March 26, 2021

The Freedom of Saying ‘No’

By Natalie Hu

Mental Health & Wellbeing

If you’re anything like me, a ‘yes’ is much quicker to roll off my tongue than a ‘no’. Often, I regret that response if I haven’t had a chance to really think about what I need and what my limits are. This leaves me spending way too much mental and emotional energy thinking about how I’m going to finagle my way out of the situation.

Learning to say ‘no’ can be freeing and empowering! (we acknowledge there are work and life responsibilities that we can’t always bow out of, but that’s not what we are addressing in this post). It may feel uncomfortable or even selfish at first, especially if you tend to be a people-pleaser or one who typically puts others’ needs before your own. If this isn’t something that comes naturally for you, that’s okay! We are going to explore what’s involved in saying ‘no’ in the content below. It’s important that you give yourself lots of grace as you learn and practice this new skill. Like anything new, it may come with some (or many) failed attempts!

Buying Time

Whether it’s pressure we put on ourselves or pressure someone is putting on us, it’s easy to feel like you have to give an answer right away. Buying time can be helpful to sort through what we really want to say.

It’s important to think through several things before just saying ‘yes’.
– Do I have the physical or mental capacity?
– Do I really want to do this?
– Does this align with my priorities and/or goals?
– Why am I saying ‘yes’?

If you buy time to think through your decision, it’s important to let the other person know when you will get back to them. This not only creates accountability for you to make a decision by a certain time, but also let’s the other person know when they can expect to hear from you.

Saying ‘No’ with Conviction and Clarity

Saying ‘no’ can be empowering—we get to decide how we want to use our time, energy and resources in a way that feels genuine to us! It frees us up from doing something we don’t want to do in order to say ‘yes’ to something else.
But isn’t saying ‘no’ selfish?

I actually think it’s the opposite—When you say ‘no’ with conviction and clarity, you are respecting yourself by honoring how you want to spend your time, energy, and resources (and whether you even have the capacity!). When we communicate clearly and assertively, we let others know we mean what we say. Even saying ‘maybe’ when we really want to say ‘no’ can feel disingenuous and may leave you needing to follow up again to really say ‘no’ (when you could have said it the first time!) Being honest about where we’re at prevents us from becoming resentful from agreeing to something that we didn’t actually want.

Giving Reasons

It can feel scary or intimidating to say ‘no’. What if someone asks us ‘why not’?
When we have time to think about whether we really want to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to something, we can answer in a way that feels genuine and true. That congruence allows us to give our answer with full confidence. You can provide the necessary details that give them context for your decision without feeling obligated to explain your entire thought-process.

Remember, if someone pushes back on your ‘no’, I would argue that it says more about them than you—they most likely are having a hard time respecting your boundaries because they now don’t get what they want. That’s okay! That’s not for you to own.

Some Questions to Think About:

– When have you said ‘yes’ this week when you really wanted to say ‘no’?
– What can you say ‘no’ to this week in order to honor your boundaries and limits?

Saying ‘no’ can feel intimidating and hard. We want to help you experience freedom in the big and little decisions you are making on a day-to-day basis. We are committed to helping you feel empowered in saying ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ with conviction and clarity. Reach out to one of our therapists today!

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Articles by Clair

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