Sometimes It’s The Hardest Thing To Say

Kid Says No

When we were young, particularly during those Terrible Twos, we learned to stand our ground and not yield to every request that came our way.  We turned our noses at anything green on our plates.  We ran the other way when it was bedtime, bath time, or homework time.  We refused to make our bed and put our toys away.

We said no.

As we got older, something happened and we began to accept things that our toddler selves would never have tolerated.  We tried new foods and learned that maybe we were wrong about what we originally rejected.  We stuck to the daily routine of sleep, bathing, and work schedules, whether we liked them or not.  We washed dishes, dusted furniture, and vacuumed, even if we hated every minute.

We stopped saying no.

When people ask us for something, we feel inclined to say yes over and over.  We commit ourselves when we don’t want to commit.  We say sure when we would rather decline.  We feel there is no way out of it.


When did we become a society of Yes Men and Women?  And how the hell do we get out of it?

I am completely guilty of extending myself to people when I don’t want to, of saying yes when I should have said no.  Over the years, I have leant money, attended social events, and allowed myself to be taken advantage of by the people I care about.  Sometimes, it works out in my favor.  I have met some awesome people by going out when I would have rather stayed in for the night, creating memories that I can treasure long after the fun is over.  I have been fortunate to have favors returned when I’ve needed help.  But there are times when the money was never paid back or the good deeds only went one way that have darkened my memories of people and times.

And yet, when pressed to participate again, I usually say yes.

The thing is, I enjoy helping other people even if I feel obligated to do so.  When someone knows they can rely on me for a late night chat or to do anything I can to make an event special, I feel good knowing that others know they can count on me to lift their spirits and get stuff done.  I like being known as a dependable person who always follows through on commitments.

This steadfast reliability has earned me a lot of fast friends and I am often surprised at how close people feel they are to me as quickly as they do.  However, I embrace that feeling (however fleeting it may be) because who wouldn’t want to be liked?  A lot of times, our fear of being disliked makes us commit when we are not in a position, either mentally, financially, or physically, to do so.  But rather than disappoint the asker, we disappoint ourselves by pushing aside our feelings and pressing forward.  We decide that our discomfort is worth less than the awkwardness of refusal, thereby putting the feelings of others above our own. 

When will we realize that it is ok to say no?

People are understanding when you have to decline an invitation or a request for whatever reason we have.  Maybe the thought of an afternoon spent uncomfortably ooh-ing and aww-ing over miniature outfits and receiving blankets at a baby shower makes you break out in hives.  Maybe you had a great time on that first date, but didn’t feel the romantic connection to take part in a follow-up evening.  Maybe you are so overloaded with work that you cannot take on a new tasking.  Sometimes, it’s in everyone’s best interest to just say no.


Though I am by no means a master of the N-word, I do try to utilize those two little letters when something is really important to me.  It may take me—and possibly you—some time to build up the courage to utter the word with a little more frequency, but I know that when I do, it will be for the right reasons.

So let’s all say yes to no.

157 thoughts on “Sometimes It’s The Hardest Thing To Say

  1. filbio says:

    I totally get this. For years I tried to please everyone and said yes to everything. Spread myself too thin, but now that I am older and value my time I have learned to say NO more often.

    • 4theloveoffamily says:

      Agree.. I spent many years pleasing.. at the end nothing comes from it.. we live in a world were people only think about themselves and forget everyone else. I don’t think it used to be this way in the past.. it just evolved as people acquired technology.

      • Jessica says:

        I think there’s something wonderful about helping others, but when you bend over backwards time and time again, “no” becomes a very helpful tool.

  2. thejoneslegalgroup says:

    Saying “no” is a new thing for me. But, I realized it is something I must do. Time, not money or things, is our most valuable asset in life. I want to make sure that I use my time wisely by spending more time with family/friends and pursuing my life’s joy. Therefore, I am learning how to say no!

    • Jessica says:

      Time is absolutely the most valuable of life’s currencies. It’s the only thing we can truly never get back. I’m so happy you’re learning to say “no” in order to experience the joys in life rather than the obligations.

  3. Caitlin @ The Siren's Tale says:

    This is a great piece. I often find myself questioning this same notion… when is it okay to say no? As a child, I had no problem using “no” in any situation I felt necessary. As an adult? I’m a Yes Woman. I actually feel physically uncomfortable when I have to say no to someone or something. Great thought-provoking piece… and congrats on being Freshly Pressed! I was FP’ed back in March and it’s quite the experience!

    • Jessica says:

      Thank you so much, Caitlin and congrats on your own Freshly Pressed post! I can completely relate to that uncomfortable feeling, like a punch in the stomach. The good news is, the more we practice saying “no,” the less uncomfortable we feel when the time comes.

