How often do you find yourself saying yes to something when you really want to say no?
Do you find yourself saying yes all the time (when you really don’t want to) or maybe just some of the time?
Is saying no to people a problem for you?
Let’s look at some of the main reasons you might be saying yes when you want to say no.
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Let’s dive in.
Of course, guilt had to be at the top of this list! I’d love to meet one person who hasn’t done something out of guilt at some point in their life.
I used to be a big guilt junkie myself. Hell for a very long time, I felt guilty for being born. I was adopted and figured I ruined my birth mother’s life by being born and then my Mum reminded me how she stayed in an unhappy marriage ‘because of us kids’ so I felt guilty about that as well. (I’m happy to report, I realized that none of the above was my fault and stopped feeling guilty about it).
I’ve also learned how harmful and toxic an emotion guilt can be. It breeds resentment and can lead to hate and bitterness.
The interesting thing about guilt is that it only works when we let it.
I think a way to start eliminating the guilt in your life is to be aware exactly what you feel guilty for and more importantly who that guilt is linked to. Often one person can be a trigger for a ton of guilt we feel.
Then you can work on tackling your big guilt issues and dealing with your guilt triggers. By tackling the big issues, some of the smaller ones may start to full away as things come into perspective.
If feeling guilty or using guilt as a weapon is a problem for you, I suggest reading my other guilt-related posts.
Often we say no first up but then people keep badgering us until we say yes.
This whole situation is no fun at all. It’s exhausting and draining to have to keep saying the same thing over and over again.
If someone is badgering you to do something you definitely don’t want to do, you need to realize that they are not respecting you.
You need to get some boundaries in place quick smart. You need to pull people up on their behavior and stand up for yourself.
This one is very close to badgering but it usually involves more people.
I know peer pressure is a huge thing for younger people particularly with everyone being so connected to each other on social media and everyone caught up in the perception of how things look.
I’ve got to say though, something age has taught me is that giving in to peer pressure isn’t worth it, because a lot of those peers might be a temporary part of your life.
That group or person you are trying so hard to impress might not even be part of your life a year from now.
Right now you might be thinking but my family will still be there! True but that doesn’t mean that the ones that treat you badly have to be a huge part of your life.
You get to choose who you want to be and who you want to spend your time with.
If people are trying to pressure you into doing things you don’t want to do (particularly if they are harmful, dangerous, or just plain stupid) these people are not the ones to have in your corner and they are definitely not the ones to feel pressured by.
I understand all of this is easier said than done but remember you get to choose.
You say yes because it’s expected of you
You have done it a hundred times before so people just expect it.
In other words, it means that people are taking advantage of you and you need to be all over stopping that from happening.
Again this is where setting boundaries come into play. (I have a new post coming soon on the topic of boundaries, so stay tuned!)
In the meantime, make sure you read my existing posts on boundaries and why they are so important in our lives.
You are a people pleaser
If you are a people pleaser, you are more likely to care about making other people happy than caring about your own
self-care or happiness. You might even neglect your mental health.
If you are a people pleaser, the links and books below can definitely help.
You are trying to fit in and make people like you
My goodness the things I have done in my younger years to try to get people (particularly men) to like me.
Now I know better. If they don’t like you, they don’t like you – accept that, be yourself and go find people that do like you.
Some people will not like you and it will have absolutely nothing to do with you. You might remind them of someone they don’t like, they might not like the way you look or dress (do not care about this), and about a million other things totally unrelated to you.
Stop bending yourself into a pretzel for people who are not worth it.
You don’t like everyone you meet right, and that’s not a problem. Don’t be concerned about everyone not liking you!
Doing the right thing
Yes, sometimes we say yes because we want to do the right thing. And you know what, that’s okay as long as it’s sometimes and not all the time.
If you are always ‘doing the right thing’ but inwardly seething with resentment and anger about it, you are heading down a messy path.
Before you know it, you’ll just be doing the ‘angry thing’ and that doesn’t help anyone, particularly you.
Doing what you think you should do
Doing things because we think we should, can be closely tied to doing the right thing.
