Why Can’t Some People Say No?

Why do some people find it so hard to say “no”?  With our lives all spiralling out of control with the amount of stress we take on each day, one of the simplest ways to lower our stress levels is to learn to say, “no”.

Some people are scared of saying “no” for fear of giving offense or of being seen as rude and unhelpful.  And certainly, when said in the wrong tone, saying “no” can be both rude and offensive of course.  However, when said firmly, politely and couched in appropriate explanations, it is one of the most empowering and liberating words in the English language.  And it can also help to lower your stress levels – something we all need in these stressful times.

But how do you say “no” when someone needs your help? It can be tough when you know that there is no-one else who can readily help and you may feel emotionally blackmailed to help out.  In this situation, you need to be firm and explain politely why you cannot help.  be considerate and offer alternatives if you can.  Maybe you could assist in a different way which would not take up quite so much of your time?  Or maybe you know of someone else who could help instead?  Either way, you need to be true to yourself if you don’t want to end up frustrated and tense, especially if saying “yes” ultimately means that you would miss out on something else that you did want to do.

Of course if you find it particularly difficult to say no, it could be because you lack the necessary self confidence. Low self esteem can force people to say “yes” when they really want to say “no” because doing what other people want them to do makes them feel loved, wanted, even important.  But they are mistaken.  People like this are taken for granted, undervalued and used.  Eventually they realise this (even if they do not acknowledge it to themselves) and their self esteem plummets further.  They become desperate for attention and say “yes” to anything anyone asks of them, and the whole cycle starts again.  They are scared that if they say no, that no-one will notice them anymore.

However, constantly doing someone else’s bidding in this way and ignoring our own wants and needs (and the wants and needs of your self esteem) is a sure way to pile on the stress.  And if saying “yes” means that you feel a knot tightening in your stomach, then you should say “no” even if you think it will make you unpopular.

However, if you really cannot say “no”, then don’t beat yourself up about it.  Decide to do the task in good humor.  Apply  yourself.  Be diligent and enthusiastic. If you do this, time will fly and you will feel less stressed.  And who knows, you might even enjoy yourself!

Be assertive.  Learn to say “no” when you need to and notice how your stress levels fall.

What tricks do you use to help you say “no”?

Author: SOT


6 thoughts on “Why Can’t Some People Say No?”

  1. Hi Susan,

    I think it’s really important to learn to say no, although some people say no to everything and only ever put themselves first! I am by nature a helpful person, but I certainly can say no when I need to, and usually I don’t beat myself up about it either. You’ve made some very good points here.

    Enjoy the journey


  2. Hello Susan, I fall into the group of people who find it hard to say no and yes, I am unpopular too. These few years I’ve being trying to be more assertive and consciously trying to say no when I am not desperately needed. However there is always a guilty feeling cropping up saying that I am being mean and indifferent which I am learning to ignore.

    1. You make an interesting point Priti. I think feeling guilty because you said no is a common feeling when you first start to assert yourself more but it’s not that you are being mean and indifferent – or you wouldn’t feel guilty! I think the guilty feeling is because you care very much about people and want to please them. I also think it’s a very female trait. I know men who’ve never lost a moment’s sleep feeling guilty because they said no to someone! Thanks for the comment.

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