How to say no {when you’re a serial people pleaser}

I’m a people-pleaser. I find it hard to say no. I was at my worst in my 20s when I actually could not get the words no to come out of my mouth. For some that might sound insane, for others they might be thinking, “Holy smokes! That’s me! I can’t say no either!”

Saying ‘no’ shouldn’t be so hard should it? Not being able to mutter that word means that we’re often putting ourselves at the bottom of the list, and fulfilling everyone’s needs except our own. It’s exhausting, often causes resent and it’s just disappointing {for yourself}. On the other hand, people like you because they think you’re awesome {little do they know that you actually wanted to say no!}. People do love yes people {but they wouldn’t love that you’re doing so reluctantly!}.

I’m better at it now, but not brilliant. It’s something I’ll always be working on, I think. I’ll probably be in a nursing home, and someone will ask me to the prune the garden and I’ll say ‘yes’ even though all I really want to do is play bingo.

I wrote in my newsletter a fortnight ago about the issue of not being able to say no, and asked if anyone had any advice… and there was some good stuff. Most of it was the same advice just wrapped up differently. It surprised me that people who appeared strong and ballsy to me, still had trouble saying no. It’s a common thing.

Here’s how to say no:

♥ Your immediate response to anyone should never be ‘yes’ or ‘no’. You need to create distance and give yourself room to properly decide. You need to create a default response that you can immediately say in order to save you thinking, and instantly agreeing to something you don’t want to do. It could be, “That sounds great. Let me check my diary and get back to you” or “Thanks for asking, I’m not quite sure what my plans are for that day, let me check and come back to you soon”.

♥ For me, saying “NO” seems harsh and off-putting, and potentially upsetting to your friend or family member. So figure out a way to say no that doesn’t seem too brash. A simple, “I would have loved to, but I just can’t make it happen” is perfect. You don’t need to over explain. Do you recall moments where people have said ‘no’ to you? Was it upsetting? Maybe fleetingly, but you didn’t need it wrapped in ribbon and sprinkled with fairy dust, did you?

♥ Use the form of communication that makes you most comfortable. If you’re on your training wheels {i.e. new to the no game} do whatever you need to do to convey your message. It’s OK to do it in text, email, over the phone, by Facebook messenger, or carrier pigeon. Choose what suits you.

♥ Take away any guilt associated with it. This is the hardest thing to do, but I think it will come with time. I recently said to my husband, “Why don’t you feel bad for saying no to people?” And he simply said, “I do, but it passes quickly. I have my priorities which is my family and that’s who I put first”.

♥ And if you have a hard time deciding what should be a no and what should be a yes, here’s a trick I’ve been using: Run it through a filter. I do a values ‘thing’ where I work out what my values are. Mine are: Family Happiness, My Health & Self-Achievement. When someone asks me to do something, I’ll ask myself “Is it good for my family? Will it improve or take-away from my health? Will it add to my sense of achievement?” If it hits a big no for all of those, it’s out.

And if all else fails, a friend sent me this. It’s a bit cheeky and comes with a language warning, but it made me laugh… and that’s an awesome thing!

Do you have trouble saying no?

Or maybe you’re awesome at it, and you have tips to share… please do!

12 thoughts on “How to say no {when you’re a serial people pleaser}”

  1. Thanks for these pearls. Yep, totally guilty. My not saying no comes up annually in my staff appraisal, maybe now not next year, insert overuse of smiley face here.

  2. Great minds think alike – I wrote a blog post along a similar theme this week! Must be the time of year. Or simply the fact we are flat out people pleasers through and through! Love these tips – especially not saying “yes” or “no” immediately and not over-explaining yourself when you do say no. Totally pinning the 25 bad ass ways to say no too! x

  3. Oh this line “I would have loved to, but I just can’t make it happen” is going to be my new favourite line! I always feel like I have to make up excuses but no more with that line!
    I’m the hugest Yes person and its starting to become really exhausting. I said yes to being class parent when I really didn’t want to and then got roped into the school fundraising committee, I said yes to my boss when she requested I work 4 and 5 day weeks when I’m only paid to work 3 days (and I’m finding it challenging to now take the owed time.) and with the kids its often just easier to say yes so they leave me alone LOL. 2016 – the year of saying NO!! 🙂 xx

    • Oh Shannon, yes! It’s the year of no for me too. I’m sick of doing things for everyone else and then having no time for me. It’s hard because I WANT to do things for people, but I don’t want to have my tank constantly empty.

      And yes, with that line, “I would love to, but I just can’t make it happen” shuts it down. Hopefully no one asks why, or we may crumble. xx

  4. A long time ago, a very wise woman gave me a piece of advice. If asked to do something that you don’t want to do, just smile and “Sorry, no.” No explanations, no white lies, nothing, just no. It’s amazing how well it works. Best of all, you don’t disappoint or let down anyone else, you don’t get yourself into a position you don’t want to be it. It saves so much grief. It was the best piece of advice I’ve ever been given.
    I always think of it from a reverse situation, I would be mortified if I asked someone something and they just agreed or said yes to please me or because they couldn’t say no. Believe me everyone is much happier!

  5. Me: *reading* hmmm, I see she didn’t use any of my suggestions. Strange, definitely thought “My lady balls are not that big” would get a go.

    Then, BAM. Includes the whole damn graphic!

    Here’s to a self-first 2016! xx

  6. Love it. I’ve found not committing immediately has worked well for me and sure enough, once I’ve thought about it, I’m in a much better place (and headspace!) to respond. x

  7. I have so much trouble saying no! Thank you for sharing such great advice…it seems so simple to take some time to think before answering, I don’t know why I never thought of it before!

  8. I was a people pleaser and then about 5 years ago I had a wonderful coach who helped me see that and fix it. It still sometimes comes out but I can generally tame it. For me it’s about creating a beautiful and abundant life for my family and not letting other people’s baggage get in the way!

  9. This is something I’ve got a lot better at. I’ve learned the hard way that life is just too short to do things I don’t want to do or haven’t got time to do. It’s hard because I do suffer from acute FOMO but my new favourite is line “Oh, I’d love to but I can’t.” I have a guilty conscience bigger than the hole in the ozone layer but I know that it’s important to take care of myself first so that I can take care of and give more back to others. Plus I know I deserve to be good to myself. And you owe it to yourself to be true to you too x

  10. Ok, so i am a COMPULSIVE people pleaser too!! I even have a draft post on “how tho say no” but I can’t seem to finish it, probably because i still have trouble saying no. I love the graphic with ways I can let people down easily, or brutally!! But then again, the worst person to let down is yourself, right? Love it!

  11. Would you believe I have actually said No. 12 to someone who was trying to palm off some website content writing. I was just honest and said thanks but no thanks, life is too short to write things that make hate writing! xx Can’t believe I missed this post, it’s so me xx

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