If shoulding all over yourself is a problem, make sure you read my two earlier posts –
You are trying to help someone
When you are trying to help people, whether it be friends, family or co-workers you can end up doing things that you don’t want to do.
And that is perfectly okay. It’s a normal part of life.
Sometimes helping others means doing stuff you don’t particularly want to do. Do you really want to help your friend move house over the weekend, probably not, but you do it because you love them and want to help. All good.
However, trying to help can become a problem when the person you are trying to help does nothing to help themselves.
Another scenario can be that they do everything they can to make their lives worse and you’re still in there trying to help them.
Before you know it, you’re exhausted, burned out, and need help yourself!
Helping people is a wonderful thing and we don’t want to give up on people who need our help but people have to be willing to take some responsibility for their own lives as well.
Not thinking No is an option
This can be a big one at work.
Saying no at work can be tricky and something you might need to judge on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes your boss asks for a pile of work to be done and there is nothing you can do about it. You need to do the work.
You might have to pick your battles with saying no at work.
As an EA and a temp at that, I don’t get to say no a whole lot in my current position. Though I do get to prioritize who I say yes to and that’s a positive thing.
In one of my old EA roles, my boss basically asked me to spy on the staff and report back to him. I point blank said no, I wouldn’t be doing that. After he asked me, “Which one of us is the boss here?” I refused again. He was asking me to do something my personal value system was not comfortable with. Thankfully, I stood my ground on that discussion and we moved on.
The sad thing is a lot of people think that saying no to family and friends is not an option either.
I’m here to tell you and excuse my language, but that is total bullsh*t.
Just because you are related to someone doesn’t mean you have to do their bidding and say yes to them all the time.
Saying no is an option. It just takes practice and a healthy level of self-esteem.
If you need help in the self-esteem area, I know a great online course that can help with self-doubt and help build your confidence.
The course is How to Break the Habit of Self-Doubt and Build Real Confidence. The online course is held over at CreativeLive (which has an excellent range of courses for you to explore).
I have taken this course myself and got a lot out of it. You can read my review of the course here on why I think it could help you.
Let’s look at three mistakes we might face when saying no.
We overexplain and justify ourselves
I’ve done this many times myself (but I’ve been working on this and am definitely getting better).
We say no but then we follow up with this big long explanation about why we can’t do whatever the thing was.
Not only do we overexplain but we start justifying ourselves.
As a single person, I sometimes find myself justifying my reason for not doing something. It’s like because I don’t have a husband and kids (that I can use as a reason not to be available), I have to justify how I spend my time.
Saying no doesn’t have to be a big long story. Hell, no is an answer all by itself.
In many cases saying no thank you is more polite, so keep that in mind.
Stop explaining and justifying your choices. Say no politely and firmly.
We lie (which means we might get caught later)
The fallout from this mistake makes some of the stuff above (guilt for instance) much, much worse.
Either somewhere in our long explanation or justification, there are a few lies thrown in for good measure or we blatantly lie about the whole thing.
Word of warming – this might come back to bite you later. You lie to someone and then what you are really doing pops up on Facebook. I had this happen recently, someone lied to me about why they were backing out of an earlier commitment (they were sick) and then they popped up on Facebook (miraculously looking very healthy indeed).
People hate being lied to so try to avoid this mistake.
We go all passive-aggressive
If you are shouting no at someone, then you are probably missing the point of this post.
The aim is to reduce the drama and conflict in your life by saying no to things you don’t want to do, not increase the drama and misery by being all passive-aggressive about it.
Being assertive is what you are aiming for.
Do you relate to any of the above reasons? When you read through this list, did a picture of someone or a particular situation spring to mind?
If so, then you need to start working on the reasons that have the biggest impact on your life. Get clear about what is behind the reason (it might be different from what you think) and work out what you can start doing today to turn things around. You might start small but that’s okay, at least you are starting.
Journaling your thoughts and feelings can definitely help. (Of course, if you think you need help from a professional counselor or therapist, reach out for help).
It’s time to stop saying yes when you want to say no. Continue to help people but take into consideration your own needs as well.
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Read Next – How to Live for Yourself and Not For Other People