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How to say no and set boundaries

We are programmed from an early age that No is a bad word, as a child you only heard it said to you in negative situations: “No don’t touch that, No you can’t have a biscuit, No you must go to bed.” So it is not surprising that it doesn’t feel good to say "no" to others.

But saying yes to everything will deplete us mentally and physically. We can be saying yes from a place of fear, a place of people pleasing. Worrying what will people think if I say no rather than what is right for me in this situation, whether at work or at home.

Saying yes to everything means you do those things half-heartedly and do not give them full attention. It is not possible to give everything our full attention. People sense that and it may cause issues within relationships as you give a half version of yourself.

Saying no is a loving authentic response – to ourselves and others.

Respond rather than react

We often do not give ourselves a moment to consider if saying yes is right at this time. Could you get in habit of taking a breath or two before responding- tune into your gut response, what are you feeling? If we take a moment to pause we usually know if Yes is the right answer.

Building awareness of our mind/body connection over time with something like a body scan can be a helpful way of taking more control of our boundaries. We tend to focus on our thoughts when considering boundaries and ignore our bodily reactions but our body holds a lot of knowledge if we learn the language to tune in. Read more about mindfulness for managing boundaries in Kelly's blog at Room478

Practice saying no

No can be a complete sentence- but if that feels hard you may wish to prep the conversation with key points and practice beforehand.

Use a mirror to help support you with this. Pick a recent event or a request and practise talking to the person concerned, telling them why you are not able to attend or help this time.

Be honest and let them know that you’re very grateful for the invitation but that you need a rest or are not attending evening events this month. Don't make excuses, this will only lead to you feeling negative, honesty is where the change in your relationship with others and your boundaries occurs. Try some of these options to say no

Self Esteem

Difficulty setting boundaries links to our self esteem. Some of the reasons we find it challenging are:

• Feels selfish

• Putting others needs first

• Seen as “helper” “Giver”

• Part of your identity

• Low self worth

You deserve to treat yourself with the same kindness and compassion that you give to others and that will not happen without the space and time to show yourself acts of self care.

Workplace Boundaries

The cycle of poor boundaries at work can lead to overwhelm and burn out. The more we say yes the more we are the "go to" person whether that is organising the Christmas do, covering for an absent colleague or helping with a last minute deadline.

Again we need to practice. If it is your boss and it feels hard to say no could you ask for help prioritising tasks instead? "I can help with that deadline but that would mean me letting go of one of these other tasks, which would one be best to delegate/postpone"

Our session on boundaries is a great way to get the whole team on board with boundary changes and honest communication.


Learn how to tolerate the reactions of others especially initially if you have always said yes. It will come as a shock to others when you hold a firmer boundary and they may feel angry or disappointed.

The reality is that when you set boundaries with people, they may not have a pleasant reaction. However, you still can work to firmly maintain the boundaries that you have set.

Setting boundaries with people can actually help to improve your relationships in the long run. If you do not respect your personal boundaries perhaps in fear of someone else’s reaction it is likely to lead to bitterness and resentment over time. The people you want to surround yourself with are those who will respect your boundaries, even if they initially feel upset or disappointed.


List what you can and can’t do and prioritise. Practice, value yourself, and accept not everyone will like the change, but this is your life and you deserve to prioritise your needs as well.

Saying no isn’t selfish is essential to care for yourself and others.

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