Learning to Say No, Nah, Uh-Uh, Nope! Version 2.0 16

 I actually wrote some of this post a little less than a year ago. Because of it, I found a few people made some changes in their lives. Someone mentioned to me that it was great that people were learning to say ‘no’, but it was sometimes a little inconvenient for them! I had to laugh. The truth is, when others say ‘no’ sometimes it is inconvenient.

If you read my original post, you may find this a review. But, I needed a review. So, here we go again!

I recently learned a lesson about saying no. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and had several projects on my plate. An offer came by for an additional opportunity and my first internal response was, “Uggh! Really? No way!” but then came the “…ok. Maybe it’s the right thing to do. If you really feel strong about it, I guess I can.” Luckily, my husband had a talk with me and encouraged me to stand my ground. My first response was likely the right one. And, he said, “It is o.k. to say no!”

So I did.

And, the guilt came. Maybe I should have said ‘yes’. Maybe I made a mistake.

But, recent events proved that my inital response was right. So, although some of this post is from last year, I have updated it. I think one important thing to remember when you say ‘no’ is this:

Often our first response is the best response.
Remember, your instincts are sending you a message.

Often, our first response is often the best response. Learn to listen. Click To Tweet

So, with that said: Do you struggle with saying ‘No’?

No, Nah, Uh-uh square

When we talk about being healthy, one of the first things that comes to my mind is learning healthy boundaries.  I am a people-pleaser!  I’ll admit that right up front.  There is nothing wrong with being a people-pleaser, as long as you have healthy boundaries.  This means learning to say “No”.  Now, to many of you that may sound simple.  You just say it, “No!!”  But to someone who wants to help and please others, saying no is a little harder than that.  There is this thing called GUILT.  Yep, Guilt with a capital G. 

In my mind, guilt is a naughty word.  I see only one real purpose for guilt, and that is if you do something wrong, like sin. When you do something wrong, that little word can help you realize maybe there is something that needs to be fixed.  Other than that one purpose, guilt is demoralizing. 

Guilt decays the soul.  Guilt reaches the weakest parts of us and sneaks into our decision-making, sometimes leading to bad decisions.  It will leave you feeling overwhelmed.

Someone asks you to watch their kids. You don’t really have time to watch their kids as you have a busy day, but they watched your kids last week….guilt. 

Your brother asks you for some money and finances are pretty tight right now.  Plus, the last time you gave him money, he didn’t pay it back.  But…he’s your brother!! Guilt.

Your church group asked you to help with the youth.  You are struggling with your kids and you are already feeling overwhelmed.  But, they really need you.  Plus, it is for a good cause.  Guilt.

There are so many different versions and forms of guilt.  I am not saying we shouldn’t sacrifice for good causes.  I am not saying that we don’t help others out.  I am not even saying that we have to say no.

But we can.

I think the movie Frozen teaches us an additional lesson about boundaries:

Let it Go

I have learned that when I have too much on my plate my church group may not suffer, my work may not suffer, my friends may not suffer, but I DO.  And my family is then affected by me.  When that happens, it is time to say “No”.

Now, learning to say “No” is an art. 

You don’t have to be mean to have boundaries.  You don’t have to be rude.  Saying “No” nicely and at the right time takes practice.

As a certified people-pleaser, and having some experience in human behavior, here are six tips to help you say “No” at the right time and for the right reasons:

1.  Can I get back to you? A small piece of advice I can give to someone who struggles with saying “No” is this: Say yes slowly.  Taking a moment to consider and evaluate what you are able to do can save you a lot of grief in the end. Remember, if you say “Yes” and then can’t follow through, guilt will tag you there! 

Take a deep breath before responding.  Perhaps you can help, but think about what you are taking on before committing.  Often, we feel so pressured to say yes, that we forget to think about what we really need and want.

When You Say Yes to Others, Make Sure You Are Not Saying No to Yourself

2.  Don’t wait until you are overwhelmed and angry to say NO.  Admit it; we all know those people that will take advantage of you as long as you let them.  I have had experience with a few in my life.  If you want to maintain a relationship with someone like this, say “No” early on.  Make it clear that you have limits on your time and means, while still allowing that you care and want a give/take relationship.

If you wait too long to say “No”, you will find that the relationship will suffer, and it is more difficult to make amends.  Part of maintaining healthy relationships is setting boundaries early.

Saying Yes to Happiness means learning to say no to things and people that stress you out

3.  Don’t compare yourself to others.  Here comes the guilt monster again.

“But so-and-so is always helping out our neighbors, and she works full-time.” 

“They seem to be able to do it all, and I can barely keep up with the laundry.” 

Remember, we are each different beings.  I know that I am an introvert, and a little bit compulsive about “my” time.  Because of that, I have to limit the amount of time I give to social situations.  That is just a part of me.  I cannot compare myself to so-and-so in the neighborhood who thrives on social interaction.  Plus, I don’t truly know what it is like to live in her shoes.  Maybe she is crying herself to sleep at night in exhaustion.  Remember, we truly don’t know what is going on in someone else’s life.  Comparing is guilt-producing and pointless.

4. If someone gets angry when you say NO, remember that is more their problem than yours.  People-pleasers tend to take others’ responsibility onto themselves.  If another person gets their feelings hurt, it isn’t ALL your problem.  Now, if you were angry and aggressive, then maybe you hold some responsibility.  But, if you said “No” graciously and someone is still upset at you, remember that they choose their response, just as you choose yours.

