Learning to Say No

Learning To Say No


By Sister Renee


            If you have been raised to be a people-pleaser, learning to say “no” is a big step on the road to independent adulthood.  Even though it will be uncomfortable for you at first, because it goes against everything that has been ingrained in you since childhood, you will be very pleased with the end result.

            There are 10 simple steps to learning to say No:


  1. SEPARATE  EMOTIONALLY FROM OTHERS.  Acknowledge that you are not a clone of your mother, sister, etc.  You are you.  You do not have to see things as others do.  You are your own person, with your own opinions, feelings, desires, needs, etc.  What is good or acceptable to someone else doesn’t have to be good or acceptable to you.  What is right for someone else is not necessarily right for you.


  1. SEE YOURSELF AS EQUAL TO OTHER ADULTS, including your parents.  Your opinions, feelings, desires, and needs may be different from theirs, but they are just as valid.  You are not in a one-down position from another adult, you are their equal.  You do not obey another adult.  You may choose to honor a request out of love and respect, but you do not take orders.  You are not under the dominion of any man or woman.  You only obey God.  In Galatians 4:1-7, we are told that children are only under the authority of their parents until they become adults, after that, they are God’s children, and no one else’s.


  1. LEARN TO LIVE WITH THE FACT THAT NOT EVERYONE IS GOING TO LIKE YOU ALL OF THE TIME, AND EVERYBODY DOESN’T NEED TO AGREE WITH YOUR DECISIONS.  You’ve heard that “You can’t please everyone”, and “When you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one.”  Adults make their own decisions and run their own lives.  As long as you are not disregarding other’s rights or intentionally hurting others, if someone chooses to be upset with your decision, then he has to take ownership of his own feelings.  You are not causing him to feel angry, hurt, or upset by making your own decisions.  It is not your job to make him feel better by compromising your own feelings. If, as a result of no longer being able to pressure, control, or manipulate you, he finds himself having inappropriate reactions or feelings, then he needs to deal with them, perhaps with the help of a therapist.


  1.  EXPRESS YOUR OPINIONS.  This will help others stop seeing you as a quiet,complacent, sort-of-invisible person, who is always perfectly happy to go along with the crowd.  Voice your opinions about current events, for instance, or a new movie, or a local politician.  Take an active part in the conversation.  Don’t be afraid to say “That’s just the way I feel” or “Because I don’t like it.”  Start, in a small way, to make your presence known.


  1. PRACTICE CHALLENGING AUTHORITY.  If you notice a discrepancy in a credit card bill, for instance, don’t write a letter.  First call the company and speak to someone in person, then follow-up with a letter.  If you are unhappy with the service in a store, don’t write a letter- speak to the manager in person.  If possible, practice dealing with people face-to-face, rather than on the telephone.  If your child is having a problem at school, speak to her teacher, and the principal too, if necessary, and make your expectations clear.  Politically, socially, and regarding religion, practice standing up for what you believe is right, even if it is not the popular viewpoint, or the politically-correct stance.


  1. ASK FOR WHAT YOU WANT.  Speak up if you want something.  Stop thinking you have no right to ask for what you want.  This means anything from “I’d like an ice-cream cone” to “I want to go to Bermuda for vacation this year”, to “I want you to call first before just dropping over.”  This is another way to make your presence known, and show others that you, too, have expectations.


  1. PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT.  For some of us, the word “No” is literally the hardest word to get to come out of our mouths.  It is even harder to say “No” without explaining why not, or defending your decision.  Your controlling relative will have an answer for every reason you have for saying “no” to her.  It is better if you do not give a reason, other than “Because I don’t want to” or “Because I don’t feel like it.”  If you explain why, you are giving her something to argue about.  If you try to justify your position, you are allowing her to put you on the defensive.  You basically just have to say “No, I’m not going to do that”, or “No, that’s not going to work for me”, or “No, that’s not what I want.” Start by practicing these sentences at home by yourself, while looking in the mirror.  Try to keep a pleasant, but detached expression on your face.  Practice over and over again, until your facial expressions do not show any feelings of discomfort or stress.  Practice until it becomes easy to say these words without actually feeling discomfort or stress.


  1. SAY NO TO SMALL REQUESTS.  The best place to start is with requests from strangers.  This may seem impolite at first, but if you need the practice, you could start by saying “No” to someone who wants to cut ahead of you in line at the store.  You might say “Sorry, I’m in a hurry, too.”  You can say “No” to someone who is asking for a donation to a charity you’re not interested in supporting.  You can say “No, thanks, I’m not interested” to a salesman who is trying to sell you something, or “No, and please remove me from your list”, to a telemarketer.  As you become more accustomed to hearing these words come out of your mouth, you will become more comfortable saying them, and they will start to become second nature. 


  1. SAY NO TO FAMILY MEMBERS AND PEOPLE YOU KNOW.  Remember not to defend, explain, or justify.  Practice making “No” or “I’ll have to think about it” your first response, instead of an automatic “Yes” or “Okay”.  This is a way of buying time when you get caught off guard by a request.  Then you really can think it over, and you can always agree to the request at a later time if you change your mind.   If someone pressures you for an immediate answer, you can say “Well, if you need an answer right away, then as of right now, I’d have to say “No”.  It is perfectly reasonable for you to require time to think something over before agreeing to it.  It is also perfectly okay to just say  No if you don’t want to do something.


  1. BE READY FOR THE REACTION TO YOUR NO.   After all, your relatives are not used to hearing “No” from you.  This is a new experience for them.  It’s going to take a while for them to adjust to “the new you”.  In the meantime, you can expect them to protest.  They may react with anger, disbelief, pouting, more pressure, or by laying on the guilt.  Be ready to stand firm.  You need to respond in a way that says that although you hear and understand them, you are not going to back down from your position.  ‘No’ means NO, and if you say it and then cave in at the first protest, your ‘no’ will never be taken seriously.  Some possible responses from you might be:


                         “I’m sorry you feel disappointed.  That’s not my intention.”

 “I’ve made up my mind.”

 “I’m sorry you feel that way, but I’m still going to________.”

 “I’m sorry that you feel hurt, but I need to do what’s best for me”

 “The decision is made.  It’s really not negotiable”

 “Yelling (or crying) may have worked in the past, but it doesn’t work any longer.”

 “Pouting is not going to make me change my mind.”

 “I am not going to discuss this with you if you are going to raise your voice.  We can talk about it again when you are ready to address me in a respectful manner.”


            Remember, great journeys begin with one small step.  In the journey to independent adulthood, learning to say “No” is that small, but necessary step.  God bless you, sister, in your journey.

            Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father.  Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world.  But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.  And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!”  Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.  But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods.  But now after you have known God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggardly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?….Galatians 4:1-9 NKJV

            So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free….Galatians 4:31 NKJV


***See the articles

Setting Limits & Boundaries Enforcing Consequences Is Not RevengeCriticismStill The Boss After All These Years, and all articles in our Happier Holidays section.