Learning To Say "No" When You Mean "No"

Learning To Say "No" When You Mean It
Learning To Say "No" When You Mean It

The Power of A Truthful "No"

Do you ever agree to do something for someone else and then really resent that fact that you have to do it? Do you continually hear yourself say “Yes”, when you are really tired and actually quite keen to get some rest? Do you find that you cannot say “No” to someone for fear that they may reject you?

People- pleasing is an insidious disease. Often it commences in childhood, when a child learns that to get positive attention, it must be a ‘good child’, neat and tidy, and characteristically, undemanding. Our society encourages people pleasing from an early age, especially in girls. Being seen as a ‘good child’ is applauded, and being seen as a child with character is not.

How this translates into adult behaviour can depend on the individual and the circumstances. Very often, the ‘good child’ finds adulthood confusing as they are so used to adapting their behaviour to their parents’ needs and expectations, that leaving home can find them unsure of who to please now. The behaviour is deeply entrenched, and so the people-pleaser will find someone else or another group of people to impress. This could be teachers, healers, a partner, a church member, or anyone who enters their world.

People- pleasers are usually fairly easy to spot. They are always pleased to render service, and they usually have a lot of friends and associates. They are also commonly very tired, and take very little care of themselves, as they spend all their time giving and taking care of everyone else. This can be at the expense of their family, friends, health, and social life.

They are charming and excellent company for the sector of society that is the opposite. Selfish people and takers love the company of people-pleasers as they never say “No”, and continue to race around trying to please those in their circle.

The fact that society encourages us to be kind to our fellow man and doing nice things for other people is seen as being loving does not help the people-pleaser. They are getting praise for what they are doing because they are seen to be being of service to others.

To the people- pleaser, giving always comes at a price. Self care is often not a consideration to them because they learned early on not to have needs and wants. They find gifts and help for themselves extremely difficult to receive and often go without to assist someone else.

The issue with being around a people –pleaser is that there seems to be a desperation to please that you can almost feel. If challenged, they often have no idea that they are trying too hard, as they are deeply wired to please others regardless of the cost to themselves.

If this is resonating with you, you are not alone, and neither have you done anything wrong. We all adapt the best way we know how in order to survive. One of the best ways to stop this behaviour is to look at your motives. If you are helping someone for fun and for free, then there is no problem, continue by all means. However, if you are giving because you want to receive, this is dishonest. Likewise if you are helping someone so that they will like you, this is not honest. If you are saying “Yes” to someone when you mean “No” because you are frightened of them, or you think that they will reject you, then again, your motives are not honest.

Learning to say “No” when you mean “No” can be a challenge for someone who is not really aware of their own wants and needs. In the beginning, a great way to get around this is to say, “I’ll get back to you, I need to think about that”. This way you buy yourself some time, and you can really decide if you want to do it or not. Always check your motives, and be really honest with yourself. Do you want their approval? Does saying no make you fear rejection? And so on.

Learning to listen to the needs and wants of your body is the next important step. Can I do this or do I need some time to myself? Have I committed to doing too much already? When do I need to go to sleep in order for me to have enough energy the next day to function? Am I eating properly?

Treat yourself how you would treat someone that you are trying to please. Would you let them go hungry, or without the sleep they need? Probably not! In the beginning this all feels unbelievably selfish as meeting your own needs has never occurred to you. However, it is important for a people- pleaser to learn to take care of themselves first so that they can continue you take care of others.

The next step would be to look at the people that you are trying to please. Do they really have your best interest at heart, or are they just using you? What would happen if you said “No”? Would they leave? If the answer to that question is “Yes”, then take a good look at why you would want that person in your life, if all they do is take?

Giving and receiving are both strong indicators that a relationship is a healthy one. If one person is doing all the giving, then the other is doing all the receiving, then this suggests that it is not an equal partnership.

You have the right to an opinion, feelings and a “No” that are completely independent from anyone else. Learning to accept this can take some time, but life really does improve when you find out that good friends like you because of who you are and not what you can do for them. A healthy friend would understand if you needed an early night and would respect the fact that you were taking care of yourself. When you start to respect yourself and treat yourself well, other people learn to respect you too.

Imagine how much time you would have to spend doing the things that make your heart sing, if you weren’t constantly doing things you don’t really want to do, but find it hard to say “No” to. Do you know what makes your heart sing? Saying “No” to others more often would give you the time to discover what you really love and also the time to pursue it!

As this is a journey, you will catch yourself from time to time more tired than usual, or feeling resentful. Look back over the last two days and see if you have slipped into old behaviour again? Without criticising yourself, recognise that when you are tired, or resentful, it is usually that you are people-pleasing, and it is not good for you.

And now practice....No thank you. I just can’t today. That doesn’t suit me. Another time perhaps? Or any variation on these themes.

Written by Caroline Nettle.

