can't say no

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!  


Michaela Chung