If you're notoriously bad at saying no, you are certainly not alone. So many people find the word awkward, uncomfortable, and sometimes even damn near impossible to say. And yet, there are several instances when it's more than OK to say no, even though it feels weird.
As women, we might struggle with turning people down in any capacity because we have been conditioned by societal pressures to please others, often at our own expense or when it crosses our boundaries. Because of that, there are several instances where turning someone down can feel like the end of the world, like when it comes time to say no to a friend, a partner, or a boss. And that sense of internal conflict we feel can be chalked up to how we've been taught over the years to be "people pleasers," nurturers, and caregivers.
"For centuries, women have been depicted as nurturers. Therefore, saying no, having boundaries, and being assertive often results in our feeling guilty, ashamed, and as though we are 'not enough,'" therapist Amy Deacon, MSW, RSW tells Bustle. And yet, doing so often has more positive benefits than you might think.
"The thing is, people often do not realize that while we are accommodating, we are simultaneously sacrificing our sanity in the process," Deacon says. "Therefore, in order to live an authentic life, be empowered, and have healthy relationships — we need to have boundaries. And boundaries involve knowing our limitations and implementing 'no' as needed."
To say no in a way that gets your message across, while still maintaining your relationships, "do so with honesty, kindness, and confidence," Deacon says. The more you do it, the easier it'll feel. Here are a few great places to give the word a try — because it's always OK to say no.
1. When Someone Is Venting To You
While you may want to lend an ear to your best friend or your partner so they can vent after a particularly bad day, it's certainly not your job to play the role of "therapist" for everyone in your life — even though you really might feel like you should.
"Women need to be protective of their time and energy, as we are more at risk of being guilted or shamed into expending ourselves emotionally," says Deacon. "This often results in our feeling drained, depleted, and unable to give emotionally to the areas in our life that are the most fulfilling."
So, if you have people in your life who are draining you with their constant complaining, go ahead and shut that sh*t down. You can do so in a polite way, of course. But when it comes to your mental health, setting up this type of boundary will be key.
2. When Your Friend Asks For A Favor
Obviously, friends should have each other's backs, so if your friend is truly in a jam, and you have the ability to help, go ahead and do so if it feels right. But that doesn't mean you need to drop everything 100 percent of the time.
"It's important to say 'no' when you realize you simply do not have time, or do not want to be overloaded," licensed psychotherapist Emma Bennett, LCSW tells Bustle. "For example, if your friend asks for a ride to the airport during rush hour traffic ... it is totally OK to say 'Sorry, no. Grab an Uber."
Same goes for hanging out when you don't want to, helping someone move, serving as a job reference, etc. These are all instances when it's OK to watch out for yourself and say no, especially if you feel like saying yes will be overwhelming.
3. When You Aren't Offered Enough Money
When it comes to asking for more money at work, women often shy away or accept an offer as-is. "There's a sense of taking what is offered, not fighting for more, for what we're worth, etc.," life coach Jenna Reiss tells Bustle. "I believe this happens because there's a feeling of not wanting to be an inconvenience, or to seem to pushy."
And yet, it's so important to say "no" to any offers that don't feel right, and to stand up for the pay you deserve. "In these circumstances, I believe the most effective way to stand strongly by what you believe is to use your own body language to trick yourself into feeling confident," Reiss says. "Go into the bathroom, look in the mirror, stand tall ... say encouraging things to yourself, and then walk into the room and stand strongly next to what you're asking for."
It may feel weird AF, and totally out-of-character for you, but once you get that first paycheck, you'll be glad you put your foot down.
4. When You're Not In The Mood For Sex
If you find yourself in a situation where you're feeling coerced into sex — or you're simply not in the mood — it is 100 percent your right to say no to your partner, your date, etc.
"Saying no may seem hard but the reality is that all we really need to learn to do is to say it and mean it," coach Dr. Marsha Ferrick, PhD, BCC tells Bustle. "You don't need to explain it. You don't need to couch it in ways that soften the blow for the other person. You need to just simply say 'no I don't want to have sex.'"
One of the reasons it may feel weird is because it can be difficult to stop sex that's already happening. But if it doesn't feel right to you, what matters more than the moment is your well-being.
The best way to get out of any sex-related situation that's making you uncomfortable is to simply be honest. "If you're in the midst of a sexual encounter and need to take a break or leave, it's always OK to say, 'I know things are kind of intense at the moment, but I need to stop right now,' or 'I've started to feel overwhelmed and I need a break," counselor Brennan C. Mallonee, LMHC tells Bustle. "Then figure out what you need to feel OK again — maybe get dressed, get an Uber home, or maybe simply talk more with the other person about what's happening." But your safety, your boundaries, and your feelings should be top priority in this situation, so be empowered to say no. Your sexuality should never be up to anyone else but you.
5. When Something Violates Your Boundaries
Think about your boundaries, and what's most important to you. And then think about all the times you've been asked to violate those boundaries, possibly because you didn't want to rub people the wrong way. Moments like this include laughing at a joke that goes against your moral principles, doing something at work that doesn't feel right, or complying with a request from your partner even though it makes you uncomfortable.
While each scenario is completely understandable — because we all want to be well-liked — it never hurts to practice defending your boundaries a bit more. "If someone is asking you to participate in something that violates a boundary that you have set," it is more than OK to say no, counselor Jameela Jackson, LAC, LAMFT tells Bustle.
Not only does saying no feel so good — like your own little personal victory — it also teaches people how to treat you, Jackson says. When you're not used to sticking up for yourself, it'll definitely feel uncomfortable. But it will get easier the more you do it.
6. When Your Boss Asks You To Work On The Weekend
Women often feel like they must give and give of their time — especially as it relates to work. It can be tough to say no to a boss, for example, because you might feel like you have to work twice as hard to get ahead in your career.
While you certainly want to be impressive — possibly by coming in a few minutes early, and occasionally staying late — that doesn't mean you need to have an unhealthy work/life balance. And that also doesn't mean you owe it to your boss to work hours that aren't in your job description, especially if you won't get paid for the overtime.
The choice is entirely up to you. "This is an integrity call. If you have nothing pressing going on and you are genuinely OK with it, great," life coach Suzanne Jones tells Bustle. "If, however, you have made plans ... then that is a hard no!" It's more than OK to turn down an unreasonable request, and it's even more OK to put yourself first.
7. When A Friend Asks For Money
Women are giving of their time, but they also tend to be giving in general. But if you feel like you have to give, give, give to everyone who asks, it can get you into trouble.
Take personal loans, for example. Unless it's the perfect scenario where you know you'll be paid back, telling a friend no can be difficult, but it's often for the best. As licensed professional counselor Patricia Bubash tells Bustle, "When friends ask us to do something that is controversial, either in money or moral situations ... saying 'no' is the right thing to do. It establishes a friendship that is based on honesty, fairness, and mutual regard." And not one that's based in guilt or resentment.
And that's really the moral of the story, here. Saying yes to everything may make life easier in the moment, but it actually makes everything more difficult in the long-run. While you should still feel free to be your loving, giving, helpful self, you're under no obligation to anyone — financially, emotionally, sexually, and so on. By practicing saying no in situations that make you feel uncomfortable, you'll be standing up for yourself, and earning more respect. So go ahead and say it.