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Just Say No

Just Say No

There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking others for help – reaching out when we need assistance, big or small, is an important skill for individuals to learn.  However, there is a flipside to this equation. While we should acknowledge the importance of asking for help, we must also learn how to say no occasionally. The very idea of saying no when others ask for something is difficult for a lot of people. In my experience, people avoid saying no because they don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, let anyone down, or disappoint anyone.

But does that “anyone” include yourself? It should.

What must be established is a careful balance between helping other people out and taking care of ourselves. If we could all pay attention to what we need first, and take care of ourselves a little more (what is typically and inappropriately called being selfish), we would be a lot happier and have a lot more energy to share with others.

So practice saying no.

It doesn’t have to be harsh, and you are welcome to explain why you feel you need to say no. But you also don’t owe it to anyone else to explain why and how you are taking care of yourself. Just because someone you love asks you for help does not mean that you are in any way obliged to help them, especially if it will place you in some sort of discomfort or distress. It also does not mean that you are telling them they will never receive help from you in the future – being selective about when and how you help is not the same as leaving them to fend for themselves.

Start with saying no to small things, like super sizing your fries, or going out for a drink with a colleague. Then move into no’s that can be more difficult to handle, like continuing to take on extra projects at work or paying for a family member’s phone bill. People may get upset because they are not used to you saying no, but new dynamics within your relationships will eventually normalize, and if you can feel a little less resentment towards someone close to you, the relationship will be much better off.


Heather Anderson, M.ED., C. Psych