Saying No

Do you struggle saying no? Find yourself with a lot of things piling up on your plate, none of which are things you are actually excited about? Are you feeling burned out?

Saying no can be a really challenging skill for a lot of people. Maybe you think of yourself as a people pleaser; maybe you underestimate the energy and time of your various commitments until it is too late; maybe the thought of missing out on something is enough to keep you saying yes to everything. You might find yourself feeling guilty after saying no, or ruminating over how others are perceiving your response.

Why is it difficult to say No?

1.     You don’t want to disappoint others.

It can be hard to see or hear the disappointment when you tell someone no. You may have had negative experiences in the past involving responses to you saying no. Maybe coping with overwhelm or burnout feels easier than coping with the possible disappointment.

2.     You mistake can for want or need

Just because you can say yes to something, does not necessarily mean that you want to or need to.

3.     You’re out of practice

Saying no is a part of setting boundaries and a type of communication skill. Like any other skill, it takes practice. It might feel weird or like you don’t have your footing early on- saying no and setting appropriate boundaries will become easier and more natural the more you use this skill. You will find your voice and your style, you will find your confidence.

Things to Remember

1.     You are not responsible for others’ reactions

When a fear of disappointing or hurting someone’s feelings is at the core of you being unable to say no, practice shifting your focus back to what you have control over. You have control over the way you respond to a request and the way that you treat an individual. You can be respectful, kind and understanding and still say no to a request. You can recognize and validate the impact that your no might have on another person. You cannot prevent others from feeling disappointment. Others’ responses are their choice.

2.     Get clear on your priorities

Ask yourself why you are saying yes to something. Is it something that you want to do? It is something that you believe is important? Is it in line with your values? When you are clear on what is important to you, it is easier to decide whether you want to say yes or no. There may be things that you would answer yes to all three of those questions; other things maybe only one of those questions would be a yes. Do I want to go to the doctor? Absolutely not. Do I think it is important? Yes. Do I want to go to an event at the end of a long and stressful week? Maybe not. But is this event important to my friend, and do I value this relationship want to show support to this individual? Yes.

3.     Nothing (okay, very few things) is permanent

Check out the season of life you are in. There are times when you may have to say no to certain requests because of the season of life. This does not necessarily mean that you will never be able to say yes.

4.     What can you say yes to?

Now, maybe your answer is a simple no to some requests. That’s okay. There are other instances when you can ask yourself if there is something that you can say yes to, even if you need to say no to the initial request. I can’t do that, but I am able to…

You and your needs are important. You do not need to put yourself at the bottom of your priority list. You will survive the disappointment of others.

To learn more or to book an appointment, contact me via telephone or email.

Brenna Burke, LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Valencia, CA. She provides individual psychotherapy and couples counseling. Information provided through this website is for informational purposes only. It does not create a therapist-client relationship and does not replace clinical assessment or professional consultation.