Are you an introvert who can’t say no, especially to your friends? Maybe you also struggle to be assertive and set boundaries with coworkers and loved ones.
Saying no can be difficult for anyone. But it’s especially tough for introverts, because we hate conflict. Saying yes seems like a logical way to keep the peace.
Introverts also take longer to find the right words. No may only be a one syllable word, but it’s usually accompanied by a lot of explaining and apologizing that we just plain don’t have the energy for.
Unfortunately, an inability to say no can have dire consequences for introverts. We’re naturally more prone to overwhelm and low energy. Too many yesses can leave us emotionally and physically bankrupt.
You may already know that your inability to say no is impacting your health and happiness. But how do you stop the cycle?
Here are a few crucial tips to help you say no with confidence, even if you’ve been a Yes Man or Woman for years.
Understand why you can’t say no
Aside from the desire to keep the peace, there is another deeper reason that you might struggle to say no: codependency. Codependent people tend to value other people’s opinion of them more than they value themselves. They put others’ needs first, basing their own self-worth on their ability to please others.
If you’re bending over backwards to please others at the expense of your own happiness, you might want to do some exploring into why you feel your needs don’t matter.
Identify your wants and needs
If you can’t say no, you likely have trouble identifying your own needs and wants, and feel guilty expressing them. Emotional vampires pick up on your guilt and use it in their favour.
The first step to saying no and being more assertive is to get real about what you want and don’t want. How do you want to spend your time? What goals and values are most important to you right now? Start saying yes only to things that align with your wants, needs, and values.
Determine your boundaries ahead of time
It’s hard to set boundaries after they’ve already been crossed. Take some time to identify what your limits are before someone tries to push them. Identifying your boundaries ahead of time also prevents guilt. If it’s on your No Way Jose List, you can say no with confidence.
Stop apologizing and explaining
As Anne Lamott so wisely said, “‘No’ is a complete sentence”. The need to explain and apologize stems from a sense of guilt. When you know it’s okay to say no you won’t go into long explanations. Remember, emotional vampires can smell guilt from a mile away. Keeping your no’s short and to the point will send a message that you have strong boundaries and a healthy self-worth.
Ask for some time
If you’re really unsure if you want to say yes or no, simply ask for some time to think about it. Just remember to get back to the person in a reasonable amount of time or they’ll think you’re avoiding them.
Over to you
Are you someone who can’t say no? Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!
A swing, a hit and a home run for Michaela!
Thanks, Rikko. 🙂
This is me, completely! I’m 43 and I still have problems not being able to say no to people.
You’re not alone! Hope the tips help. 🙂
Your blog makes me feel normal I understand myself more now and how to stay away from toxic people, I’m a highly sensitive introvert and whenever a toxic person would come in range I would have a low self worth not realising it did not come from me, I learnt how to emotionally and mentally check myself before I got in contact with anyone.
Thanks for sharing that, Anon. It’s tough to be an HSP innie, but you’re not alone! 🙂
Nice tips.. I find it difficult to do a just “No”. I provide the explanation of why it is a No first and then end the sentence with Not possible or No as the last part of the sentence.
Thanks for sharing. A short explanation is a good idea. It’s the longwinded ones that can be overkill. 🙂
I just can’t say no because I’m a people pleaser. I tend not to put my own needs first no matter what situation I’m in. I also absolutely despise asking questions for the fear of me being told no. These tips definitely helped me out a lot. Thanks Michaela!
Happy my advice helped. 🙂
Thanks for that excellent advice!
You’re welcome, Rob!
I find that extroverted friends and family often respond with irritation and even anger if you cannot “help” them with certain things, i.e., childcare. Even after you’ve tried to educate them on introversion vs extroversion, you can sense their disregard and dismissal of the why behind your no. It’s so frustrating…and hurtful.
Yes, I know what you mean. Some extroverts really don’t understand our innie needs.
This is something I’ve improved on, but I still have more work to do. This article will help a lot!
Glad that it will help, Marcus! 🙂
Many of us were not allowed to say no in the home and at work and if we tried to say no or even say no, we get smackdown verbally and sometimes physically.
That’s a good point Gunther. Thanks for sharing. 🙂
The word no doesn’t come easily from my mouth even after bringing up grown men and women today. I am a people pleaser and will gone along with other peoples plans and ideas. I rarely seem to have my own ideas and when I do I can easily be swayed or discouraged.
Great article for those of us who struggle with the word no!! I am an extreme commitment phobic when it comes to any type of social engagement. I will need to learn to say no and keep it short. I despise people when they don’t get the hint. But to be honest I need to be more assertive and set my boundaries! Thank you Michaela!
Thanks for the tips! Most importantly, it is comforting to know that I’m not alone and not somehow deficient.
I have spent my whole life apologizing and frankly, I am tired of it. I was raised to believe that external validation is the ultimate goal, that what I thought of myself was not as important as what other people thought of me. After all, pride is one of the seven deadly sins, right?
It took me a long time to realize that I was an introvert and what that really meant. But once, as an adult, when I admitted it, I was answered (by a friend), with a sharp, “No you’re not!”
To the extroverts who don’t understand, let me say, “Different isn’t bad. It’s just different.”
I’m a work in progress. That’s a good thing.