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Author's Bio

Caroline Nettle is passionate about healing, recovery, and assisting others to grow. Her website Spiritual Growth Tools is the culmination of many years of seeking answers about her own health and well-being, and studying the human condition. She writes articles, is a healer and gives talks about subjects relating to spiritual growth and personal development.

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Comments 19 comments

RevLady profile image

RevLady 6 years ago from Lantana, Florida


Forever His,

cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 6 years ago from northeastern US

`needed topic. good examples.

skye2day profile image

skye2day 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains

Way to Go on this hub. I can relate. I am graeful to say all glory to GOD it has got much easier for me. I usually respond with, 'I need to pray about this or that first'. I had to go through much to get there and I have not graduated yet, made progress. Allelulia

Awesome writing. Many Blessings on your journey!!

TimeHealsAll profile image

TimeHealsAll 6 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

For me people pleasing begin in childhood. When one comes from an abusive family one gets in the habit of rescuing and protecting. It becomes a natural responce/act to others in need. One seeks out the needy because one is used to protecting because the people pleaser can't bear to see anyone in need. It becomes a mission because one can't stand to see pain whether it be another abusive situation or someone doing without. To a people pleaser these things are unbearable to witness. When one comes from an abusive family people pleasing can also spill over into their personal relationships/partner where the people pleaser thinks only of their partners needs leaving their own feelings unmet. People pleasing is very tiresome and frustrating and one can be left resenting everyone, even life itself. I have a hub titled "People Pleasing-How Far Can It Go". It can devour ones life. You hit the nail on the head! One really needs to re-read this! Great hub and blessings!

Spiritual Growth profile image

Spiritual Growth 6 years ago from Bristol, England Author

Thank you skye2day- that is a good point, I had not thought of that one so I appreciate you posting.

Love and Blessings to you too!


Spiritual Growth profile image

Spiritual Growth 6 years ago from Bristol, England Author

Thank you TimeHealsAll- I look forward to reading your posts. I think that we are discussing the same subject and for me, it is always good to learn different perspectives.

I look forward to reading your hub when I get the chance.

Love and Blessings,


Pam Roberson profile image

Pam Roberson 6 years ago from Virginia

Yes. Gosh, it becomes easier to say no when you learn to look beneath the asking and find the true motivation driving the person or people who are constantly pulling at you. Good information! :)

Spiritual Growth profile image

Spiritual Growth 6 years ago from Bristol, England Author

Thank you Pam! I agree.

Love and blessings,


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 6 years ago from malang-indonesia

Very inspiring hub. Very inspiring hub. I try to say "no" when my heart refuse something. I have to say "yes" when it true. Simple but easily understood. Good work, my friend. Thanks for share your beautiful thought.


Spiritual Growth profile image

Spiritual Growth 6 years ago from Bristol, England Author

Thank you again Prasetio30. I am grateful for your kind words!

Love and blessings,


xen 6 years ago

Today I exploded at myself for having been most of the above, so to read this article now at the exact point of recognising myself and committing to changing this way of not-living was inspirational and aspirational.I am printing this so as not to lose sight of your practical suggestions for achieving a more fulfilling way of being. What is good for me will be good for those around me. You have a gift for communicating in the simplest way what people need to know at this moment. Thank you for sharing your insights in such a supportive and encouraging manner.

E.Welch profile image

E.Welch 6 years ago

WOW-can I say this again WOW- Thank you

Spiritual Growth profile image

Spiritual Growth 6 years ago from Bristol, England Author

Thank you very much xen for your words and honesty! I know myself that change can be hard, but appreciate that you find it useful.

Love and blessings.

Spiritual Growth profile image

Spiritual Growth 6 years ago from Bristol, England Author

Thank you very much E.Welch. Really pleased you like it.

Love and blessings,


Maria Henkes 6 years ago

I love this article. For me it has been a while ago that I was in this process but how much better I feel now that I can say NO!!! I was a real people pleaser years ago and how good it is you can learn to do things different if you decide to.

Thank you very much Beautiful Caroline Nettle

lots of lovessss, Maria Henkes



Spiritual Growth profile image

Spiritual Growth 6 years ago from Bristol, England Author

Thank you for your comments Maria. I also have learnt to say No when it is appropriate, and life has got a lot less tiring!

Love and blessings, Caroline

Isabella Wesoly 6 years ago

As the years have passed, the experience of saying 'yes' and going further into situations has allowed me to consider a truth. Saying yes does not always bring the best outcome for all and if we do too much for others, how on earth can they get their experience? ;)

Spiritual Growth profile image

Spiritual Growth 6 years ago from Bristol, England Author

Thank you Isabella and I agree, as we do for others what they should be able to do for themselves, we deprive them of a growth opportunity.

Love and blessings,


profile image

sanjeevvaidya 5 years ago from Kathmandu, Nepal

Good article.


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