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The 3 Steps to Saying “No”

By Jennifer A. Mason, LCSW LMFT LISW-S


Many times we find ourselves overworked, overwhelmed and wondering how we got in this predicament. We have done all the right things; thought we made good choices and yet here we are with little time for our own self-care. All because we have failed to set limits and define our boundaries. You can train yourself to stop saying yes when you really want to say no.


Here are the 3 steps you need to start saying No in a respectful and thoughtful way:


Step 1:  Figure out what you really want.  If you’re unclear about how you feel or if someone catches you off guard, give yourself time to think it over before answering. Tell the other person you’ll get back to them at a certain time, then put yourself in a quiet space and ask yourself if their request feels right.


Step 2:  Don’t babble.  You don’t need excuses—just a kind, polite attitude.  Lengthy explanations leave the matter open to debate and discussion.  If you lie, you’ll get in trouble, and if you give too many details, you give the other person wiggle room.


Step 3:  Offer what you can.  State what could make the no become a yes:  “if you want me to pick out presents for your side of the family, you have to tell me what you think they’d want and how much I should spend.”  Or, if you can, suggest somewhere else to find what they need or someone else to help. Either way, be honest about what you can accomplish:  “I can be on the committee but I really can’t chair it.” Another example


Once you've said no, move on.  No dwelling, fretting or second-guessing. Enough said. You have set your limit and defined your boundary!