Why does NO cause so much stress

Last post we identified what boundaries are and different ways people have of showing their boundaries.    Boundaries are an important part of saying no.  They are the cornerstone of the decision to say no as well as the power to enforce your ‘no’.  Before you can begin to set your boundaries, you need to understand why you fear saying no. 

For some people it is the fear of not being liked.  If we say no to people, then people will not like us and we will be alone in life.  If you identify with this reasoning think to times in your life when someone has said no to you, did you stop liking that person?  Can you think of other times when other people have said no to people in your life, did they stop liking those people?  Can you think of any evidence from an example in your life where someone stopped like someone else because of a no?  People may get angry and they may try to convince you or manipulate you.  Just remember anger is usually a cover for another emotion and you are not responsible for other people’s emotions.  Convincing and manipulation is not respecting you, the situation or the person doing the convincing.  It suggests that the person doesn’t respect the request.  Instead of treating the request with respect and integrity, they are stooping to convincing/manipulative tactics.  If what they are asking for is worth much to them, the request should stand up to a no with no need to manipulate.   

Other people love to make people happy.  This is a tricky one because although saying yes may make the person happy, would they be happy if they knew you went against yourself to do it for them?  This is a yes based on the instant gratification of seeing the joy from the person you are saying yes to.  Instant gratification can be a lousy hollow result.  When the gratification wears off, you are left with bad feelings for saying yes.  Or worse, you run the risk of harming your relationship with that person.  What if the person doesn’t respond to your yes, the way you expected in the long run?  By saying yes to make someone happy you put an expectation on them to behave a certain way.  This could lead to a downward spiral of judgement and self-defeating thoughts and behaviours.


Another reason many have a hard time saying no is because yes is sometimes easier.  For some people the drama and conflict that arises from saying no is far worse than saying yes. They fear the conflict, so they say yes to avoid it. No one enjoys conflict.  Luckily there are some excellent skills available to handle just about any conflict.   Those skills are easier to implement than the damage to the relationship that will come from the resentment and anger that may brew until a bigger conflict erupts.  This choice can easily lead to feelings of being trapped, manipulated, controlled and potentially abused.  The initial conflict may get avoided, but the long-term effects may be detrimental to you and the other person. 

Another common reason people don’t say no is not such a bad reason.  The outcome can be quite bad though.  Sometimes people just don’t know their own boundaries.  They may over estimate their physical abilities or be over excited in the moment.  This is why prep work for saying no is important.  Take the time to understand your boundaries when you are outside of the situation.  Then when you are in a situation, you have the information you need to make informed decisions.

So, why would people say no?  If the above risks are there, unhealthy and disrespectful risks regardless of our ability to overcome them, why would someone want to learn to say no.  Well, for starters it is the responsible thing to do as a member of society.  By setting boundaries and saying no to people you are protecting yourself and them.  Think of boundaries as an electric fence.  If someone is approaching that fence and you say “no, don’t do that” you are protecting them.  By saying no to a person, you protect them from a wide range of outcomes including violating another person.  It is your responsibility to let people know where your fence is and when they are in danger. 

Saying no gives the other person an opportunity to grow. When all is said and done, they will have the success of having completed the task they set out to complete and have learned their own capabilities along the way.  They got to practice hearing “no” and still finding a way to accomplish their goal.  Imagine the sense of a pride they will get from that.  Isn’t that something you want for the people you care about?

A “no’ now leaves room for more yes’s later.  By saving your resources on the things you don’t want to say yes to, you leave yourself with the resources to say yes later and potential more.   Think of your yes as a valuable pot of gold.   If you keep giving a piece away at every request, you will soon have nothing left.  If you pick and choose where you give your gold, it will go a lot further for you.  Think back to the people pleaser, you can please this one person in this moment, or you can please many later.  Which serves you better?

Self-esteem is built when we value our selves.  Part of self-care is protecting ourselves and building our self-worth.   Setting boundaries is a quick way to do that.  Each time we say no, we are also telling ourselves that we value and respect ourselves.  We are in control of our resources and those resources are important to us.  This is the best affirmation you can give yourself.


This entries, worksheet is Saying No Belief Builder.  How to challenge your ideas and think of other solutions. 

Next posting we will explore your boundaries a little more.