Boundaries: Reasons Why We Struggle to Say “NO”

*from The Art of Saying No by Damon Zahariades

#1: We Want to Avoid Offending People– people often internalize “no.” But as long as you’re being courteous and candid, you’re not responsible for any offense taken by a requestor.

#2: We Want to Avoid Disappointing People– disappointment usually come from unmet expectations (often unrealistic expectations). A person cannot be disappointed by something you’ve been clear about not doing.  You are not responsible for someone else’s disappointment.

#3 We Want to Avoid Seeming Selfish- we have a limited number of hours to play with each day which means that every time we say yes to someone, we’re saying no to someone or something else.  Every time we say no, we free ourselves to spend that time and attention on another person (even if that person is you) or on another interest. Self-care isn’t selfish, it’s necessary.

#4 We Desire to Help Others-we like to help people for a number of reasons.  Helping is honorable, it makes us feel good, and it brings others happiness. However, you must be prudent with how you use your resources (time, money, attention) because your resources are not unlimited. Make sure self-care has a higher priority than giving care.

#5 We Struggle With Low Self-Esteem-if we view others as being better or more worthy than ourselves, we will likely help out of the need to feel valued and less insecure.  It’s important for us to check this because if it goes unchecked, you’ll have more trouble saying no.  Believe it or not, saying no can actually improve your sense of self-worth and hep you to realize your commitments, time, and aspirations are just as important as someone else’s.

#6 We Want Others to Like Us– the desire to be liked is universal, it’s how we build connections with other people.  We innately seek approval. That’s why it’s important to recognize the yearning of validation as a trigger for our tendency to say yes.

#7 We Want to Appear Valuable– even though feeling appreciated makes us feel good, the actual feeling can be intoxicating and can lead to a constant pursuit of opportunities to prove our worth. Be mindful of saying yes to opportunities just to feel valued.

#8 We Fear Missing Out on Opportunities– this robs us of our ability to distinguish between the right opportunities and the wrong opportunities.  Remain aware of and pursue opportunities that are consistent with your goals and interests.

#9 We Succumb to Emotional Bullying– emotional bullying occurs when one person makes another feel afraid, angry, or self-conscious for the purpose of achieving his or her ends. People use tactics (i.e. yelling, ostracizing, humiliating, etc) to get others to acquiesce to their demands. When you are aware that someone is trying to manipulate you, you’ll realize it’s a personality flaw and it’ll be much easier for you to remain assertive and stand your ground.

#10 We’re Averse to Conflict– sometimes people have trouble saying no because they struggle with conflict anxiety and will do anything to avoid confrontation.  However, avoiding conflict reinforces the idea that your feelings are less important than that of the other person. If you fear conflict here’s a few things to do: recognize that harmony isn’t always possible because people have conflicting opinions, needs, and desires; remember that conflict isn’t always bad, it is merely the expression of contradictory views; lastly, practice saying no in small steps like in situations where confrontations are likely to be nonexistent.  By starting with low risk situations, you build a tolerance for conflict.

#11 We Develop the People Pleasing Habit– the longer we do it, the more instinctive it becomes and you’ll agree to things before you’ve considered how it may impact you or even if it interests you. Give yourself a few moments to consider a request before responding to it and then examine the reasons you’re inclined to say yes.