Healthy Boundaries: How to Respectfully Say “No”

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Saying “no” to others can be difficult for many people to do. You may feel like you are being rude, disrespectful, defiant, or argumentative. You may avoid saying “no” to avoid any potential conflict. You may feel like you are being selfish by putting your needs ahead of another person’s needs. Setting healthy boundaries with others starts with saying “no” to things that you do not want to do. Sometimes, you may feel dragged into activities that you do not want to engage in. You might agree to lie to cover up for other people or you may struggle with people pressuring you to engage in risky behaviors. Never learning how to say “no” can lead to remaining in unhealthy relationships or relapsing in drug use. By learning how to respectfully say “no” to others, you can build better relationships built upon mutual respect and understanding.

Why Might You Struggle to Say “No?”

You may have your reasons why you have trouble saying “no.” As time wears on, you might start to realize that by agreeing to the needs of others always and without expectation has left you feeling lost and jaded. You may feel like you are no longer living life for yourself, rather at the behest of those around you. Some reasons that people struggle with saying “no:”

  • Avoid conflict
  • Do not want to appear rude or disrespectful (may have been taught that saying “no” was rude when growing up)
  • Want to be agreeable and flexible
  • Desire to fit in or go with the flow
  • Afraid of what others may think of us
  • Afraid of the reactions of others
  • Agreeing may seem easier
  • Do not want to appear unreasonable

You may have other reasons that setting boundaries with others is difficult. Generally, most people want to avoid any uneasy feelings associated with conflicts. Getting into conflicts with others can be difficult for you to manage. Many others struggle with conflict and they will agree to the requests of others to avoid conflict. Conflicts and disagreements, however, let other people know what you stand for and what your limitations are.

Embrace Conflicts

You may fear conflicts. Recovery can make you face your fears with the support of others and with new coping skills. Fearing conflict can be deeply rooted in your childhood. You may have had parents who did not have skills in managing conflicts well. You might have seen one parent get angry and the other relent to prevent further escalation. You may have dealt with traumatic experiences that have taught you to feel hopeless in having control over your life. Learn to embrace conflicts as they arise. When you shift your thinking from fear and avoidance to embracing and accepting, you can feel more empowered to potentially disagree with someone else. Embracing conflicts as they arise does not mean that you are looking to make trouble or purposefully getting into disputes. Embracing conflicts means that you are welcoming the conflict as an opportunity to learn how to stand up for yourself.

Tips for Saying “No”

Respectfully saying “no” to the demands or wants of others does not need to be overly complex. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Keep It Simple!

When disagreeing or saying “no,” you may feel guilty or that you disappointed another person. Sometimes, you may feel tempted to overly explain yourself, which may seem like a way to smooth things over in the relationship. However, this can lead to a continuation of the discussion, and you might then be swayed to change your mind. When your answer is “no,” then keep your explanation simple, like “No, I feel like staying in tonight” or “Thank you for offering, but no I already have plans.”

  • Remember Your Reasons for Saying “No”

You might need to keep in mind the reasons for saying “no” in the first place. If you are in recovery and are saying “no” to a potentially triggering situation, keep in mind all the hard work you have done up to this point. 

  • Disappointment is Temporary

Others may feel disappointed or upset when you begin setting healthy boundaries with them. This is especially true of those closest to you, who may be surprised by your new self. Remember that though they may be disappointed, they will move on and you will be healthier for respecting yourself enough to say “no.”

  • Be Proud of Yourself

You may feel some guilt, especially at first. Be proud of yourself for standing up for yourself. Often, you may feel like saying “yes” is easier or that the request is not a big deal. However, when you continually say “yes” to everything, you may lose your sense of self in the process. Be sure to celebrate any success in setting boundaries. The small wins will help you achieve greater success!

Everlast Recovery Centers can help you develop healthy boundaries and relationships in your life. We offer psycho-educational courses that help those in recovery achieve their goals outside of treatment. When we continually agree to the requests or demands of others when they are against our best interests or wants, then we are setting ourselves up to be at the will of other people. Saying “yes” or being agreeable may seem like a helpful and good trait, however, in excess, this can lead to us losing sight of ourselves and the path we want to take. By respectfully saying “no” to others, you can learn to set boundaries with them to maintain your well-being and save your time. Everlast Recovery Centers wants to help you build healthy relationships in your life while also maintaining your recovery. Call us today at 866-DETOX-25 to get started on your recovery!

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