The Art Of Saying No: Setting Clear Boundaries

Do you often feel overwhelmed by your commitments or pressured by outside obligations? If you can learn to say NO, you can free yourself from the self-inflicted stress that is created by habitually saying yes.


Many people find themselves consenting to responsibilities that are not always necessary, in order to prove their loyalty and care. However, being too agreeable in the name of devotion can backfire on both the person you are conceding to but most importantly, on yourself.

Learning to say no and creating healthy boundaries is an important part of self-care. When you say no to someone or something (whenever it is appropriate to do so) you are actually cultivating self-respect.



1) Why Is This Difficult?


In general, humans are gregarious beings who seek and embrace positive affirmations from their peers. In our society, saying no can sometimes be seen as antagonistic and anti-social.

For those who are particularly sensitive to outside approval, there is a fear of rejection and abandonment. In an effort to remain congenial, saying yes can provide immediate- though short-lived-protection against conflict.


“Interestingly, the ability to say no is closely linked to self-confidence. People with low self-confidence and self-esteem often feel nervous about antagonizing others and tend to rate others’ needs more highly than their own.”


Choosing to change a habit can be challenging but the first step is to recognize why you automatically default to agreement; where exactly is your discomfort coming from? The second step is to set your boundaries, trusting in that respect for yourself will then translate into respect for others.


2) The Importance of Boundaries


The thought of resisting against a request can sometimes feel overwhelming, especially if you lack the self-awareness around your own needs. For those of us who struggle with saying no, it may be helpful to understand what your personal boundaries actually are.


Setting healthy boundaries can help to determine what you require in order to feel safe, healthy, respected and cared for. These guidelines can both illustrate what you are willing to provide for yourself, as well as what you expect from others around you.


For instance, it may be important to you to get 9 hours of sleep every night, in order to function properly and as such, you may take measures to ensure that you go to sleep at a certain time, every night. That would be an example of how you honor your own need for proper rest.


However, if a close friend or a coworker invites you out to a party that you know will end in a late night, framing your self-care boundary around your need for sleep could make it easier to decline the invitation. Why? Because the reason you are saying no is not about offending the other person; it’s because you are affirming what you need, for optimal health.


Setting up healthy boundaries is a motion towards empowering yourself and this in turn, creates respect from others around you. Boundaries can also form defined expectations, providing a clearer path in which you can better navigate a potentially, uncomfortable conversation.


3) Where Do I Start?


If you are new to saying no and/or creating boundaries within relationships, it is recommended that you have a few tools handy. “First practice when the stakes are low;” try asserting yourself with a stranger or in a more casual situation, where there is less pressure to agree.


It may also be helpful to rehearse a few “no” phrases, ahead of time. That way, when you are faced with a difficult scenario, you will feel more prepared to deliver a refusal, if required.

Often, we feel obligated to provide an answer to a request right away. As such, bidding for time can be a useful strategy when the initial thought of saying no makes you feel anxious.

You may be someone who needs some time in order to fully process how you are feeling and/or what impact your response may have on your needs. Whenever possible, you can provide an ambiguous answer that allows for more time to make a decision.


  • “Let me get back to you by the end of the day.”

  • “That sounds fun; I will consider it and let you know.”

  • “I will check my upcoming schedule to see what is possible.”


These suggestions may help to create a gap between the initial request and your final answer. Allowing yourself more time to respond can provide an excellent opportunity to practice mindfulness; assessing how you truly feel and what will bring you peace of mind.


4. How Will This Benefit Me?


Creating boundaries at work and/or within relationships will bring more empowerment, confidence and respect to your life. Furthermore, establishing boundaries with toxic people will shield you from unsavory behavior, thus protecting your luminous energy.


Imagine all of the time you will save once you learn to say no to matters that drain you! As soon as you start to remove trivial commitments from your schedule, you are then free to manifest your own destiny; releasing options and choices that are of importance to you.


Confidence will come from breaking the habit of always saying yes. Once you stop putting value on outside approval from others, you will start to build your own inner strength and sense of autonomy.


People respect others who show respect for themselves. When you prioritize your time, your goals and your needs, you are upholding your own worth and that will be also acknowledged by those who truly care.

Award-winning, American television producer Shonda Rhimes states “no is a complete sentence.” You do not need to justify the conscious decision to put yourself first.


By creating healthy boundaries, you are giving yourself the generous gift of self-care. We encourage you to welcome the benefits of respect, confidence and empowerment into your being.


When you learn to say NO, you are affirming your own value. Allow yourself to be inspired and energized by saying yes to your health, aspirations and dreams.


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