Why Saying No Is Difficult to Do

Chances are, you’ve been there before. You’re facing a decision that you know you don’t want to do but feel like you’re unable to say No. Here’s why saying No is so difficult.

Learning how to say No is essential because this practice is what gives us back our power.

This small two-letter word empowers us to take back our time, our emotions, and our mental wellbeing by allowing us to re-prioritize what’s important to us.

There was a time in my life when I was a perpetual yes-woman. I bent over backward to make everyone happy, often at the expense of my happiness and wellbeing. Today, I’m a proud recovering people-pleaser on the journey helping others learn how to discover their loving No.

But, why is saying No so tricky to do?

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Why saying no is hard

There are a lot of reasons why saying No can be difficult, but below you’ll find the two examples I most commonly see.

Fear of letting others down

Have you ever felt this fear holding you back from saying No? The fear of letting others down can feel like all the reason to say Yes even when you want to say No.

I’ve found that when we agree to do something out of fear, we don’t put our heart and soul into it as we would with something that’s in alignment. It’s like by saying Yes or No, we end up letting the other person down either way, except when we say No we save our happiness.

Also, it’s important to remember that it’s not our business what other people think of us. If you let someone down because you had to stay true to yourself, how they’re feeling is on them.

Overwhelming guilt

The feeling of guilt can go hand-in-hand with fear of letting others down.

If paralyzed by guilt, I encourage you to at least not jump into saying Yes right away. Politely ask for more time or let the other person know you’ll get back to them. By doing this, you’re creating more time for yourself to work through why you’re feeling guilty saying No.

Additionally, remember that it is not your job to please everyone, people pleaser. The guilt you’re experiencing could stem from a belief you hold around feeling like you have to say Yes all of the time.

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Why saying yes too much is a problem

Being a yes-woman or saying Yes too much can quickly become an issue in your life.

When you continuously agree with others without first getting in touch with your priorities, it’s a recipe for a buildup of toxic resentment and frustration. See, the thing is, people-pleasers communicate differently than someone who doesn’t have that yes-woman/man tendency.

If you’re always saying Yes, you also set yourself up not to be genuinely present when you show up to your commitments. You might find yourself only showing up because you feel like you “should” and quickly discover that your heart isn’t in it. Over time, those around you will pick up on your less-than-enthused attitude.

I don’t know about you, but when it comes to things I care about, I prefer to show up at 100% for 50% of the time instead of showing up at 50% all of the time.

Trust me, I get that being a Yes-woman/man can provide some temporary relief from the overwhelming guilt and fear when faced with saying No. Unfortunately, when those emotions are left unchecked for too long, they can turn into bigger issues like resentment, frustration, feelings of low self-worth, and possibly a full-on emotional meltdown.

My hand’s up because I’ve been there.

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Learning to say no

The process of learning how to say No can take time – be patient with yourself.

It’s possible you’re unraveling years of beliefs around having to say Yes all of the time, so don’t get frustrated when you don’t change your behavior in a day.

To make No more accessible it’s essential to work on feeling more confident and boost your self-esteem. When we feel worthy of saying No, it’s easier to say it.

Once you’re feeling more confident, start small. Work on saying No in places where you feel like the most confident version of yourself. Maybe that’s in the coffee shop or at your favorite store? Perhaps it’s most comfortable for you to say No to your spouse or parent?

Take some time to find an accessible starting point and build from there.

Remember, learning how to say No is a lifelong process intended to make more physical, emotional, and mental space for yourself. Above all, remember why you started in the first place.

Some alternatives to saying no

If flat out saying the word No feels too scary, start even smaller.

Below you’ll find two sentences you can use to take the pressure off of yourself (for a limited amount of time) without actually saying No. Remember, these alternatives are your training wheels and aren’t meant to last you too long. We’re all for clear communication here!

Can I think about it?

Asking for more time to make a decision isn’t an immediate No, but it does give you some time to think about what you’re being asked to do. Maybe in that time, you’ll find the confidence and wording to say No.

Follow up with me in x amount of time

This response sets a clear guideline for when the other person can expect an answer from you. Just remember, it’s now on you to have an answer for them when they do follow up.


What saying no is all about

At the end of the day, learning how to say No is all about creating more time and space to pour into what’s most important to you.

Saying No is communicating to the world that your time, energy, and wellbeing are important considerations in your daily life. It’s creating a boundary between what’s available for the world to receive and what’s yours to keep.

Perhaps most importantly, learning how to say No is a chance to learn how to say Yes authentically. When you discover this powerful Yes, you’re giving yourself a chance to show up 100% and fully immerse yourself in experiences that you truly want to enjoy.

You’re laying the building blocks to create a life you genuinely love.

Do you still need help saying no?

I’m here to help! Consider checking out my book Boundaries with Soul™ or the self-study Boundaries with Soul™ Digital Course.

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  • Some great points in this post.

    Many people struggle to say ‘no’ and it can result in becoming over-committed, stressed and pulled in different directions. If you want to be in charge of your time, you definitely need to learn how to say ‘no’.

    One of the techniques I use is to say ‘no’, but at the same time offer some kind of (partial) solution, e.g. “I can’t help you this time, but you can find more info here,” or “I know Susan was working on something similar, maybe she can help?” I fidn it takes the edge off the rejection!

    Time is limited and precious, so you should never feel guilty about saying ‘no’ when you need to.

    Thank you for posting!

    • That is such a great point, I completely agree, there are times where it is perfectly okay to help someone out or point them in the right direction, but it is also perfectly okay to set some boundaries and say no when your needs require it. Thank you so much for reading!


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