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Saying No and Creating Boundaries

Saying No and Creating Boundaries


Hello again, Dear Reader. This week’s topic is about saying no and creating boundaries. This skill is a must in life. No matter how positive and caring we may strive to be, there will be moments in life when saying no is necessary. Let’s take a closer look.

In hindsight, I believe saying no is a skill I wish I had mastered sooner in my life. I’ve often felt in order to be positive, we must have “yes in our hearts”…so much so, I said yes to others when that was the exact wrong answer. So rather than saying, “Let me think about that…”, I rushed to say yes. I believe I did so to in some way validate myself as a good person. Years later, I heard the words, “If in doubt, wait”.

By realizing that saying no and creating boundaries is beneficial, we free ourselves to be the captain of our own ship. We can take charge of our lives! Finding our reserves of strength and self confidence can be the result. In saying no, we learn to empower ourselves. When we don’t allow ourselves to be bullied or coerced into activities we are unsure of, we can then take time to weigh our options.

Quite often, demonstrating uncertainty can be seen by others as a green light towards taking advantage of you. Your perceived vulnerability can be targeted and exploited. However, consider stopping for three beats…a mere 3 seconds. By doing so, you may save yourself from pain and chaos.

Additionally, by demonstrating integrity and resisting the urge to “be nice” and say yes, we allow ourselves time to fully, rationally reflect and explore options. However, we must keep in mind that our best option could ultimately be saying no.

Just Say No:

Just Say No was a popular campaign in the 80’s spearheaded by former FLOTUS Nancy Reagan. This was an anti-drug campaign that provided the slogan, but virtually nothing else. When I interviewed a student during that timeframe, he stated,”You don’t say no in my neighborhood.” That was a profound moment for me. It occurred to me that catchy slogans meant nothing without offering a means of doing so. There is obviously more to a decision than just saying no.

Another factor I feel is important in saying no and creating boundaries, is remaining neutral in our delivery. Our facial expression is neither positive or negative about a suggestion; this allows you to say no while remaining diplomatic.

Therefore, finding ways of saying no and creating boundaries without being offensive offers others the knowledge that you will consider their suggestion. By waiting to offer a reply, you afford yourself the freedom to take control; you provide yourself the time to rationally weigh pros and cons.

Creating Boundaries:

So most of us could likely agree that it’s important to say no. We could also agree that this can be easier said than done. Therefore, finding ways of saying no and creating boundaries that you are comfortable with is so important. Saying no demonstrates your personal commitment to navigating your life as you see fit.

Creating boundaries allows one the freedom to choose. Manipulation by others can thus be mitigated. However, in the spirit of positivity, others certainly can influence our choices in a way that is beneficial to us. Conversely, others often negatively influence our decisions. Saying no and creating boundaries simply facilitates self protection from these said negative influences.

It logically follows that we can protect our integrity by saying no and creating boundaries. It is a healthy alternative to consider. These boundaries allow us to say no while maintaining a positive countenance. I cannot overemphasize the importance of positivity in our interactions with others.

So, given that boundaries can be a good thing, we have the opportunity to develop strategies. What, and how this is done requires finesse. Primarily, this also requires practice. Typically that means repetition. I’ve personally found ways of distancing and saying no but again, I feel that repetition is key. Therefore, I have practiced certain strategies so that they became automatic.

I will now refer to an article I have found to be valuable by Leo Babuata entitled, “The Gentle Art of Saying No” in which the author discusses how to say no while minimizing your stress. Here is a brief summary of his 10 steps in the gentle art of saying no.

1.) Value your time: know your commitments…if your plate is full, day so, “I just can’t right now…I’m overloaded”.
2.) Know your priorities: look at hue you will spend your time; the more commitments, the less time you have to give away.
3.) Practice saying no: the more you do it, the more comfortable you become in doing so.
4.) Don’t apologize: be firm but unapologetic; saying no can be seen as a weakness.
5.) Stop being nice: saying yes all the time can actually hurt you; show that you guard your time.
6.) Say no to your boss: explain you have too many commitments; take into consideration that the boss can always insist.
7.) Pre-empting: it may be easier to pre-empt before a suggestion is made and saying no is required of you.
8.) Get back to you: this statement communicates that you will consider the request.
9.) Maybe later: this communicates that you are keeping your options open.
10.) It’s not you, it’s me: be sincere if you use this phrase; indicate that it’s not the right fit.

Additionally, an old standby that is still useful to me in saying no:

‘That just won’t work for me’ and slight variations you can repeat include:
‘That isn’t going to work for me’
‘It just won’t work for me’
‘No that won’t work for me’

The trick is, when they ask why, you simply repeat variations of the phrase. No apologies. No explanations. This creates a protective boundary for you. Furthermore, if you actually want time to consider the request, a variation could include: No, that won’t work for me right now. Either way, you are in control of your decisions.



Saying no and creating boundaries is an essential skill to master. Although that may be a given, it is easier said than done. Therefore, if we practice saying no and creating boundaries we can create a protective dimension for ourselves; for our integrity.

As always, Dear Reader, please feel free to ask questions and/or leave comments below in join the discussion. I typically check back throughout the week for your thoughts. Until next time, stay safe and healthy!


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Mike (@guest_7059)
1 year ago

Hello Dr. Dover – This is a valuable lesson to learn in life. Valuable and necessary. The earlier in life we embrace this lesson, the better we will be for it.

Dr. D (@guest_7074)
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike

Thanks for your comments, Mike. I agree! It is a skill to be learned and practiced.

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