How To Say No
Setting Healthy Boundaries In Your Relationship

 By Genie Joseph, PhD

How do you know when to say NO! Or set healthy boundaries with someone you care about? In any relationship, there are expectations and requests. Sometimes these expectations are reasonable, mutual, and beneficial. Other times the person may be asking too much, or at least too much for now.  

If you feel that you are not able to choose either a yes or a no, you are not exercising your free will in the relationship, and this will lead to resentment over time.  Then you will begin distancing yourself, either consciously or unconsciously.  But if you are able to politely decline a request from time to time, you will not feel trapped.  People who feel trapped will eventually feel that they have to bolt from the connection and the relationship, even if they care about the person.

We all have times when we feel our personal resources are low. We feel like we are literally on “empty.” Like a gas gauge on a car, with the needle on “E,” we can’t run anymore. We can’t give any more to our partner, and we just need to withdraw.  In a good relationship, this can be handled in a healthy way by setting healthy boundaries. The trick is using good communication skills, which are clear, direct, and polite.

Here Are Five Reasons Why You Need To Set Healthy Boundaries

  1. RESOURCES – When you feel depleted in one way or another, physically, emotionally, mentally, or financially.
  2. ENERGY – When you have had enough – and you need a rest to recover before you can give anymore.
  3. TIME – When you feel rushed, or pushed or pressured, or have other urgent priorities.
  4. SPACE – When you feel the other person’s energy is too much in your space, and you need to feel your own sense of space or boundary.
  5. VALUES – When someone is making a request of you that goes against your core principles, values, or beliefs.

How To Say NO In A Healthy Way

Recognize that there are some ways that are more respectful than others when you need to set a healthy boundary in a relationship that you care about. The first step is to recognize that the person has a need, desire, or expectation of you – one that you may not want to respond to.  

Here are Six Tips for How to Say No:

  1. Start by acknowledging this desire, “I know you want me to go with you to this event…”  
  2. Then thank them for asking you – it means they value you and your presence.  “Thank you for asking me…”  
  3. And finally, give a clear, unambiguous “No.”  “But I am going to respectfully decline….” 
  4. If you feel like it, you can give a reason, (as nature and lovers abhor a vacuum), so rather than let the other person imagine why you are saying no, you can give them a short, specific reason.  “I need the time to finish my report, as I have a deadline…”
  5. You can also invite them to ask for a similar request in the future if that is your true feeling.  
  6. If you are someone that is willing to say “I’m sorry that I can’t (honor their request) because I know it is important to you.”  That apology can go a long way to letting the other person know that you recognize their needs and desires.  Just your willingness to recognize their needs can go a long way to soothing ruffled feathers.

When To Say No!”

How do you know when to say No? Listen to your body. When your body says, “No.” That’s your answer; It’s a no!  Even if your head thinks you “should” say yes. If you are really paying attention to your core, your inner truth, your body will give you the sensation of no, and that is your answer. But you must pay attention to your gut. The mind can lie because we have all kinds of “shoulds” running around in our mental programming. But the body is reliable if you are listening to your truth.


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