Do you ever feel so guilty declining an invitation or request that you immediately resort to a five-minute explanation of why you can’t do it (including things that may not be completely true)? If you are like me, this exact scenario has probably played out in many different areas of your life. Also like me, you may need to learn how to say no without explaining yourself or feeling guilty for doing so.
A huge part of self-care is to create and respect your own personal boundaries. This includes expressing and defending those boundaries to others, and refusing to allow people to take advantage of you. In this post, we will look at multiple different ways to say no without explaining yourself and why it is necessary and beneficial for both parties involved. As moms, we can get so caught up in caretaking and forget that spreading ourselves too thin prevents us from being helpful to anyone. Wouldn’t you love to stop over-booking yourself (physically and mentally) and be able to give 100% to the commitments you DO accept? I know I would!
Why is Saying No so Difficult?
There are many reasons that it seems nearly impossible to say no without explaining ourselves. For many of us, it can be hard simply saying no at all. Why is that? What makes it so hard to decline or deny a request? Let’s look at a few factors that influence our decision:
Fear is most likely the main reason that people struggle with saying no. Fear that people will be upset with us, of the way we may be perceived, or of changing the relationship dynamics. People pleasing is a big one here – it is hard to say no when you are afraid that people will dislike you, gossip about it, or whatever else could come of that. Fear should not hold us back from taking care of ourselves! Saying no can take a great amount of courage on our part. Every other factor I’m going to list can boil back down to fear.
Sometimes we really just can’t do it, and we wish we could. We then feel bad that we can’t help someone that we care about. Or, we may feel guilty about saying no when we could probably swing it at our own expense. Why is it that we are always so willing to say yes for another person’s benefit when it is potentially harmful to our own emotional or mental wellbeing? I’ll let you think about your own personal answer to that question!
Putting others needs above your own is a form of codependency. Saying yes to someone when it isn’t in your best interest to do what they are asking is not [always] healthy. Of course, compromise is important in healthy relationships and sometimes sacrificing for our children or family is necessary. The line can be hard to see sometimes. I’d say that a good rule of thumb is when you notice that you are consistently sacrificing your own happiness or wellbeing at the request of others. I know I did that for a long time and, in the long run, it was not beneficial to my relationships with the people I was sacrificing myself for. It especially wasn’t good for me. Being able to say no without explaining myself is one of the hardest things for me! I am still learning and growing through it myself. I still have days where I go ahead and account for every minute of my daily schedule to explain why I really can’t spare that extra time.
Sense of Obligation
Sometimes we feel like we have to say yes because the person asking has done something for us or we otherwise feel indebted to them in some way. I am here to tell you that you don’t owe anybody anything when it comes to your own health! And yes, saying no can greatly affect your mental (and therefore physical) health. It can be especially hard to say no when we are feeling like we need to return a favor, but anyone who truly respects your boundaries and values your relationship will understand. You don’t owe them on their terms alone, it has to work for both of you.
It can also be hard to say no when our schedule is clear and we seemingly have the ability to fulfill the request. However, if it is simply something that doesn’t align with your morals or you have any other reason for choosing to say no, that is valid. Don’t let this false sense of obligation or pressures from unhealthy relationships influence a decision that is yours alone to make.
Do You Need to Learn to Say No Without Explaining?
If you can relate to any of these experiences, you are in good company! As I mentioned above, this is a huge area of growth for me. It is so reassuring to know that others struggle with it as well. Please don’t hesitate to shoot me an email or leave a comment below if this is something you are working on, or if you have an amazing success story to share of a time you were able to say no without explaining yourself!
Actively Saying No
Other than mustering up the courage beforehand, this is the hardest part: actively saying no. In the moment, it can be so hard to resist that urge to offer up whatever explanation you can muster. It is hard to let others down with our answers or, in some cases, to put ourselves first. But it really is so important and the best thing that you can do for yourself and for your relationship with the person asking.
