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Importance of Saying No - How and Why to Say No

Updated on December 14, 2010

No is a very difficult word to say

No is a two letter word.  It is so simple for a baby to say, yet so difficult for an adult to utter.

The ability to say no can be so difficult.  People have a tough time when it comes to saying no when family and friends make requests of them.  It is hard to put yourself first without feeling guilty.  Women have a tougher time saying no, frequently it becomes easier to agree than to take the risk of saying no.  It comes from a need to be helpful and pleasing, and so we choose to say yes, even when it is difficult for us.  Perhaps it comes from a need to be loved, or trying to avoid disappointing the person we care about. The  unwillingness to say no has its roots in the feelings that derive from compassion, empathy, kindness,  and benevolence.  We want to extend a “helping hand” that helps us be connected to others, and to show the people in our lives, that we care.

No becomes a hard word to say because it means we have to consider our own desires, needs, wants, wishes, and our hopes  above others who are dependent on us.  We will sacrifice our own personal needs to attend to the needs of others.  Saying no causes internal conflict because we really want to be generous to others.  We empathize with the feeling of being rejected, we want to avoid others to feel angry and sad if we can’t help them.

Life is A Balance

Counselors will tell you saying yes is a good thing when it is done with balance.  Saying no is also  a good thing, when the demands on yourself will cause a hardship for yourself.  Saying no is hardest among friends.  Often we feel more secure in our family relationships and saying no to our family involves less risk.  With friendships we fear that we may lose that person, and so saying yes comes from an  insecurity. If we don’t come through for them, will they be there for us?  We look for consolation from the feeling that we are loved and are cared about, and we will extend ourselves beyond our comfort zone in order to achieve our desire of being loved.

Why do we stretch ourselves beyond our own limits?   A counselor will teach you how to set boundaries  and limitations for yourself.  There are ways to help others and take care of yourself at the same time. It is very important to consider your own needs, and not just to sacrifice yourself at the expense of others.   It is ok to say no, and it is ok to  be honest about why you will not help them.  A good friend will understand, and discussing your reasons and personal needs will increase the bonds you share and increase the mutual respect you have for each other. Your friendship will grow when you say no and give an honest answer as to why you have to say no.

Sometimes there are uncomfortable feelings that you need to wrestle with when you are preparing to say no. You may worry that your friends will hold a grudge? Is your friendship based on common bonds, and mutual reciprocation?  If your answer is not favorable, perhaps your relationship is too fragile and you need to evaluate if the relationship is worth keeping.

Be Assertive

Easy Ways to Say No

Self preservation is very important. Too many of us give until we have nothing left. Very often, because we don’t say no, we are called upon again and again. This can give rise to burnout and stress within ourselves. It is important to say yes to valuable things and to say no effectively when we need to. When you do say no, it is important to express it from an inner power. Do not say no and apologize for it. Be truthful with yourself. You aren’t really sorry for saying no, you need to say no for your own sanity and your own self needs.

Help in saying no. There are varying ways to say no

  • · you can just say no, that it is not feasible for you to do what they need you to do.
  • · you can acknowledge their need by saying something to the effect like “I know you need so and so from me, but I can’t do that at this time
  • · You can say no with an explanation
  • · You may have to be insistent and resistant to their pressures, but be firm and consistent for your own self.
  • · You can say no for now, because your schedule doesn’t permit the time they need from you
  • · You can acknowledge how you know they need your help, and although you can’t do it, you appreciate them asking you
  • · You can say yes with conditional requirements so that you are not taking on the entire obligation.
  • · You can tell them you will get back to them because you need time to think about it.

Why Is It Hard To Say No

The basis of the issues is learning how to say no. If you are an overly accommodating person, your issues may have begun in childhood. If you found yourself wanting to please your parents, and gain their approval, you may have learned how to be accepted by saying yes. The skill to say no can be learned.

  • · Note how many times you said yes over the last few weeks. More important than the number of times is the feelings and reactions you have had to each time someone asked you to do something for them. How was your anxiety level when you answered them?
  • · How you spend your time tells a lot. Is one person being overly demanding?
  • · Do you put limits and boundaries on what people ask of you? Do you find that other people are draining you?
  • · Are you trying to avoid confrontations? It is important to know what your feelings are.

Being Assertive is a very important trait to nurture within yourself. By learning to say no you will protect yourself from becoming overwhelmed and overburdened. Your productivity, happiness and self satisfaction depend on your ability to say no when it is not good for you.

It is important that you gain the ability to discern when to say no and when to say yes.

  • · Remember it is ok to say no
  • · you need to be in control of how you spend your time
  • · value your time and yourself so that when you do say yes, it has meaning to you, as opposed to saying yes out of weakness or fear or the need to please.
  • · saying yes has to be good for you too!
  • · do you say yes to other people and put your own requirements on the backburner?

So why is it so hard to say no? We all know how to say no, but too often we prefer to be agreeable and pleasing. It avoids confrontation, future rejection if we need them, and it appeals to our sense of being helpful an d giving. Helping others gives us a feeling of importance. We are social creatures and we do want to help each other, it really is a natural, inborn feeling and part of being human. The choice to say no is a hard one, saying yes is easier, we avoid the debate, the inner conflict, and possible confrontation with the other person, and the guilt for saying no.

Say YES to Yourself

Saying no is important because it means you are saying yes to yourself.  Giving to others is good, but giving to yourself is better.  When you take care of yourself, you will always be able help others another day.  If you give up too much of yourself, you may become too depleted to help someone you really really want to help.

You may want to seek the help of a counselor to learn assertiveness techniques/  A counselor is a valuable person who can help you with your self esteem and to help you value the wonderful person you are. A counselor can help you understand yourself better and some of the reasons for your behavior. A counselor will help you learn how to handle yourself in a myriad of situations.

Do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself, starting today.  Learn to value who you are and what you have to offer.  Learn to say no to others and yes to yourself. you can start living a better life when you make choices that are good for you.


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