Sometimes You've Just Got to Say 'No'!

Many people find that it’s their automatic default to say ‘yes’ whenever something is asked of them.  They may have learned to respond without even thinking about it, maybe regard others’ needs as more important than their own or don’t want to cause disappointment, offence or appear ‘difficult’ by declining.

Saying ‘yes’ can be a positive trait that opens new doors and experiences. It can be a significant investment in our relationships, but used too often or without due consideration can also lead to overwhelm, frustration and resentment.   

Let’s look at why sometimes you’ve just got to say ’no’;

- At times it can become apparent that we need to re-define the boundaries of our relationships and remind/reinstate the parameters of what’s appropriate and acceptable. Over time we may have ended up doing things out of habit or by default. That’s not always the best or most respectful way to live. From now let’s decide to be clearer about our roles and check whether the things we accept or agree to are still okay for us. Saying ‘no’ can be an important part of reclaiming our self-respect.

- Personal time and space is integral to good self-care. Don’t underestimate the role of some metime. Just because you’re free and don’t have an important task or commitment at the moment means you should feel guilty or allow others to encroach on that time. If you had an appointment with an important client it’s hard to imagine that you’d let something distract you from honouring it. So, put yourself in your diary and say ‘no’ to cancelling, unless a real emergency crops up. Commit to regular time for yourself.    

- Sometimes saying ‘no’ can be a way of letting others know how much you do, what else you’ve got on, that you’re too busy to take on any more. They perhaps don’t appreciate the extent of your responsibilities and commitments, how time-consuming they are and may well back off once you’ve explained firmly and politely. If you always say ‘yes’ they may think you don’t mind, are happy to be the ‘go to guy’.  And it may be that it’s only upon reflection, that you start to appreciate how much you actually do, automatically, without a second thought.

- Don’t forget too that boredom is often underrated. We may feel obligated to fill every moment with meaningful activity, with chores, catching up with people, self-improvement. There’s often a list of things we could/should/ought to be doing, but doing nothing is fine occasionally. It lets our minds and bodies calm down and be still. It teaches us about the importance of silence and inactivity, about switching off our ‘I’m ready, bring it on’ adrenalin. Children often learn a lot when they’re bored. All too often they have technology, films and adults desperate to provide constant stimulus and amusement, but children, when left to their own devices, are often ingenious at using their imaginations and amusing themselves. That skill needs to be encouraged.    

s- Find acceptable ways of saying ‘no’, that you’re comfortable with. Anger and outrage can flare if we feel we’re under pressure to do more, always say ‘yes’, but that extreme reaction is often unnecessary. Saying, ‘it’s not a good time for me’, or ‘I’m busy, already doing x and y’ may be enough to placate the situation, inform others of things you’re already doing and encourage them to respect you and your time more.

- Then there are those of us who say ‘yes’ so frequently to invitations that we forget which concerts, events, parties we’ve actually been to! Saying ‘yes’ too often can turn special moments into a half-remembered blur.  A bit like testing too many perfumes, we become numb and unable to fully appreciate each experience.   

 Saying ‘yes’ is important. It gets us out of our comfort zone, keeps us alert and receptive to new experiences and opportunities. And often when we say ‘yes’ and commit to seemingly impossible opportunities or agree to things we don’t want to do, we can be pleasantly surprised at how well they turn out. But equally, we need to be ready to say ‘no’ if we feel overloaded, trapped, taken for granted or not properly equipped to do a good job. Used well, both yes and no can serve positive roles in our lives.  


Susan Leigh, Altrincham, Cheshire, South Manchester counsellor, hypnotherapist, relationship counsellor, writer & media contributor offers help with relationship issues, stress management, assertiveness and confidence. She works with individual clients, couples and provides corporate workshops and support.

She's author of 3 books, 'Dealing with Stress, Managing its Impact', '101 Days of Inspiration #tipoftheday' and 'Dealing with Death, Coping with the Pain', all on Amazon & with easy to read sections, tips and ideas to help you feel more positive about your life.

To order a copy or for more information, help and free articles visit