Why is it important to learn how to say no? When we say “yes” to everything and do not set healthy boundaries with people, we often feel stressed, overwhelmed, and even burned out.
Most of us want to be well liked and want to please other people so it can be difficult to turn down opportunities or requests that others have made of us. It may also be challenging to set limits with difficult people.
“Just saying ‘yes’ because you can’t bear the short-term pain of saying ‘no’ is not going to help you do the work.” – Seth Godin
But learning how to say no and set healthy boundaries is important for our own wellbeing.
Learn How to Say No and Set Healthy Boundaries With These 10 Tips:
1. Tune Into Your Inner Sense of “Yes” and “No”
The first step in learning how to set healthy boundaries is to try to uncover what your personal limits and guidelines are.
We all have an inner sense of wisdom, which intuitively tells us when something is a “yes” or a “no.” The problem arises when we ignore or argue with that inner voice.
If you’re not used to tuning in to your intuition, it’s important to practice paying attention to how you feel in the moment. Tools like meditation and mindfulness help you pay attention to your thoughts and feelings in the moment.
2. Learn How to Tolerate Other People’s Reactions
When you listen to your own “yes” and “no,” other people may get angry or disappointed. Setting healthy boundaries will unleash emotions.
The reality is that when you set boundaries with people, they may not always have a pleasant reaction. However, setting healthy boundaries with people and learning how to say no can actually improve your relationships in the long run.
If you don’t respect your personal boundaries (perhaps due to fear of someone else’s reaction), this will likely lead to bitterness and resentment over time.
Instead, you want to surround yourself with people who respect your boundaries, even if they initially feel upset or disappointed by them.
3. Value Your Time
Know your commitments and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it.
Be honest when you tell them that: “I just can’t right now. My plate is overloaded as it is.” They’ll sympathize as they likely have a lot going on as well, and they’ll respect your openness, honesty, and attention to self-care.
4. Know Your Priorities
Even if you do have some extra time (which, for many of us, is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time?
Whether personal or professional, chalk out your priorities and get really clear. It’s all about knowing your long-term goals and what you’ll need to say “yes” and “no” to in order to get there.
5. Practice Saying No
Practice makes perfect. And in order to learn how to say no, you have to actually practice doing it. Saying “no” as often as possible is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word.
Sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
6. Don’t Apologize
A common way to start out saying no is “I’m sorry, but . . .” Most people think that it sounds more polite.
While courtesy is important when you learn how to say no, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm and unapologetic about guarding your time.
When you say no, realize that you have nothing to feel bad about. You have every right to ensure you have time for the things that are important to you.
7. Stop Being Nice
Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you in the process.
When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. However, if you erect a wall by setting healthy boundaries, they will look for easier targets.
Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
8. Say No to Your Boss
Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss – they’re our boss, right? We often think if we start saying no, then it’ll look like we can’t handle the work.
In fact, it’s the opposite. Explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments.
If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
9. Say You’ll Get Back to Them
Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities.
Then, if you can’t take on the request, try saying no this way: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate your request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
10. Don’t Feel Pressured to Commit Right Away
If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a timeframe].”
Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands! It’s equally ok to still say no when they reach out – it’s all about setting healthy boundaries for yourself.
Set Healthy Boundaries by Learning How to Say No Effectively
Learning how to say no isn’t an easy thing to do, but once you master it, you’ll find that you’re less stressed and more focused on the things that really matter to you.
There’s no need to feel guilty about organizing your personal life and mental health in a way that feels good for you.
As Seth Godin said, “Just saying ‘yes’ because you can’t bear the short-term pain of saying ‘no’ is not going to help you do the work.”
Remember that when you learn to say no, it isn’t about being mean. It’s about taking care of your time, energy, and sanity. Once you learn how to say no in a good way, people will respect your willingness to practice self-care and will respect the healthy boundaries that you set.