Mental & Emotional Health

Say Yes to NO!

By Jaime Kulaga, Ph.D., LMHC

No has gotten this bad reputation. “No, you can’t do that.” “No, it’s too hard.” “No, I don’t have time.” “No, I’m too old.” “No, I’ll do it some other time.”

I am sure that you have said some of these statements before. And, yes, when it comes to stopping a life dream, skipping out on a risk, or self-sabotaging with the word “No,” ….YES that IS negative. In fact, saying “No” all the time could skew people’s opinions of you, making them think you are a pessimist or have a negative attitude. I get it.


The fact is, “No” is also the good guy. When used inappropriately, anything could be bad. Food isn’t bad, but when you eat high fat foods day in and out, yes, it’s bad. But food isn’t always bad, and neither is the word “No.” In fact, “No” can make you happy and fulfilled.

I guess then, the trick is knowing how to say “No” without feeling guilty. Realize that the word “No” demonstrates self-discipline and the ability to set boundaries with other people. I understand that sometimes saying “No” can create guilt, but the minute you feel that people are taking and taking from you, realize that they probably are.

Kindness does not equal doormat. You can do things for other people, but also realize that you are not a doormat. Don’t let people take advantage of your kindness. Many of us are people pleasers, and when we say yes, we get that immediate smile from someone. We feel fulfilled momentarily because we made someone happy. The problem is we walk away from the situation with a lot more responsibility and a task to complete that we don’t have time for. The power in using the word “No” is in the payoff, not necessarily in the beginning. When you say “No” people are not always going to be happy with you, but they will respect you more than if you said “Yes” and did not follow through.

Tips on how to say “Yes” to “No”:

1. Pre-Make your Responses to People
Journal out some pre-made responses to those who consistently ask you to take on additional roles you do not want to take on, or, practice saying “No” to those you feel safe with. When you rehearse what you will say to someone, you are less likely to be blindsided and backed into a corner forced to say yes. You will also find yourself more confident in speaking up when the time comes.

2. Dedicate your Time

When you are spending time with people who mean the most to you, be sure to give them time that they see as valuable. Avoid using technology or doing other tasks when spending time with the spouse, children, grandchildren, family, friends, etc. This way, when you have to tell these people “No,” they will be more accepting of your response. You have provided them with valuable time and thus they are more accepting when you want to step away and do something for yourself. You will also have less guilt when saying “No” if you given quality time to loved ones when you are with them.

3. Rid of the Toxic People

When you rid of the toxic people in your life, you immediately minimize your potential for having to say “Yes” to things you don’t want to do. Toxic people not only want your time, but they will suck the life and energy right out of you, quickly turning you into a doormat.

4. Set Boundaries

If you can’t or don’t want to completely rid of people who might deplete your energy, you can definitely set boundaries to minimize your “Yes’s” with them. Start by taking control back. When asked to do something, do it at a time that is most convenient for you or meet the person half way on their request. This will begin to put some control back into your court and demonstrate to people the boundaries you are setting with them. For example, you don’t have to answer the phone every time someone calls you. Also, reserve time with yourself each day and make this a permanent meeting that can’t be changed. People who want to take up that time period of your day, let them know that you have a meeting or a place to be during that hour. Be sure to take yourself and your happiness seriously, otherwise, don’t expect others to.

Jaime Kulaga, Ph.D., LMHC, is the author of “Type “S”uperWoman: Finding the LIFE in Work-Life Balance: A Self-Searching Book for Women.Motivated by watching those she coaches become successful and with a true passion for helping others, Dr. Kulaga earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology, and master’s and doctorate’s in counseling. As a licensed mental health counselor and certified professional coach, she has a special interest in the complex lives of today’s women. Please visit

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