How to say NO

+ How saying 'yes' can do more harm than good

The benefits of saying ‘NO’ and the side-effects of saying ‘YES’

Hello my friends, welcome to Chapter 43 of Sanguine Stories. This month we’re exploring Sanguine Element #7: Simplicity and I wanted to talk today about something that I think is so very important – setting personal boundaries.

I’ve said this before: we are social beings.


How far should you tolerate people, let them push you around or take advantage of you?

Why is saying “no” so difficult for so many of us?

The reasons are quite simple:

You may be trying to be a people pleaser, or avoid a conflict, or you just don’t want to make a decision and saying yes is faster and easier [in the moment] than saying no.

But in the long run… always saying Yes can often make you feel worn out, tired, underappreciated and used. It can make you feel lost on your own path in life because you’re being torn in so many different directions, unable to focus and align with what you truly want.

Plus when you say yes and then end up not doing what you’ve committed to – you likely also feel bad – which is yet another part of the vicious “saying yes all the time” cycle.

As we’re exploring the concept of living more simply this month, I also think it’s important that we talk about setting boundaries and learning how to say No.

Know and Define your limits

Growing up, you were likely taught to be nice and kind to people. While this is a good lesson to learn while you’re young, it can also backfire if you don’t also learn to set boundaries. Being nice all the time can sometimes set the tone that your self worth is based around saying “yes” – pleasing everyone around you and getting positive feedback in return.

Putting a little self-sacrifice into pleasing someone can be a good thing until everyone starts taking advantage of your “sinless” kindness.

Have you ever experienced any of these:

You start wondering why you’re the only person all your co-workers dump their extra work on.

Your family keeps intruding into your personal space.

Your exes – that you parted ways with decades ago – can’t seem to let go of you. And are always wanting something from you.

If you answered yes to any of the above, then it may be time to look at the boundaries you have set and possibly adjust the borders.

How to define personal boundaries

Personal boundaries are the limits you set with other people. Within those borders you determine what is acceptable, or unacceptable on how others in your life behave towards you and what they ask of you and what you will do for them. And it may change from time to time, based on what is happening in your life or what the situation is.

One of the positive outcomes of setting boundaries is a more balanced sense of self-worth.

Your self-worth is totally independent of how people feel towards you. The secret to achieving self-worth is finding the intrinsic value of who you are and being aware of your physical, emotional, intellectual, social, and spiritual needs and boundaries.

All of this starts with awareness.

But knowing and defining your boundaries is actually the easy part.

Setting boundaries and sticking to them – that’s the hard part.

It takes some dedication and focus and even standing up for yourself, in some instances. It means realizing you are not a doormat.

Learning how to say No:

Finding a role model

Think of someone who emulates how it is that you’d like to show up in life. Take a look at their life and learn how they manage confrontations, see how they handle themselves and determine if it all came to them on a silver plate. (It likely did not – there usually is some effort!)

Then, take a look at your experiences; think of times in your past when you felt frustrated, stepped-on, angered, resentful, or humiliated by an individual.

Compare your experiences with those of your role model and see if there were boundaries crossed. Then ask yourself why the outcomes were so different even though the scenarios were perhaps similar.

With that information, define your physical, emotional, intellectual, social, and spiritual boundaries with family members, friends and work associates. Even strangers!

Come up with your own “personal boundary criteria”, a chart that outlines the limits that you feel safe and comfortable in each relationship category.

Re-evaluate and update your criteria from time to time and use the template to keep evaluating whether anyone is overstepping their boundaries.

Gather the right tools for an effective follow-through

Okay, so you’ve acknowledged there is a problem, boundaries have been crossed. Acceptance is often one of the first steps towards healing and living a better more balanced life.

But an effective follow-through plan counts more than becoming aware. Know who you are, what you like and value most, and what you are comfortable with.

One of the most important tools for actually setting boundaries is to know what your core values are. And this is something I explore when I work with my clients.

If you have a relationship and you value monogamy and honesty, make it clear to yourself and communicate the same to your partner. If those long-lost ex’s are still messaging you, be mindful of that – that it’s not only crossing a personal boundary but also – potentially – one for your partner, especially if you’re hiding it from your partner. Tell those ex’s to get lost!

If you don’t like talking on the phone while at work, let people know you don’t accept personal phone calls while working but they can call you after 5 p.m.

Being assertive in saying No is important. And often easier said than done.

Letting people know that they have crossed a border that you’re not comfortable with, and offering them a workaround is an assertive but still kind way to manage confrontation. Start with the little things and work your way up to the larger, more challenging requests.

A quick note here: even with the kindest of intentions, being assertive and saying No may make others perceive you as being mean, rude or offensive.

Remember the reality – you are taking care of yourself. It’s okay to say No. You are simply being true to yourself while being fair and honest with the other person.

You are maintaining your self worth, your peace of mind.  

And if you never tell someone that they have crossed a line, they will likely continue to ask you for more and at the same time, your resentment may build and grow stronger, damaging the relationship all because it was too difficult to just say this tiny little, 2 letter, 1 syllable word.

Practice it out loud – say No. Right now.

Learning how to say No, means you can say Yes to the things that you really want to do and actually enjoy doing them – as you will likely have more time, energy and excitement about all the things you’re mindfully choosing to do. You will also feel more rested, more at ease, and less overwhelmed.

Doesn’t that sound like a better way to live your ONE beautiful life?

As always, thank you for being a part of my community.

Share the love…

I’d love to hear from you… Do you have any strategies to share on how to gracefully say No? g


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chrissy gruningerChrissy Gruninger is an author and mindset coach. She mentors people on how to live their ONE beautiful life, wherever they may be. Her latest book, Lost and Found in the Land of Mañana explores her life in Costa Rica and both the challenges of working and living abroad as well as the beautiful life we can create from those experiences.

She loves her rainforest beach shack in Costa Rica, the sunshine and the rain and passionately believes that through intentional actions we create more happiness, health and harmony in the world. 

Her goal: to empower others to thrive in an imperfect world.