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  • Writer's pictureTabitha Methot

Saying No!

Do You Know How or When to Say No?

We all know someone, or even ourselves, who struggle with setting and maintaining boundaries that allow us to have balanced, happy and fulfilling lives. Not having boundaries allows, and often invites other people and situations to wreak havoc. It doesn’t always feel natural but, learning to say no, when you’ll otherwise be stretched too thin, gives you better control over your own life so that you don’t deplete your energy, resources and sense of calm and balance.

The first step is knowing when its ok to say no. It is important to distinguish that there are times when it is absolutely necessary to say no, for example, when you are stressed, already stretched too thin/sick or otherwise not physically up to doing more. Other times, while you may be physically up for it, you still have every right to say no if you don’t want to do what is being asked. Examples of this are: when you feel like you’re being taken for granted or advantage of, when there is something else you’d rather be doing, or when what is being asked of you doesn’t align with your values, to name a few.

If you find yourself struggling with saying no, it’s a good idea to figure out some of the dynamics causing you to feel the need to say yes. What it will cost you to say yes? What benefit do you get from saying yes? Are you worried about how people will think of you or value you if you say no? What will you have to sacrifice in your own life so you’re able to say yes to someone else? It may help to take a look at where your priorities are in life. For example, with more time, what would you be doing more of? If you had the choice, what would you do less of? And what are your top 3 priorities for life? For the week? For the year?

Finally, you need to plan and practice saying no! As with all change, it comes with time. And with any new skill, you need to practice it to improve. Start by identifying some common or repetitive areas in your life where it would be better for you to start saying no. Write yourself some notes if you need to. Include the person/ situation, what is asked of you, and how you’ll say no.

Some helpful hints for saying no successfully:

· Be honest. You don’t need to give all details and specifics. But you shouldn’t lie about the details themselves. Being caught in lies will always make things worse.

· Be clear on timing. “No” doesn’t always mean never. Sometimes its just a “not now.”

· Stand firm. When people aren’t used to hearing no from you they will try to persuade you to change your answer. Do not get drawn into conversations where they will try to twist words or come up with alternatives for the reasons you’re saying no. Just keep repeating that you aren’t available, that you can’t talk or have other things going on at that time.

· Think about the message behind different words. For example, “I can’t” gives the impression that you can be shown that you CAN. “I don’t” or “I won’t” sound like you have established boundaries for yourself.

· If you need time to think of a response, you can always say you don’t have your calendar or schedule available and you’ll get back to that person when you do.

· If you’re being asked to step in and help with someone else’s issues or problems, you can always defer and tell them you’re really busy but could help another time (in a week, month, etc).

· Let people know if you don’t feel you’re the best person to help, or if someone else has more experience or knowledge. This offers “help” if you want to maintain the relationship but don’t have the time or resources.

· When dealing with someone who takes advantage of your usual “Yes” response, tell them you can’t at that moment, but that you’d be happy to show them how to do it themselves.

· In the case of being asked to do multiple things at once, such as at work, ask which item/task should be your priority or what task/priority would they like you to stop working on to make time for it?

· Finally- you can always let others know that your own tasks or projects are your top priority. You can say that, although you’d love to help, you don’t have time or are really busy right now and can only focus on (whatever your current project is).

We live in a society where socially we always want to say yes. We’re social creatures and by nature we try to please others. But the proof is far reaching that the best way to maintain your physical and mental wellbeing is to first start with taking care of, pleasing, and nurturing ourselves.

If you would like to discuss this topic, or any other topics related to personal boundaries, self help, development, etc., you can reach me at or 603-637-4688.

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