Cultivate a Life of Vitality, Pleasure, Passion and Purpose

Trouble Saying “No”?

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When you say “yes” to others, make sure you are not saying “no” to yourself.  

(Paulo Coelho)

Nothing creates more stress for more women than the habit of saying “yes” when we really want to say “no.” Many women revert to an almost automatic “yes” response, in an effort to please others and, while the desire to please others is sometimes a worthy goal, if that desire comes from a place of insecurity and the feeling that we need to prove ourselves, we can easily enter the dangerous territory known as people-pleasing.

Dr. Harriet Braiker’s book, The Disease to Please: Curing the People Pleasing Syndrome, came across my radar recently and, as a recovering people pleaser, I decided to give it a read.

I can not recommend this book enough (I believe this skill should be taught to kids, like…in elementary school!). Dr. Braiker discusses where people-pleasing tendencies come from and how they develop but, more importantly, she provides specific and practical strategies for setting boundaries, enabling us to own our “yes” and own our “no.”

According to Dr. Braiker, there are five steps necessary to break the habit of responding with an automatic “yes,” when we are faced with a request:

Step 1: Buying time to respond. Rather than giving the knee-jerk “yes” response and then regretting it later on, we must delay our response in order to give ourselves adequate time to evaluate our options. If you’re on the telephone, this may be as simple as putting someone on hold for a moment or asking if you can give them a call back in a few minutes. If you are speaking to someone in person, you can respond by simply saying something like, “I need a little time to think about that. I’ll be sure to get back to you later today.” If you desire to give them a reason (and you need NOT feel obligated to), you can explain that you’ll have to check your calendar, check with your spouse, check the kids’ schedules, etc. The important thing is that you allow yourself time to reflect BEFORE committing.

Step 2: Identify your options. In most situations, you can either do (1) exactly what the other person is asking of you, (2) some, but not all, of what they are requesting or (3) none of what they’re asking of you. Being clear on the options will help you determine what you’d prefer.

Step 3: Examine the consequences of each option. Consider how you’ll feel if you commit to each option. Will it drain you? Will it create a time pressure? Will it force you to skip doing something else? Will it impact anyone else (perhaps your partner or children) and, if so, how will they feel about that? Look at all three options and figure out how each one will impact your life and the lives of others.

Step 4: Finally, make a decision about which option is best at the moment. To do this, you’ll have to determine whether the consequences of each option are worth the investment (of your time, money and other resources). It very well may be that what you’re being asked to do will bring you so much pleasure that you feel that it’s worth making adjustments in your schedule or skipping something else. However, if you believe that saying “yes” would cause tension, anxiety and/or resentment, you must honor yourself enough to say “no.”

Step 5: Respond to the request firmly and directly. You’ll be offering one of three responses: a “yes,” a “no” or a counterproposal (For example: “I won’t be able to work at the fundraiser all day on Saturday, but I’d be happy to help you out from 2-4pm.”). If they are pushy or are simply not getting the message, you may have to repeat your response more than once. That’s ok. What’s important is that you stand firm and don’t allow yourself to be swayed from your decision.

Dr. Braiker’s advice is simple – when I read it for the first time, it almost seemed TOO simple. Then, I asked myself, if it’s so simple, why am I not doing this?? I rarely gave myself the chance to evaluate. Instead, I often rushed into a “yes,” stressed myself, and then felt frustrated and resentful after the fact. The power of Braiker’s technique is that we begin, one situation at a time, to re-pattern our responses. We slow down long enough to have a conversation with ourselves and determine what best serves us. In this way, we reclaim our power of choice and stop placing the needs and wants of others above our own…an absolute necessity if we want to live with Wellegance 😉

These are just a few of the gems contained in Dr. Braiker’s book. I hope that these strategies serve you. If you’re interested, you can learn more about the book here and, as always, please feel free to share your thoughts in the Comments.

Have a wonderful, Wellegant™ week,


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Wellegant™ Mind, Body, Life: Nourish Your Body and Feed Your Soul

It contains my best healthy living tips, recipes and other resources to help you live your most Wellegant life. Enjoy!


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