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Find the Voice to Say “No”

Therapist Julie A. Hanks, LCSW, Owner and Director of Wasatch Family Therapy, shares why it is often hard to say “no”, and yet why it’s important to give yourself permission to use it.


I recently surveyed more than 600 Utah women and found that 60 percent say they take on more commitments than they can handle, and 68 percent reported they don’t say “no” when asked to do something they don’t want to do. There are so many demands on your time and energy that saying “no” is crucial to your emotional well-being.

Why is it hard to say “no”?

In my therapy office and in my workshops I often hear women they don’t say “no” because:

• “I don’t want to disappoint others.”

• “I should be able to do it all.”

• “I want to help.”

• “If I say ‘no’ I feel guilty.”

• “I want to please others.”

• “I feel pressured by others.”

Why is “no” Important?

“No” is an important boundary -It shows that you are a separate person with your own thoughts, feelings and desires. Saying “no” acknowledges that you are different from others and that your voice does matter.

“No” prevents burnout – Saying “no” and setting limits allows you to prevent feeling overwhelmed and becoming overcommitted. We have to pick and choose where to invest our time, energy and other resources. A wise workshop participant commented, “When I say ‘no’ I’m saying ‘yes’ to something more important.”

“No” helps you get what you want – It is an expression of your sense of self. If you know what you don’t want to do, you can identify what you do want.

Tips For Saying “No”

1) Accept that you have limitations

Everyone has limits to what they want to and can accomplish. It’s simply part of being human. Many women feel bad about having limitations of time, energy and prior commitments, just to name a few.

2) “No” is an honorable response

Saying “no” means telling your truth. If you allow yourself to say “no” when you mean it, others will trust that when you say “yes” you also mean it and will follow through.

3) You owe no one an explanation

If you give your week’s schedule, or the reasons why you are saying “no”, you open up the door for others to rearrange your schedule to accommodate their request, or to discount or argue with your reasoning. While I find it difficult to simply say “no” followed by an awkward silence, I really like the phrase “No, that’s just not going to work for me” because it softens the “no” without actually giving an explanation.


Licensed Therapist Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW, founder and director of Wasatch Family Therapy, LLC specializes in women’s mental health, marriage counseling, & family therapy. Visit www.wasatchfamilytherapy.com to learn more about counseling services, workshops, classes. Visit www.juliehanks.com for more inspiration on how to improve your life and your relationships!

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