Because we live in a self-centered world, others may get upset when they don’t get what they want.  But, that isn’t your problem to fix.  Learning to accept no is also a skill.  We cannot and do not get all we want  all the time.

5.  Just say “No, I can’t” as graciously as you can muster. No explanation.  No excuses   Often we feel that we have to give an explanation as an excuse, instead of just saying “No” because we don’t want to. 

You: “I’m sorry.  I don’t have a sitter for the kids.”

Them:  “Oh, I can watch your kids.”


You:  “I have a pretty busy week.”

Them:  “Well, we could do it next week.”

Learning to say no graciously, without an explanation, is a skill and takes practice.  If you truly don’t want to do something, don’t give an excuse.  Just be polite, gracious and say, “I’m sorry.  I can’t.”  Smile.  And move onto another topic.

6. Remember, others do know not your story: don’t allow them to make your decision. Other people do not know everything going on inside your inner sanctum. They may not see your insecurities or your limitations. That being said, don’t allow others to pressure you into saying ‘yes’ when you know you! 

  • If someone asked you to make three dozen cupcakes because “all the moms have done it” but your grocery budget is already in the red, it is o.k. to say no.
  • If you are feeling emotionally overwhelmed and your neighbor asks if you guys can talk, it is o.k. to say no.
  • If your boss asks you to stay late and it is your daughter’s soccer game, it is o.k. to say no.

I always say, they do not have to live with the consequences. You do. Don’t let them make the choice for you. And, it is unnecessary to tell them why.

You have to live with the consequences. Don't allow others to choose for you. Click To Tweet

 7.  Practice, practice, practice.  It is so important to continue to practice when you want to improve.  If you are worried about a certain person in your life that you have difficulty saying no to, practice beforehand.  Play different situations out in your head and practice how you would respond. 

Learning to say no also means learning to say yes to yourself.  Much of the reason we often say “Yes” when we shouldn’t is because we aren’t listening to ourselves. 

You will find that the better you get at saying no appropriately, the less guilt you will feel.  You will find greater peace and happiness.  

Learning to say NO

The trick is finding the balance between yes and no.  I know I am still working on it!! 

What experiences have you had with saying ‘no’? Feel free to share!

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Wife, mother of twins, speaker, and creator of Balm to My Soul.I love to write, speak, sleep, snuggle and, if I really get lucky, inspire and help others. I am clearly imperfect but determined to be a little better every day. Some days are better than others! Thanks for stopping by!
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About Elizabeth

Wife, mother of twins, speaker, and creator of Balm to My Soul. I love to write, speak, sleep, snuggle and, if I really get lucky, inspire and help others. I am clearly imperfect but determined to be a little better every day. Some days are better than others! Thanks for stopping by!

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16 thoughts on “Learning to Say No, Nah, Uh-Uh, Nope! Version 2.0

  • Reply
    Maria Hasd

    Stopped by from the Creative Kids link up. I loved your blog, much needed. Have you read “Your best yes” by Lysa TerKeurst? She says a lot on this subject. I’m on the same boat of being a people pleaser. I have a hard time saying no. I’m learning!
    Maria Hasd recently posted…Four by Fours of Good Tips!My Profile

  • Reply

    Hi Elizabeth! This is a great post. I can totally relate to this, especially because I’m known to be crafty, so people often ask, “Can you help me make X for my Y?” Most of the time, I am happy to help and find it flattering that they think I’m good enough to do X. Once in a while, I am overwhelmed with things I need to do, and I feel so uncomfortable saying no! I feel guilty just as you said, and I feel like I owe them a long explanation. Often I end up just doing it anyway, just to avoid the guilt. However, I am getting better at saying no! Thanks for all your tips! 🙂
    Ashley recently posted…DIY Washi TapeMy Profile

    • Reply
      Elizabeth Post author

      I know. There are often times that I say yes to avoid the guilt too. As a matter of fact I did that this weekend (but I must admit that I didn’t do it with a happy heart). That is the part I need to work on as well! 🙂

  • Reply
    Jenny @ Unremarkable Files

    It’s such a hard distinction to make: when are you actually too busy to help, and when do you need to cut out something else less important? If I told my neighbor “no, I can’t listen to your problems” but then I puttered around browsing Pinterest for 30 minutes later that afternoon… Great post, I’m still thinking about it days after first reading it.

    • Reply
      Elizabeth Post author

      I agree Jenny. I think saying yes is also so important! We need to just make sure we find the balance. There have been times when I wanted to say no and I said yes, and I was really glad I did!

  • Reply

    Another post written just for me. I am terrible at saying no. I try so hard and then it just seems like “Yes “pops out of my mouth. I am working on it. It seems like something I will need to work on my whole life. maybe that is the point. Learning how to accept both our abilities and limitations and managing our life should be a lifelong learning process.
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  • Reply
    Pamela Smith

    HI! You started following my new blog, so I came over to check out what yours was about. This is a great article! I have learned to listen to myself a bit more and say ‘no,’ but it is the guilt part that is hard. I have asked myself if I can really do a good job or will it be too hard to be committed to it? This helps to make my choice. Number 6 is also great. Thanks for sharing!