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Do you ever feel obligated to say “yes” to other even when you don’t want to or can’t accommodate their request? Do you tend to put others needs before your own? Do you find yourself saying “yes” to people only to regret it moments later? Are you exhausted and noticing being down on yourself?

If so, here are 5 ways to start cultivating the healthy habit of saying “NO”:

  1. Check in with your body- take a moment to see how your body feels. Does the particular request make you tired? Do you all of the sudden experience an unexplained headache or other physical symptom? Your body is wise and will often tell you if something isn’t right.
  2. Ask yourself this question- “Do I really want to do this?”. If the answer isn’t clear, you may want to consider journaling about it and taking time to think it through. Also consider talking to someone who you trust.
  3. Take time before answering- There is nothing wrong will responding to someone with “let me think about it” and getting back to them at a later time after fully thinking the request through.
  4. Start by saying “no” to little things- start by saying “no” to things in your life that aren’t as “heavy” of a topic. For example, saying “no” to a salesman.
  5. Don’t give elaborate excuses- you do not owe anyone any explanation of why you said “no”. Simply decline without detail of why you said “no” or can’t make it to an event. For example, “Tuesday night does not work for me for dinner”.

By learning and implementing how to say “no” we are creating healthy boundaries with others, while practicing assertive communication. Saying “no” is a sign of respect to ourselves. Therefore, without it, we cannot be expected take care of others unless we are taking care of ourselves.


Madeline McDowell, LPC
Director, College Mental Wellness IOP

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The Behavioral Wellness Group is a counseling center providing therapy and behavioral health services and assessment including chemical dependency/drug addiction treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and other therapies. We also provide mental health or psychological assessments, and psychological,educational and bariatric testing. Providing services to the following communities in Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga and Lake County: Cleveland, Ashtabula, Beachwood, Chardon, Concord, Eastlake, Euclid, Fairport, Geneva, Grand River, Highland Heights, Kirtland, Leroy, Lyndhurst, Madison, Mayfield, Mayfield Heights, Painesville, Pepper Pike, Perry, Russell, Solon, South Euclid, Thompson, Wickliffe, Willoughby, Willoughby Hills, and Willowick, from our offices in Mentor, Ohio.