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Teaching Yourself To Say “No” When You Are A “Yes” Person

Updated on March 19, 2015

They Know I Always Say "Yes"!

As we get older, age and experience teaches us to see things in a different way or "catch on” to certain behaviors of others. Patterns form through our lives, and the way we respond to someone when asked for favors becomes a habit. Even though we realize now what is going on, our response to others is always the same even though we might want to change. We think we cannot change, so why even try? Also people know us as being this way so we don’t want to disrupt anyone else’s life. I am talking about saying, "yes" to everyone, or at least the people we are afraid to say “no” to.

We probably all have that one friend (maybe more) who we know if they see us, that person will ask us for a favor. Most of the time, the favor is just driving them somewhere or doing something small. The person may even be a co-worker, best friend, partner, or even a family; but continually doing these favors sometimes gets irritating. Even though irritating, we still do the favor out of habit or guilt. Yes, we are annoyed but I do not think we’re irritated at the person for asking us to do something. We are most likely irritated with ourselves because we just can’t say “no”. Don't get me wrong, I think it is wonderful to help someone, and I do enjoy helping people. People asking for a favor a couple of times, and getting taken advantage of are two different things.

At Least I Wasn't Labeled “Mean”

I don’t even know how I became a "yes" person. Many people labeled me “nice”, a “yes” person, or a “pleaser”. Friends of these friends found out how I was so "nice" and would do anything for anyone; then I was saying "yes" to many people. So the favors started to multiply. Being labeled really did bother me, but hey! At least people were getting their favors.

Since I remember I would go out of my way to do things for people. Whatever anyone asked I would do, even if I had obligations myself. This may sound silly but I sometimes would cancel my plans to do what others asked of me. Yes, it was that bad. Later in life I realized there were some people who knew I was “nice” and they would take advantage of this. I started acting this way kind of to live up to my label. I really wanted to say no and be a stronger person. There were many times in my life when I was saying yes to anyone and everyone. After saying yes a couple times, I would feel guilty if I had to say no at anytime. Some of these people also started to act like I was their personal assistant; doing EVERYTHING for them. In other words the person was "using" me and that began to hurt. I am the one who allowed this though.

Practice, Practice, Practice


Become A Positive Non-Pleaser


I Knew I Had To Do Something:

I did not read any self help books, look up articles on the Internet, or go to a psychologist regarding how to stop being a "yes" person. One day I realized that I am important also, and if I have something I need to do I should not cancel because this is my life. Now, again don't get me wrong. I mean if someone needs to go to emergency, of course I will do everything I can for that person. If I did have something planned, and the person needed a favor, I would say, "I'm sorry, I have something else I need to take care of." That's it! I felt SO much better towards myself. THEN later, I took the "I'm sorry" out of the phrase. Because, why should I apologize for having a life , having another obligation, or just plain not wanting to do something? This is my life! You may or may not be important to me, but this is just how it's going to be(I didn't say it, just thought it) . You know what happened? The person did not fly off the handle. He or she didn't yell or throw a fit. Actually, after saying "no", the person had more respect for me.

There will be people who catch you off guard with favors/pleasing, so you may want to think ahead before the asking is done. This was hard for me because when asked to "please" someone, maybe I didn't have anything else to do, (but was tired or did not feel like doing the favor), so I felt I didn't have a good enough excuse to say "NO". Of course I had a perfect reason.... I didn't want to.

Try to become assertive without becoming aggressive. This was a hard one for me also. I would come across mean to the person when really I was just trying to say I did not want to do something. Then I felt guilty because I am really not a mean person. I also had to think and practice how to say things.

Practicing some things really helped me a lot to tell others how I felt and if I did not want to do something. I have also listed more things to try in the table below. I have became more of a "people person" and not a "people pleaser" or "yes person" since I worked on this, I feel a whole lot better about myself. People have more respect for me and I don't feel guilty if I cannot or do not want to do a favor.

If You Are A "Yes" Person, You May Want To......

Think before being asked for anything and what you want to say
You will not give in when you do not want to
Practice being assertive by telling the person how you feel and your point of view.
The person will most likely understand. This is usually because he or she feels the same as you do.
Practice assertiveness and not agressiveness
There will not be guilty feelings unlike if you are to become aggressive.
Eventually try not to say "I'm sorry". We shouldn't have to apologize when we can't do or don't want to do something.
The person should have more respect for you. You will feel better about yourself.


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    • DawnMSamora profile image

      DawnM Samora 3 years ago from Akron, Ohio

      Susan, thanks so much for reading! That is a great idea to "run things by your husband" before committing. I had a problem with committing to things without planning. I would then not follow through with the commitments and would feel like a horrible person. Having a "way out" of something truly does help to control your time. Thanks so much, DawnM

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 3 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Limiting your activities and commitment by saying "no" can be difficult, but it's worth the effort to be able to stay in control of your time. I've found that it helps to say (for instance), "I need to run this by my husband before I commit." In fact, doing just that has saved me from getting myself into situations that I certainly would have regretted later. Good topic!