top of page



Why do we say YES when we really mean NO?

Why is it hard to say No? To refuse to do a favour, decline an offer, stay home instead of going out? Saying No can feel like a huge risk. You might worry that your refusal could prompt rejection, retaliation or rage. And in fact, it might.

In an ideal world your need or wish to say No would be respected, honoured and not questioned with no pressure to explain.

I realise this is not just a challenge that I face, but one that many people go through every day. It’s a heavy burden to carry because with the urge to say Yes also comes a lack of self-confidence and self-value.

Of course, if you are saying Yes to something that gives you joy, this is completely acceptable.

People Pleaser is someone who tries hard to make others happy. They will often go out of their way to please someone, even if it means taking their own valuable time or resources away from them. People Pleasers often act the way they do because of their insecurities and lack of self-esteem.

We should realize that we are afraid of saying No because our biggest fear is rejection.

We are afraid that every time we do this,
·       we would disappoint someone,
·       make them angry,
·       hurt their feelings,
·       or appear unkind or rude
·       they might not like us anymore
·       or ask us for help on another occasion

We have in our mind that having people think negatively of ourselves is the ultimate rejection.

If you refuse a request you may worry that the other person will be unhappy with you. But complying at a great inconvenience to yourself could render you resentful.

A conflict of interest gives rise to bad feelings that have to and can be managed.

“Live your life for you not for anyone else. Don’t let the fear of being judged, rejected or disliked stop you from being yourself” ~Sonya Parker

Are we :
·       Seeking approval, a desire to please – for example,
  • what will they think of me?

  • I know it would make them happy.

·       Being unrealistic about what we can achieve
·       Unsure of our own priorities
·       Disempowering people by doing things for them that they can do for themselves
·       Fear
  • Losing a friendship, position or trust – desire to please

  • Not being liked

  • Being judged as unhelpful or uncooperative

  • Letting someone down

  • Hurting someone’s feelings

  • Blame

  • Imagined consequences

·       Duty – I ought to, I should, I owe them
·       Surprise – I guess I can do it, I don’t know…well, O.K?
·       Guilt – I’d be selfish, how can I turn them down
·       Deference to authority – You’re the boss
·       Reciprocation – I may need the same sometime, they’d do it for me
·       Need for power – If I say No, they’ll think I can’t handle it, now they owe me a favour

We have a need to see ourselves and have others see us as a “good person”, one who cares about others, who is willing to help out, to make a contribution.  At the same time, we want to take care of ourselves and our important needs and wants. When we agree to do things we really don’t want to do, we pay a very high price–
·       increased stress,
·       less energy,
·       resentment,
·       lower self-esteem. 

On the other hand, when we say “Yes” and we really mean it,
·       we give our full effort,
·       energy,
·       motivation and creativity.

The key here is finding a balance between meeting your own needs and helping other people meet theirs. 

Next time, before you say Yes, Ask yourself: 
·       “What are my needs?”
·       “How much of my time, energy and resources do I need to meet them?”
·       “What do I genuinely want to do for others?”
·       “How much of my time do I want to give to helping others meet their needs?”

Each person will find different answers to these questions.  The important thing is to find the balance that works for you.

Saying No Doesn’t Mean You’re a Bad Person!

Saying No doesn’t mean that you are being rude, selfish, or unkind. These are all unhelpful beliefs that make it hard to say No.

Learning where these beliefs have come from is a great way to learn to let go of them.

Did you ever wonder why it was so easy to say No when you were a little kid and why it has become so difficult now? What happened?

Well, as children, we learned that saying No was impolite or inappropriate.

If you said No to your mum, dad, teacher, uncle, grandparents, and so on, you were most certainly considered to be being rude, and you would have probably been told off.

Saying No was off limits, and Yes was the polite and likable thing to say.

Now that we are all adults, we are more mature and capable of making our own choices, as well as knowing the difference between wrong and right. Therefore, No shouldn’t be an off limits word, but rather something that we decide on ourselves, based on our own discretion.

But sadly, we hold onto our childhood beliefs and we continue to associate No with being
·       dislikeable,
·       bad-mannered,
·       unkind, or selfish.

We worry that if we say No, we will feel
·       humiliated,
·       guilty,
·       or ashamed,

and will end up
·       being alone,
·       rejected,
·       or abandoned.

Knowing Your Value!

The second step to learning to say No is realizing that you are valuable and choosing your own opinion about yourself over others.

I have learned that if you live your life depending on other people’s approval, you will never feel free and truly happy.

If you depend on other people’s approval, what you are basically saying is “Their opinion of me is more important than my opinion about myself.”

If your opinion of yourself is actually quite low, remember that:
  • Your problems do not define you.

  • It’s okay to make mistakes—nobody is perfect, and everybody does things that they regret; this is what makes us human.

  • What makes a person great is not their looks or achievements, but their willingness to love others, be humble, and grow as a person.

  • You are unique, valuable, and important. No one else in this world can offer what you can.

Is It Really Worth It?

The third step to learning to say No is deciding if saying Yes is really worth it.

After committing to something, doubt eventually sets in and you may begin to think of ways you can get out of it.

And if you don’t have any good excuses, you then have to decide if you are going to tell the truth or come up with a lie.

Think about the anguish, stress, and resentment that saying Yes has caused you. Wouldn’t it be so much easier and straightforward to just say No in the first place?

Have you been through this scenario before?  You’ve said Yes to something and then later felt so bad about it that you ended up lying your way out of it. However you still feel bad that you lied.  It would have been easier to say No in the first place!

Your boss calls you and asks if you could work the following Saturday. As usual, you blurt out a polite “Yes, of course, that’s no problem at all.” However you actually had plans with your best friend, which you are really looking forward to.

Later, you found yourself feeling absolutely terrible about having said Yes and you wished that you had just had the guts to say No from the beginning.

Dreading the idea of having to work that day, you call the boss back with the best excuse you could think of. You tell them that you had completely forgotten that it was your dad’s birthday that Saturday and that you had a family get-together (which was certainly not the case).

Looking back, you realize that it really isn’t worth it to say Yes when you don’t want to. You have a right to say No and shouldn’t be afraid of letting other people down at the cost of your own happiness.

If you have also decided that it’s worth it to you, and want to learn to say No, try these simple yet effective tips for doing so with confidence.

Helpful Tips for Saying No
  • Be direct, such as “No, I can’t” or “No, I don’t want to.”

  • Don’t apologize and give all sorts of reasons.

  • Don’t lie. Lying will most likely lead to guilt—and remember, this is what you are trying to avoid feeling.

  • Remember that it is better to say No now than be resentful later.

  • Be polite, for example, saying, “Thanks for asking.”

  • Practice saying No. Imagine a scenario and then practice saying No either by yourself or with a friend. This will get you feeling a lot more comfortable with saying No.

  • Don’t say, “I’ll think about it” if you don’t want to do it. This will just prolong the situation and make you feel even more stressed.

  • Remember that your self-worth does not depend on how much you do for other people.

Learning to say No has been one of the best things I have done for myself. Not only has it challenged me to overcome my fear of rejection, it has helped me feel in control.

I don’t feel trapped, resentful, or guilty anymore. Instead, I feel empowered and free.

If you want that same feeling of freedom and empowerment, then take control, challenge yourself, and learn to say No!
15 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page