According to Manuel J. Smith’s book “When I say No I feel Guilty”, saying ‘no’ is a basic human right and one that should be relatively straightforward.

Unfortunately, however, many women, and particularly mothers, find themselves saying ‘yes’ to things they don’t really want to do.

This can lead to feelings of resentment and anger toward those close to them and a build-up of stress that can be exhausting.

For some this need to say ‘yes’ may stem from what is known as unassertive thinking and beliefs about what it means to say ‘no’.

Examples of unassertive thinking include statements like:

  •  People will think I’m unkind, uncaring and selfish if I say no.
  •  The other person will be upset, hurt and feel rejected if I say no.
  •  If I say no to somebody they won’t like me anymore.
  •  My needs aren’t as important as other’s needs.

Recognising these types of underlying beliefs is the first step to more effectively saying no.

It is crucial to understand that these beliefs exist within yourself in order to change them.

The second step is to acknowledge that these statements are not truisms or facts – only opinions. You have the right to acknowledge these opinions within yourself and also modify them.



Here are some suggestions for more helpful ways of thinking about saying no:

  • It is the right of others to make a request of me and my right to say no.
  • Other people are resilient and can handle being told no. I trust that they can cope. It is not my responsibility to shield other adults from disappointment at a high cost to myself.
  • I am saying no to a request not rejecting the entire person. It doesn’t change my feelings toward them.

In taking on more helpful ways of thinking about saying ‘no’ it may also become easier to hear ‘no’ from others in return.

For example, if a friend said no to going to the movies with you, you could handle the situation thinking:

  • It was my right to ask her to the movies, and hers to say no.
  • I will ultimately cope with her saying no even though I feel disappointed now.
  • She is saying no to going to the movies not telling me she doesn’t want to be my friend.

Saying and hearing no doesn’t have to be a complicated and layered situation with personal meaning that gets subjected to extended analysis.

By recognising unassertive beliefs and replacing them with more helpful statements that are de-personalised, saying no can become the relatively straightforward activity it should be.

Do you find it difficult to say no, have you tried to handle situations differently? Why not share your thoughts in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com


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  • I always feel so guilty after saying no, especially at work when I am asked to do more work…and sacrifice my life

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  • No is such a negative word, it naturally feels bad when we say it, especially to our kids. I wasn’t any good at saying no to them

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  • I struggle saying no to my inlaws as they do not listen, do not take no for an answer and have no respect for me. I often have to say no in several different ways and it makes me uncomfortable to the point I would rather not see them

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  • Yes I have difficulty saying ‘No’ as I have both boys at school and also volunteer at school I am offen the first one they will call up and ask to help out and of course I say Yes when all I want to say is No…..but I do it for my kids…one day I will learn to say no to them

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  • One thing I rarely say No to is childminding, the reason being that it’s the main time I see our little ones. I will say no if I’m not feeling well or have already arranged something I don’t want to cancel.
    I’m not afraid to say no if children visiting do something I don’t allow or ask for something I don’t want them to have or know their parents don’t allow.

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  • Saying no isn’t really something I’ve struggled with. But I even have moments where I’ve agreed to help or do things I haven’t really wanted to do.

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  • This is a very timely read for me as I often feel bad to say no to friends and go out of my way to help; which can cause disagreements in my relationship. I can see that the person needing help has other options but I don’t want to let them down.
    This was a good read

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  • I always hate saying no to my kids, but it has to be said sometimes so I just suck it up and get on with it

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  • Yes, I feel bad saying no. Even to charity workers in the street trying to sign me up for donations, very hard to say no!

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  • I also struggle to say “No” especially at work. I suppose I worry about upsetting colleagues.

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  • I also have struggled to say no, or change plans on people (even with lots of notice). I had 2 friends who asked a lot and were very draining. I had to realise that saying yes to them most of the time meant I didn’t have time for others who actually benefited from my time/energy and I missed out on nurturing friendship. Well by setting some reasonable boundaries these 2 moved on. I’m getting better at recognising I have seasons of high and low capacity, and adjusting my yes/no’s accordingly!

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  • My husband gets annoyed because I never can say no. I guess I just don’t want to disappoint people.

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  • Sometimes is incredible difficult to say “no”!.But we all learn , do we ?

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  • I can’t say NO to anyone. I will always put others first and miss out on things myself because I can’t say no.

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  • sounds awesome and looks great

    Reply

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