Valid Reasons to Say No
There are so many reasons you may need or want to decline a request. Some of those reasons you may not want to share, and others you may not care about sharing. But there is no reasoning that you NEED to explain or defend. You should not feel afraid, guilty, or obligated to defend yourself to others when you decide how to respond to matters that affect you. This includes even the simplist of reasons:
- You don’t have time
- It goes against your morals
- You don’t want to
- You don’t feel like it
- It creates or enables/prolongs unhealthy boundaries
- Something else takes priority
- It isn’t in your budget
- It is unsafe/dangerous
- Any other reason that you choose
What to Say
- No thanks
- I’m not interested
- Sorry, I can’t
- Sorry, I don’t have time
These are all perfectly acceptable answers on their own. It is possible to simply say no without explaining anything further.
If You are Asked to Elaborate
But what if someone is pressing for more information? It seems like a natural response for people to question what could possibly take priority or be more important than they are (I’m guilty of this as well). In most cases, I don’t believe that anyone means to cause harm. This is most likely something they picked up along the way from family dynamics or wherever else.
Here are a few ways to divert if someone wants more info than you are comfortable giving:
- Tell them the reasons are personal
- Tell them that you don’t want to explain further and you appreciate them respecting your privacy/boundaries
- Simply state that is the choice you made and you don’t need to explain yourself or answer to anyone
That should pretty much get your point across if they were having trouble taking the hint before. If they aren’t taking the hint by the time you say “That’s my choice and I’m not going to explain myself any further,” you may want to remove yourself from the situation or take a step back to evaluate that relationship. You deserve to have safe relationships where your boundaries and choices are respected! And please reach out to the authorities if you ever feel unsafe or threatened in a situation like this.
Benefits of Saying No Without Explaining
So, why even bother with all of this and put yourself in a position to be uncomfortable?
Committing More Fully to What’s Important
If you say yes to EVERYTHING asked of you, you will be spreading yourself too thin. By choosing to decline some things, we are able to commit more fully when we do say yes. We don’t have to worry about time restraints or burn out because we are being gentle with ourselves and only choosing a reasonable number of commitments at any given time. This gives us more time and energy to focus on what’s important!
Being able to say no without explaining helps build integrity. When you commit to something, you should show up and give it your all. People will know that they can count on you to keep your word and deliver what was promised. They will also know that you are able to respect and stand up for yourself with confidence. By learning to say no without explaining, you show others that you know your capabilities and will only commit to their cause if you are really able to deliver. When we take on too much, it becomes second nature to try and weasel our way out of something and there is always someone who gets left in the dark because we had to cancel last minute. Not cool!
Fostering Healthy Relationships
Saying yes when you don’t want to is harmful to both you and the other person (as well as your relationship). You are most likely regretting your commitment and feeling resentful while carrying it out. This can cause a few problems. One, it creates unhealthy boundaries because you aren’t being clear about what those boundaries are on your part. Two, you lose the authenticity factor because you aren’t able to be honest and open with the other person, which then robs them of the opportunity to fully know and support you. And three, it affects your relationship with yourself because you chose to be in this position rather than put your own needs first.
Next time you are facing a question consider these tips:
- If you know right away that you will be busy or otherwise unable to commit, just say no.
- If you are unsure, tell them you will get back to them. Take some time to think about it and make sure it is something you are able to commit to without taking away from another priority of yours.
- If you do say yes, carry out your commitment with joy. If it is something you should have declined, remember next time how important it is not to overbook yourself!
The only way to get good at any skill is to put it into practice. It can definitely be scary to stand up for yourself and try something new when you are worried about how others will react (or that the world will fall apart if you don’t help hold it together). This is a great way to practice self-care and it will help maintain healthy boundaries which will strengthen your relationships as well. The confidence that exudes from women with this skill is amazing! That is what I want for myself, and for you! Let me know in the comments section what you think or if you have any additional tips!