Say 'NO' And Mean It

Updated: Jul 13, 2021

Give yourself permission to say ‘no’ to anything that makes you unhappy, and or drains your energy. (Unknown).

Wow! When I wrote about the importance of taking time to be alone to relax and get re-energized last week, I had no idea that it would elicit such a flurry of feedback from you, my wonderful readers. I am happy to know that you ARE reading…yes, indeed. What your feedback communicated to me is that there is a need for open discussion about boundary setting. I totally get it. Having struggled for years with setting my own boundaries, I know how frustrating it can be to try to be you and please everybody and their dog at the same time.

I decided to do one more take on boundary setting this week to shed light on the fear of saying ‘no’. How many of you can relate to this one? This is a real fear that so many people continue to tolerate for several reasons. The inability to, or discomfort with, saying no begins in the formative years where many people were taught to be ‘nice’. Our parents thought they were teaching us to be agreeable, but what happened was that they took away our boundary-setting ability in the process. As adults, we now have to learn and implement this important skill. Getting rid of those old people-pleasing scripts can be difficult, but we have to decide what’s important to us.

I like the story of Gillian and Charlotte.

Charlotte has been having some personal problems lately, which she shared with Gillian the last time they hung out. Several times over the next week, Gillian tried to get in touch with Charlotte through phone calls and text messages to make sure she was OK. When she didn’t get a response, she concluded that maybe Charlotte just needed some time alone, so she backed off. About a month later, the two women saw each other while shopping. Charlotte immediately became angry with Gillian and accused her of ignoring her.

Gillian calmly explained that she had tried several times to get in touch with her, but Charlotte was indignant. She insulted Gillian and told her she was a fake friend, among other hurtful things. Instead of lashing out at her, Gillian calmly said, “Charlotte, this conversation is over. I’m not listening to this anymore. I suggest you think about what you just said, and when you come to your senses, you can give me a call.” Then she walked away.

Did Gillian do the right thing? Of course, she did. She said NO to Charlotte’s behavior and removed herself from the situation. Many people hesitate to say no to certain behaviours or perform certain tasks or activities because they are afraid of hurting someone’s feelings and losing the relationship. As a result, they become overly accommodating in their relationships, conforming to what everyone else wants, and in so doing, they lose their sense of individuality. We must be clear about our yeses and our nos. To do otherwise is to create blurred boundary lines where you begin to lose your sense of identity.

Gillian set her boundaries clearly. By walking away, she told Charlotte that her behaviour was unacceptable and gave her the option to change it and have a more reasonable conversation once she had calmed down.

But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. (Matt.5:37 NKJV)

This is great advice for us to follow. When you begin to become the true version of yourself, i.e., learning to live in your true you authentically, you will lose some friends and even family. As you begin to embrace your true self, it reduces opportunities for others to control and manipulate you. You are learning to define your own identity and stand apart from the crowd. This makes some people angry and others uncomfortable because they can no longer relate to you. These attitudes keep many trapped in the unhealthy cycle of people-pleasing; they do it out of guilt. Guilt is a sure sign that you have stepped out of your true you because you are no longer in what I call the love zone. You are not loving yourself when you operate outside of your truth. Emotional discomfort is a sign that you are violating your true you, so do what is necessary to correct it.

The most basic boundary-setting word is ‘NO’. It lets others know that you exist apart from them and that you are in control of you. (Cloud & Townsend).

One of the things that we need to understand is that saying no is not necessarily a negative thing. Sometimes saying no means:

  • You are saying yes to something else – hopefully more beneficial

  • You value your time and theirs

  • You are being assertive

  • You may be protecting the other person

So get comfortable with saying no. Your future self and relationships will thank you for it.