Setting boundaries: Learn to say no and set healthy boundaries

by | Jul 19, 2023

Setting boundaries: Learn to say no and set healthy boundaries

Do you say yes to everything? Can you write this report by tomorrow? Yes. Can you look after my kids on Saturday? Yes. Can you find me that really rare coconut milk from one of the many small supermarkets in town (although I’m not sure which one)? Yes.

This is me – people pleaser. But is that ok? Well not all the time. I know it’s difficult – however it’s really important to say no and set boundaries.

Why is it important to say no?

Well, let me tell you:

  • Self-care – saying no allows you to prioritise your wellbeing and create space for your own needs
  • Respecting yourself – recognising your limitations and communicating them will maintain/develop a sense of self-worth and self-respect
  • Save energy – saying no helps you carve out time and energy for important stuff (and that can include work stuff)
  • Better relationships – establishing boundaries helps develop mutual respect, trust and understanding for others
  • Personal growth – saying no can do wonders for your self-confidence and develops assertiveness
  • Helps stop overwhelm – when you haven’t set those boundaries you can be overwhelmed, overworked, stressed, exhausted and just downright miserable

‘That’s all very well’, I can hear you say, ‘but how?’ When we’re used to saying yes because we want to please people or avoid confrontation that can be challenging.

Sometimes just ‘no’ is good enough! However, this is possibly a bit harsh in many situations. Here are some suggestions for making ‘no’ a bit more palatable:

  • Thank the person asking – ‘Thanks for thinking of me however…’
  • Be direct and honest – be clear without being overly apologetic. Use I statements so that the asker gets to see things from your perspective e.g. ‘I’m sorry, I have other commitments at that time’ (Don’t forget you don’t have to spin a long tale about what they are.) This leads me nicely onto the next point …
  • Give an explanation if you want/it helps – be brief and don’t go into too much detail. This will help the asker understand why you can’t help at this time
  • If you can/want to, offer alternatives – perhaps you can help in a different way or you can think of a solution. ‘I can’t come to help at the fair. However I can add it to my social media feed if that helps’
  • End on a positive note – ‘So sorry I can’t help right now. Let me know if there’s anything I can help with in the future.’ Offering help in a different capacity or at a different time lets the asker know that you want to help …. Just right now isn’t a possibility

It takes practice!

At the weekend, a good friend asked if I wanted to go paddle boarding. I really, really did and was worried about letting her down. Thing is, I just couldn’t fit it in without rushing about. I apologised and said that I didn’t think I’d get all my tasks done in time. My fear of missing out was real but I knew that if I had gone I wouldn’t have had any time to rest and relax over the weekend. So, for the sake of my wellbeing I said no. Well done me! (It also meant I could catch up on the Sewing Bee.)

Setting boundaries is really healthy for your wellbeing and mental health. Like with many other things, saying no (and feeling comfortable saying no) takes practice.

Good luck and let us know how you get on.