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How To Say No

January 04, 2018

Your day is packed with errands and work. Your to-do list is overflowing.

You’re already running late. Your phone rings, and it’s that one friend who asks for big favors every few days.

Internally, you’re falling apart, but you can’t bring yourself to say no. If this sounds like you, this article can help.

If you’re constantly overcommitted and resentful about everything you agreed to do, you may need help. It’s important to be able to say no sometimes.

This doesn’t mean you drop your obligations. It means you value your well being. You’re able to take a look at your responsibilities, and realize when enough is enough.

Saying no doesn’t mean you stop caring. It means you can’t do everything, and have been doing more than your share.

A huge upside to this is that when you make a commitment, you can be there 100% without resentment or feelings of overwhelm.

Who’s At Risk for Becoming a “Yes” Man or Woman?

Anyone can become overextended. Yet, there are groups of people who are especially at risk.


Codependents have extreme difficulty saying no. Because their self-worth is wrapped into other’s opinions of them, they often say yes at great detriment to themselves.

Counseling and support groups make a huge difference for codependents that want to make changes.


Being a “fixer” is a type of codependency. Fixers have the solution to just about anything.

They go out of their way to solve other people’s problems, sometimes even if help is not wanted!

If this is you, remember that problem solving is an important skill. You may be depriving your loved ones of finding their own solutions and progressing in their lives.


People who offer full time care to others are already overextended. Anything added to their schedule can lead to major stress.

Caregivers are at great risk for becoming sick if they don’t find a way to get self-care into their routine.

As a caregiver, you may need to explore options for help so you can say no when you need to.


Being a parent is a full time job, full of love, rewards, and also exhaustion. If you’re a parent and overwhelmed (most are), learning to say no can help you reclaim your life.

Enjoy a few more breaks, rather than signing up to help at every function. Do your part, but don’t overcommit.

Health professionals

Health professionals have grueling schedules and are career “fixers.” If you’re a health professional, do your best to have nourishing meals and rest each day.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help from others rather than saying yes to more work.

Say No To Stress and Say Yes To Yourself

The following approaches can help you establish a routine where your needs matter. Explore outside help or counseling if you need more support saying no in challenging situations.

Establish healthy boundaries.

People who have a hard time saying no struggle with boundaries. Sadly, many children miss out on developing boundaries because their parents did not have them or were unavailable to teach them.

Having healthy boundaries is about being calm and assertive, not aggressive or rude. Saying no doesn’t have to be harsh or disrespectful to others.

It’s not about you.

Be clear where your issues stop and the other person’s begin. This is the essence of a boundary.

If you have poor boundaries, you take on other people’s challenges as if they were your own.

If you do this, gently remind yourself you can be there for someone without being responsible for them. You can offer genuine support in a different way.

Calm and ground yourself.

Plant your feet on the ground. Take a few deep breaths before saying no. Envision yourself loved and protected.

I like to envision white light around myself when I’m uncomfortable with a conversation. Learn more: Should You Be Grounding To Reduce Anxiety?

Practice active listening.

Pay attention to the person’s words and feelings. Avoid the tendency to react or fix the problem.

Actively listening could help the person address the situation themself.

Support can be just being there. Sometimes, this is the best choice for everyone!

Stick to the plan.

Be gentle, but firm. If you need to, say no a few times. Just as there are people who struggle to say no, there are people who demand more or try to insert themselves into your life.

Recognize who these people are in your life. If you’re feeling resentful, remember that they need as much help to respect boundaries as you need to create them.

Let go of the outcome.

At first, people may be upset or disappointed in the “new you.” They may wonder why you stopped saying yes. It’s ok.

If they are your friends, they will grow to understand. If not, maybe your relationship was unhealthy.

If this becomes uncomfortable, open a dialogue. It may be as simple as saying, “I allowed myself to become too stressed with commitments. I need to scale back and find a new way to contribute.”

Round up

The stress caused by being overcommitted and codependent is serious. It can affect your cardiovascular health, immune system, and mental state.

It’s important to be able to create and stick to a schedule that works for you. It’s ok to make tweaks as necessary for changes or opportunities. Yet, stick to the basics.

Learn to honor when you need a break. You don’t have to be the “fall guy” in your relationships. Keep the commitments that work for you and your family.

Give 100% when you are there. Being happier and healthier creates a good example for those around you. It’s ok and even vital to say no for your health.



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Feifei, S. (2017). Are you in a codependent relationship.
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Franzen, A. (2017). How to say no to anyone – even a good friend. Retrieved from The Muse,
Lancer, D. (1995-2017). Symptoms of codependency. Retrieved from PsychCentral,