Saying No to people can be really hard. Especially if you’re a woman, we’re taught to say yes even when we’re uncomfortable. So saying no to family members, coworkers, friends, men, etc can be a challenge.
But let me tell you, once you learn to do it it feels SO GOOD! Learning to say no is so liberating, so I’m going to share my tips on how to say no with personal policies and why it’s ok!
Updated February 2022.
Establishing Personal Policies can eliminate decision fatigue
When you establish your personal policies ahead of time you can take the struggle out of saying no when the situation calls for it. It’s harder to argue with someone who has set boundaries.
Telling someone “I have a policy of…” is more effective than saying “umm I’m not sure?” or “maybe.”
If a restaurant has a sign clearly saying “no shoes no service” are you going to argue with them? Probably not. When you establish clear, official boundaries people are more likely to respect them.
Learn more about how to set boundaries with toxic people.
How to Say NO!
1. Give yourself permission to say No!
It can be difficult to say no to things we don’t want to do, but it’s important for our happiness and well-being. Here are four steps to help you give yourself permission to say no:
- Decide what’s important to you. What are your values and priorities? When you know what’s important to you, it’ll be easier to say no to things that don’t align with those values.
- Know your limits. We all have limits on what we can and can’t do. Knowing your limits will help you say no when necessary.
- Practice saying no. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but practice saying no until it feels natural.
- Be gracious when saying no, but if someone is pushing it’s ok to be assertive.
If may also be helpful to ask yourself why you don’t feel comfortable saying no. Are you afraid of being judged? Do you feel the need to people please? Are you putting other people above your own needs, and why don’t you feel worthy of having your needs met?
Life is too short to do things you don’t want to do or be around people you don’t like. If you don’t go to an event everyone will survive. I chose not to go to my family’s Easter gathering this year and I had a really great time with the house to myself for a few hours. If someone gets mad that’s their problem, not yours.
2. Learn from past situations where you felt uncomfortable
We all have moments in our lives where we regret not saying no. Maybe you were talked into going out when you were exhausted, or you agreed to work overtime when you really needed a break. Learning from past situations where you should have said no can help make future decisions easier.
Identify times in the past where you should have said no and ask yourself the following questions:
- Why did you need to say no?
- What were the consequences of not saying no?
- How do you NOT want to feel in the future?
- What lesson can you learn from those experiences?
When it comes to your health and well-being, always say no if you don’t feel up to something. When it comes to your workload, be honest with your boss and let them know when you’re feeling overloaded. You’ll likely get a lot more respect if they know you’re not trying to take on more than you can handle.
If there are situations that often result in drama, tell people you’re not available for that, and don’t be afraid to minimize contact with them.
Last year (2018) was rough for me. I won’t bore you with details but a lot of people walked all over me and I was put in uncomfortable and upsetting situations. A lot of that could have been avoided if they where just considerate and communicated, that’s on them, but I could have saved myself some tears if I’d put down clear boundaries and said no a few times.
Related: How to Crush Your Limiting Beliefs
3. Set up Personal Policies around those situations
A personal policy is a established set of guidelines that dictate your actions around specific situations.
You could have a policy against buying fast fashion, or watching/listening to media made by sexual predictors. Maybe you have a policy that everyone in your car must wear a seat belt. Or you could have a policy of petting every dog you meet at the park (with permission from the owner)!
Once you identify a few situations where you wish you’d said no, establish personal policies around those situations that will help you say no in the future.
For example, as the youngest of my siblings I have been assigned the role of The Babysitter. Did I enjoy cancelling my plans to babysit all the time in my teens and 20s? No. But I did it for years out of obligation. So now I have a personal policy of only babysitting when I’m free and actually want to (and I’m being paid).
Your policy can be about people, places, or things.
Have you even been repeatedly put in social situations you didn’t want to be in? Can you set a policy around not going to that type of place or being around that person?
You might establish policies against:
- Going to places where sleazy guys hang out.
- Going anyplace where a specific person is in attendance. (It is OK if this person is a family member!)
- Tolerating gross behavior from men.
- Drinking at work events.
Related: How to Get Out of a Bad Mood
Are there areas of your life that could be improved with personal policies? Using this concept has made life much less stressful for me. I hope it can do the same for you!