write down what you think would really happen.
  4. This is the essential point: If you really consider the consequences of point 3 probable, then prepare yourself for them to happen.
    • If you would get fired, how could you secure your living?
    • If your spouse would leave you, how could you go on living?
    • If your friends would never contact you, how can you handle that and not get destroyed by it? Try to come up with resourceful answers. Don’t say “My life is over”, but focus on how to go on, how to turn your life around, even if that would happen.
  5. Make an agreement with yourself, that from now on you will accept the potential worst case as a possible outcome, and that you won’t accept others going against your beliefs anymore. Write it down.
  6. When it comes to the confrontation: Stay calm, breathe deeply while talking. You now know, that you can already live with your greatest fear, now focus all your energy on constructive working out a better solution with them. If they don’t want to accept that, then you are willing to let them go or get fired. Tell them so, but with a calm voice. Focus your attention on a point just about 2 fingers below your naval and breathe in to this point. This point ic called your “Hara” region in the zen tradition, and it is the point of power, stability and awareness.

As with every kung fu, you have to train this and you shouldn’t expect this to be easy in the beginning. However practice will make you become a master in this art.

What to Accept, and What Not

  • Accept that you will die one day
  • Accept that others might leave you
  • Accept that you might get fired
  • Accept all that – but don’t accept to compromise your own beliefs.

If you can do that, you are free of any fear – and you have transcended the No Fu into a Fearless Fu.


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27 comments… add one
  • Thanks for a lovely article, Patrick!
    I find saying ‘no’ quite difficult at times. I want to be helpful and if someone asks me for help, I tend to say ‘yes’. The upshot isn’t so nice: I sometimes get resentful… That’s always a sure sign I should have said ‘no’.

    • Patrick

      @Mary Jaksch: Getting resentful is definitively a sure sign. I know most of the times just some minutes after having said Yes to something I wanted to say No to, that I made a wrong decision by listening to my body. Something inside my belly is not feeling joyous about the decision. Then I know that I’ve been falling again in the Being-Nice Trap of saying Yes when I didn’t want to.

  • Patrick, Being willing to say “no” is an aspect of having the courage to follow your true path. Staying with our truth is not always easy or popular – and the consequences may not be pleasant. We have a choice: live a lie and pretend or stand in what is clear, right, and true for us. When we stop fighting our true life by listening to mental chatter and are in alignment with it, we are energized and enlivened. And sometimes that includes a resounding, “no!”

    • Patrick

      @Gail: In the end it all comes back to following your own path and becoming more you. And that includes saying No to a lot of things – people, cravings and more.

  • Awesome post Patrick. I love how you relate samurais to encourage rejection of things people have problems to. Sometimes all you need to do is be decisive in your wants and don’t wants. I was actually planning to write on the subject myself. Maybe you will see it soon on my blog too. =)

    • Patrick

      @Karlil: Looking forward on your way of looking at the topic. It is an important concept so there is even more to say about it.

  • I actually had to learn to say no to my managers they would tell me to do something that I knew I could do better a different way. Weighing the risks is definitely the right way to go. Just doing this I ended up being offered a few promotions. Bosses need differing opinions, to keep them from getting stuck. A lot of the better bosses will understand this so long as you say no in a respectful way.

    • Patrick

      @JS Dixon: I agree, better bosses will even prefer strong, authentic people thinking on their own feet.
      Only those people who have a strong lack of self-confidence are afraid of getting a “No” and might take offense by it.
      And of course a “No” should be said in a very respectful way.

      A strong person will come through the soft words and so he doesn’t need to bark like a dog.

  • Al Ahmad | theThunderMan

    Man, this was some deep stuff. I loves it, and will practice it.

  • Patrick

    @Al Ahmad | theThunderMan: Good to hear that from you. Tell me, what your experiences are. Lets keep in touch.

  • Good post Patrick.
    I personally learned to say no back in the days when I was at college. I think it was one of the most important things that I learned there 🙂 Sometimes we think too much of what others will think of us but in reality others do not think that much about us. If you help somebody then this person might forget about it the very next day and his only “gratitude” will be to ask you for help again (because he knows that you cannot say no). Today I am very selective about when to say yes and when to say no to people and I do not think that it makes people think worse about me.

    • Patrick

      @Anastasiya: You still should help people, but not because they want you to, but because it feels good for you to do so. I am very strong for practicing gratitude, but this should come from your heart and you must make it very clear, that you are not willing to let others dictate your behavior by installing guilt.

  • Thanks Patrick
    Very interesting…I have actually been learning and practicing saying “Yes” more often because i find myself saying “No” to much. I guess it comes down to your values, consequences and the reasons for your answers/decisions. Personally, I want to be more open to giving and receiving, letting go of boundaries and limitations but in our actual reality – time & space continuum, we can only say “Yes” to so many things…and they better be important to us.

    • Patrick

      @Jai Kai: Once you mastered the art of No Fu, you then should balance it with Yes Fu. Because once you know, that you have the strength to say No, you can enjoy yourself in saying Yes to the thinks you really like and want. And giving and receiving (when coming from the hard and not a feeling of guilt) is one of the greatest pleasures.

  • Anonymous

    This article is priceless! I can’t remember the countless times I’ve been in this dilemma.

    • Patrick

      @Anonymous: So I hope that the outlined steps will help you to end this dilemma once and for all. Keep coming back and tell us, how you’ve changed.

  • Hi Patrick,

    Wonderful article. I feel comfortable saying “No” when I come from a place of doing good to the other person.

    Let me explain, I feel your intention in saying “No” to something plays a strong role in how it comes out. If the intention is to do good for the other person just by saying, “you know what, this is just not the right fit for me”, or “I can say yes now, but I really don’t be able to get to this, so I would rather say no and save you the disappointment”, then the “No” that comes out is elegant and in most cases, the other person is fine.

    On the other hand, I feel uncomfortable when saying “No” out of a place of selfishness or doing harm in anyway to the other person. “No, I can’t, I have other things to do” – when I really have my plate clear. The outcome depends a lot on the intention, I think. Your thoughts :-)?

    Cheers,
    Krishna

  • J C Garner

    What’s so great about the warrior’s way anyway? Why not just do as you please and avoid a confrontation?

    • Patrick

      I would say the “Warriors Way” is a synonym and not everyone would like to choose that way. However life at times pushes us to experience that quality within us. And I guess that avoiding confrontation is in most cases not the best route to take, if you don’t want to avoid people altogether. We humans tend to rub each other ever so often just to experience our boundaries and confrontation in my opinion is not something to be afraid of or to be avoided at all. It is (although at times painful) part of the process of mental and physical evolution and a needed part of getting stronger and healthier in any way.

  • Just discovered your blog and really enjoyed this post – I just wrote a post today on a similar topic – using one’s intuition to know when to say yes to helping or giving to someone, and when to say no. I look forward to reading more of your writings.

    • Patrick

      LInda, welcome to UYM. Increasing your awareness and your intuition to know when to say yes and when to say no is such an important topic that it could should be covered from many angles.

  • Patrick

    @Miguel de Luis: Thank you for the spanish translation.

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