Learning to Say NO, Nah, Uh-uh, Nope! 25


geralt / Pixabay



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.

amayaeguizabal / Pixabay

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 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.


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.  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.  

Lazare / Pixabay

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

Linked at Tatertots and Jello, The ChainShowalicious Home Decor, Joy Healthy Eats

Good luck!

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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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25 thoughts on “Learning to Say NO, Nah, Uh-uh, Nope!

    • Reply
      balmtomysoul Post author

      Angie, Thanks for stopping by and for hosting with the Climb. It is such a fun networking tool and I am excited that I could connect with others there. Have a great weekend!

  • Reply

    This is a great post. I tend to be one of those who has a hard time saying No to others when they ask a favor, etc. I have a friend in my knitting group who heard a guest speaker once about a year ago and she gave some good advice on how to say No to people. I don’t remember it word for word but it is something like you Thank them first for thinking of you but then tell them that you are not able to help them out at this time but perhaps next time.
    Kimberlee recently posted…Shawl For My MomMy Profile

    • Reply
      balmtomysoul Post author

      Thanks Kimberlee!! I am glad that you visited and found something you liked. I know learning to say no is an art and I have to work on it!! Have a great weekend!

  • Reply

    I’m so with you on this! I find saying no so difficult-definitely a guilt thing-but am learning to be better at it. Life’s too short to spend worrying about trying to do everything, especially when it’s at a cost to our health and happiness.

    • Reply
      balmtomysoul Post author

      So true. It is funny for me, though. Sometimes I put others needs ahead of my own without thinking about it, until I am stressed and overwhelmed. Obviously, I am still working on this!! Thanks for stopping by!

    • Reply
      balmtomysoul Post author

      Theresa, Thanks for stopping by! Glad we could connect and find some things in common. I hope you have a great day!

  • Reply
    Marilyn Lesniak

    Hello from Merry Mondays new co-host. You have such a cute blog! I have bookmarked a few of your articles to read later. You have really found your niche and have a wonderful writing style. Please come and visit us again!

  • Reply

    I totally have this problem and I’m carrying into my blogging. I think sometimes I fill my plate up with so many things and then I feel like I let others down when I can’t do something to my absolute best. Thanks for this. I’m going to start saying no more often.
    Erlene recently posted…Tasty Tuesdays: Boba BallsMy Profile

    • Reply
      balmtomysoul Post author

      Thanks Erlene. It is difficult to find the balance. I know it is something I have to work on all the time!!

  • Reply

    Yup this is so true. I’m not one to feel too guilty about saying no. I guess I try to honor my boundaries, and if I feel like I’m taking on too much, I’m aware of that and I have to put my foot down. On the flip side though, that rarely happens, as I’m almost always willing to extend a hand.

    And I love that quote by Paulo Coehlo!
    Nina recently posted…How to Help Your Kid Stay in Bed All NightMy Profile

    • Reply
      balmtomysoul Post author

      Thanks, Mina. I agree. It is also very important to extend a helping hand to others. There are great benefits to giving and serving. I guess it is all in finding the balance. Thanks for stopping by and have a great day!

    • Reply
      balmtomysoul Post author

      I hope it helps. I know I use it as well. We all need some encouragement to set good boundaries! Good luck! 🙂

  • Reply
    Suzanne Lucas

    You nailed the problem head-on: GUILT. It’s amazing how much the desire for social acceptance can push us into doing things we don’t want to. I think there’s also another word that applies here: MARTYR. It’s like we purposely try to make ourselves suffer to make other people happy. Where did we learn to do that? It probably comes from seeing other people (like our parents) do the same thing. Kudos to you for becoming aware and trying to do something about it. Now all we self-sacrificers need to do the same. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    Julie V. (Somebody's Dinner)

    Elizabeth, great article. I also have the guilt and people pleaser traits.
    I do a lot at church and have been sick a few Sundays this year. I definitely felt guilty calling people to tell them I couldn’t be in that Sunday. I was guilty and frustrated, but then looked at it another way:
    I’m not doing them a disservice by saying, “No,” this one time. I was doing them service all the other weeks that I conducted music in Sacrament meeting, did a singing time for the nursery kids, and then taught singing time to the kids under 12.
    Besides, it really wasn’t my fault I was sick and couldn’t come to church any way 🙂
    I know my example wasn’t quite what your article dealt with, but I that’s what it reminded me of.
    I like where you said to just smile and say, “No, I can’t” rather than give an excuse.
    Julie V. (Somebody’s Dinner) recently posted…Pie Crust in a Food ProcessorMy Profile

    • Reply
      balmtomysoul Post author

      I know, Julie. Sometimes we do feel guilt even when we shouldn’t. I know I have felt it at church, at my job, and even with friends. I love your point that we are really doing them a favor for the times we are there. That is the truth. Thanks for stopping over!

  • Reply

    Oh my gosh, I am all of those things. I can never say no. And then I’m mad at myself for being stressed because I’m overwhelmed. I completely agree — say yes slowly, think about it first, and say no without explanations. I’m learning to say no without guilt. Happy SITS Day!
    Tammi recently posted…Favorite Holiday TraditionsMy Profile

    • Reply
      balmtomysoul Post author

      Learning to say no is a tough one for me as well. I know the right answers, but I don’t always do them in my personal life!! Always work to do, I guess!! 🙂

  • Reply

    Oh, man, is this one of my biggies! Boundaries and I haven’t been great friends over most of my life. I remember once, as I was intensely working on boundaries in therapy, crying and saying I knew I was drawing a boundary that was healthy for me but it was hurting my friend. I was hurting my friend. My therapist handled it beautifully. He said that my boundary was like building a brick wall to protect myself. I had warned my friend that the wall was there. I was not responsible for her getting hurt if she chose to continually run into that wall head first. That was her choice and she was hurting herself. It was exactly what I needed to hear in that moment and I’ve never forgotten it. Now if I just had a metaphor like that for every boundary I need to draw in my life I’d have the boundaries issue licked. Then I could spend more time on my other issues. Ugh!

    Thanks for your suggestions. I’m going to review them and listen to my heart more.
    misssrobin recently posted…I Broke My Therapist and Got a New DiagnosisMy Profile

    • Reply
      balmtomysoul Post author

      Boundaries are like walls meant to protect. They are so difficult to enforce, but in the end, they make us feel so much better. Good luck working on this. I think it is something we all can work on!