How to Stop Saying Yes to Everything: 3 Tips to Say “No” with Confidence

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Sometimes, we need to say yes to things outside of our comfort zone to grow.

But some of us are chronic yay-sayers, agreeing to every request, helpful or not.

Saying yes to everything, even if we don’t want to, can negatively impact our goals, emotional health, and relationships.

Today’s post explores why we say yes when we don’t want to, how it affects us, and how to overcome it.

Why Do We Say Yes When We’d Rather Not?

Some of us are spontaneous people who love to say yes to whatever life throws our way.

However, most of us probably aren’t up for everything. But, when asked, we still say yes.

We might do this because:

  • We have FOMO (fear of missing out).
  • We don’t want to disappoint others.
  • We’re afraid people will think less of us.
  • We put people’s needs above our own (codependence, the need to “save” people, etc.).
  • We fear people will abandon us if we say no.
  • We’re afraid of conflict.

Ultimately, saying yes when we’d rather not indicates a lack of boundaries. Poor boundaries may come from childhood experiences like abuse or neglect.

They may also be a result of trauma, low self-esteem, an excessive need to be chosen, etc.

Consequences of Saying Yes When Don’t Want To

Negative outcomes might include:

  • Ending up in uncomfortable or dangerous situations.
  • Being taken advantage of by others.
  • Feeling resentful towards others for “making” us do something (even though we chose to).
  • Unclear communication with others. People won’t understand what we need or how to treat us, leading to relationship conflict.
  • Ignoring our own needs, or not knowing what they are.
  • Feeling drained, angry, or anxious.

When to Say No

There will be times when we’re not sure whether we want to say yes or no. These indicators can help us decide. Say no when:

  • Our gut feeling tells us to say no
  • Saying yes will lead to stress or burnout.
  • Saying yes means we have to abandon more important tasks.
  • Saying yes goes against our core values and beliefs.
  • Saying yes in the past has led to bad feelings/experiences.

How to Stop Saying Yes to Everything

1.  Establish Boundaries

As mentioned, the inability to say no likely comes from a lack of boundaries. Boundaries are self-enforced limits that protect us physically, emotionally, and mentally.

They provide guidelines for our behavior. We follow them because we know they’re good for us, not because we’re forced to.

Expressing our boundaries helps others understand our needs.

To establish boundaries, we should pay attention to our emotions and thoughts. Our intuition can be one of the best tools we have.

When someone makes a request, we should take note of our reaction to it. What’s our initial emotional response? Where in our body do we feel these emotions, and is the feeling good/bad? What are our thoughts saying?

Another part of creating boundaries is identifying our core values. When our values are clear we’re less likely to do things that don’t align with them.

Values might include honesty, creativity, independence, responsibility, etc.

An easy way to explore our values is by taking an online assessment. We can also:

  • Think about our best memories and what values they possess.
  • Make a list of our favorite activities, items, and people. Think about the values they represent.
  • Consider what makes us most upset, happy, inspired, etc.

Check out this article to learn how to set boundaries like a pro.

2.  Determine Priorities

Knowing our priorities helps us decide what we’re willing to spend time doing (and what we’re not). To clarify priorities, we can:

  • Make a list of things that we want to change or improve. Pick the top three and dedicate time to them.
  • Make a to-don’t list. This contains things we promise to say no to, so we can focus on our goals.
  • Think before answering. We should consider whether the task aligns with our values, if we have time, if we want to, etc. Pausing lets us respond mindfully.
  • Choose important over urgent. We should establish what’s meaningful to us and commit to it, instead of saying “yes” because of urgency. E.g., if our coworker unexpectedly asks us to cover their shift but we have a family activity planned, it’s probably beneficial for us to decline.

3.  Be Assertive

We want to be clear when telling someone no. Otherwise, they might be confused and unsure how to proceed.

Also, without clarity, pushy people may continue making demands.

Assertive communication lets us state our needs in a straightforward way without being rude.

There are many assertive ways we can say no.

Be brief – Simply saying, “No.” is good enough.

Give a short explanation. If we want to explain, we can. E.g., if someone asks us over for dinner but we already have plans, we can say, “Thank you for thinking of me! Unfortunately, I can’t come, as I have other plans tonight.”

Suggest another option. We can provide an alternative solution to someone’s request if we’re able to. E.g., our cousin asks us to bake a pie for Sunday family dinner. If we’re busy (or don’t want to), but still want to contribute, we might say, “I won’t be able to bake a pie, but I’d be happy to pick one up from the bakery.”

Practice. Saying no can be uncomfortable, but it gets easier with practice. Plus, we get better at handling the (sometimes unavoidable) discomfort. That way, instead of agreeing to someone’s request just to resolve the tension, we stay true to our needs. We can practice scenarios in the mirror, or with a trusted person.


Learning to say no is an empowering act of self-care. When our boundaries and priorities are clear, and our communication is assertive, we can say no more often. This way, we have more capacity to say yes to things that match our values.


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