how to say no ‘No’ is such a little word. Most 2 year olds have little problem learning how to say no forcefully and without fear. However, as we get older and fears of rejection or reprisal start to entangle themselves around our heart and mind, this little word can become one of the most difficult to say. That’s why we all need to learn how to say no.

Guilt and obligation make it hard to learn how to say no

Guilt and obligation runs deep in some families. Sadly, manipulation and threats of withdrawal of love and affection are the way some very insecure people operate. It is their desperate attempt to attain or maintain control where deep down they fear the loss of their close relationships. The person being manipulated and controlled usually does not see the insecurity. All they see or feel is the terrible guilt and pressure of obligation. They literally are too afraid of the consequences to learn how to say no. In this environment all kinds of terrible things can and do occur.

Relationships can become very complicated

In organisations, families and businesses, instead of honest and real relationships  there can develop a kind of pressure where it is unacceptable to say no to the leader, patriarch or boss. The fear of negative reactions stop many from learning how to say no.

how to say noInstead, Some say ‘yes’, and act ‘no’. Some say ‘maybe’ but ultimately act ‘yes’. Some say ‘no’, but know they will give in through guilt, and so they are really saying a very reluctant and tormented ‘yes’.

Some enlightened and healthy people push through the fears and learn how to establish healthy boundaries for their life. They learn to respect themself enough to say no without guilt or fear. When healthy boundaries are established it becomes easier to learn how to say no and not be afraid.

Every healthy person has to say no to many people and things in their life. It is impossible to do everything and to please everyone. And remember that every time you say ‘yes’ to someone you are saying ‘no’ to someone or something else.

It is harder for some personality types to learn how to say no

In the DISC Personality Profile the I and S styles are people oriented whereas the D and C styles are more task focused.

The I style in particular is very outgoing, loves variety and to have lots of contacts. They love to please people and their greatest fear is that someone may not like them. So often the I style struggles with learning to how to say no.

The S style wants to build trust and connect more deeply with a few people. S styles make excellent friends, and will love to serve and do things for people they like and trust. When they have built those close relationships S styles will have more challenges learning how to say no because they can be very loyal friends who are always there often at their own cost.

The D and C styles are more task focused. The C style is happiest when working alone. The D style often wants people to do as they say, but will not usually have much problem learning how to say no to anything that does not suit them.

There is great freedom in learning how to say no

how to say no2Healthy human beings, of all personality types, need to learn how to say no, and how to say yes as well. It’s critical to strong mental health that we learn to make choices without guilt or obligation determining our decisions. This involves learning self respect and setting clear boundaries.

There is great freedom in being able to smile and say to a request, “I’m so sorry. I’d love to assist you, but I have other plans on that day which mean I am unable to. I hope everything goes really well for you.”

I recommend the book, Boundaries by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr John Townsend. It is a very helpful guide to setting clear boundaries for your life, which is the foundation for learning how to say no and yes without guilt.

How do you deal with guilt and obligation?

Have you learned how to say no without guilt?


INTEGRATE: Why Work Life Balance is a Myth | John Drury

Integrate: Why Work Life Balance is a Myth and what you really need to create a fulfilling lifestyle

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