Have you ever said yes to something and later regretted it? Maybe you had a friend ask you to help them move or agreed to let a family member stay with you on their visit. You said yes but you really didn’t want to. You have your own issues to deal with, your energy is limited and so are your resources but here you are prioritizing other people’s needs over your own. We’ve all done this at one time or another in hopes of being helpful, being nice, wanting to be liked or just trying to avoid feeling bad for saying no. What if you could say no without the guilt? What if you could feel empowered enough to put yourself first and stop agreeing to every request?
Being able to hold boundaries is a skill that some people know innately, while others have to develop it. Breaking free of people pleasing habits can be difficult because they are so deeply rooted in our psyche. Maybe we were taught growing up that our needs were secondary to others and a lifetime of reinforcing this idea makes saying no difficult in adulthood. Some of us deep down feel guilty for saying no because we hold a false but deep belief that we shouldn’t put ourselves first. We believe that prioritizing our needs and how our time is spent is selfish and wrong. Of course there is a point where putting yourself can err on the side of excessive and toxic but most of us fall on the other side of the spectrum by neglecting ourselves in order to assist others. If you resonate with this issue try the following steps to start setting those boundaries and saying no when you need to.
1) Don’t Make Excuses
If the answer is no, then it’s no. You do not owe anyone an explanation. A simple “No thank you”, “I’m going to pass” or “I’m not open to doing that” will suffice. You don’t have to scramble and make excuses to justify your reasoning. If you’re not interested in doing something, the other person will just have to accept this fact and move on.
2) Do Be Courteous
Being direct is important but so is kindness. You can hold boundaries without hostility. If you get an invite to a party that you would rather not attend you can simply say “Thanks so much for the invite, it means a lot, but I’m just not up for it this week.” People will not only understand but they will appreciate your politeness and honesty.
3) Avoid Manipulation
People will often use manipulative tactics to get you to do a task. It’s not always conscious but they might induce guilt, pity or even subtle force to get you to say yes. Be aware of this when it’s happening. One of the best ways to avoid this type of manipulation is knowing exactly what your boundaries are ahead of time. That way you know exactly what you’re willing to say no to regardless of the sob stories that may come your way.
4) Bide Your Time
If you’re not really sure if you want to say no to a request or not, you can always bide for more time by asking for a day or two to think about it. This way you can give yourself the space needed to determine whether you are willing to participate in a request. A simple, “can I get back to you tomorrow” can make all the difference in impulsively saying yes and setting up a healthy boundary.