  4. rami ungar the writer says:

    I already say no a lot, especially to my lazy sisters. Last night in fact, my sister had eaten some food in her room and had left the dishes up there. As I was getting ready for bed, I told her the dishwasher was going to run. She asked if I would be so kind as to take her stuff down. Knowing that she’d take advantage of me again if I did and that it was her responsibility, I said “I’m not your butler.”
    Sometimes you just have to be firm with them.

  5. alisoneve says:

    I’m taken advantage of a lot (knowingly, obviously) and because I like pleasing people and making sure things get done, I tend to say yes. Finally I was stretched too thin at work last week and said no to someone for one day; while it was hard for me to even say no in the first place, it was even harder to deal with feeling guilty for saying no after the fact. Took a lot of strength to dismiss the “If you really wanted to, you could have fit that into your schedule” thoughts in my head. But I think it’s a powerful/important tool that adults should not be afraid to use.

    • Jessica says:

      Good for you, Alison! The guilt can definitely eat away at us, but there are times when we just need to put our foot down and say “no.” Consider your experience one less time you were taken advantage of. 🙂

  6. CombatBabe says:

    I’ve noticed lately that it is really hard for me to say no. The guilt that accompanies is no fun. But one thing I keep trying to tell myself is that they’ll get over it. Especially when it comes to saying no to my nephew. He’s the most difficult.

    • Jessica says:

      I’ve got three adorable nephews, so I completely understand the auntie guilt. But you know what? They will get over the “no” and you will get over the guilt. Hang in there!

  7. Stephanie Williamson-Brittian says:

    I learned to say No a few years ago and my life became much improved. I don’t even offer up an excuse, I just say No, I don’t feel like it, and move on. I’ve trained all my friends and family, so their all used to it. It becomes really easy after you get hang of it, and all the pressure from others recedes once you’ve established yourself as a No person!

    • Jessica says:

      I once took a training class about communication and one of the biggest lessons I took away from the course was not to explain myself. If the answer is “no,” the answer is “no.” I’m glad you’re taking what has worked for you and sharing with others, Stephanie. The world could use a little more backbone!

  8. Ana says:

    “‘No’ is a complete sentence”- Annie Lamott.

    Great post & I came across it at a time when really needed. Thank you!

  9. Kami Tilby says:

    I tend to be the “yes” person to the point of excess. Then the pendulum swings wide and I’m a “hell no” person for a while. Wish I could find a happy medium. Great post, spot on with the inner dialogue we continue to carry with us after saying no.

    • Jessica says:

      Kami, finding the balance is even harder than saying no. You don’t want to say “yes” to everything, but you certainly don’t want to say “no” to everything either. Here’s hoping you can find your happy medium. 🙂

    • Jessica says:

      Absolutely! You shouldn’t say “no” just for the sake of saying it. There are times when it is more important to say “yes” especially when it comes to helping people who are in need.

  10. Ashana M says:

    In these cases, you can either live with the feeling of having displeased someone else or live with the feeling of having displeased yourself. What we decide usually has to do with which feeling we think we will be easier to manage. But practicing being with the feeling of displeasing someone else gets easier with practice.

    • Jessica says:

      Wonderful insight, Ashana! I guess it really boils down to what a person can live with, but you are correct, practice makes it a little easier.

  11. bernasvibe says:

    Say yes to NO..Love that! I was a people-pleaser(and still am in all honesty…) not too long ago; now I’ve learned and am learning to say NO sometimes..Often times not even verbally; sometimes just a look “that look” suffices. People, as beautiful as they are, can often mistake kindness for weakness; and take advantage of “yes” people. Its hurtful when on the receiving end of that. Its hurtful when one is a natural giver(as I am) ; and sometimes that isn’t matched by those we give to. Thankfully, in my life, this is now a rare happening..I think as I’ve aged and evolved; I’ve learned to truly only say “yes” to the things I know I can accomplish..Its easy to say yes to sooo much , that ones has no time for themselves. And as someone said in an earlier post; time becomes so much more precious at this age. 2 thumbs UP on your write!

    • Jessica says:

      Sounds like you’ve found the perfect balance of people-pleasing and staying true to yourself. The benefits of the constant revolution process that we each go through. Awesome!

  12. martininkorea says:

    Great post! It’s sometimes hard to say “no” when you have people, especially friends, asking favors of you. I’ve over committed myself a few times, and it sucks to back out on somebody. You live and you learn.

  13. bhuwanchand says:

    I wish it was that easy. Saying No does not change the life, neither does saying Yes for that matter – what counts is the inner consciousness/ intention deliver on our words, follow what we say. For me, ‘Yes’ means passion, challenge and a positive outlook, a can-do attitude, while ‘No’ means a self-defense mechanism, leading towards negativity. The feeling of guilt can come even after saying No. I believe in saying yes. It is more difficult to say yes rather than a simple no, when your conscious is clear and you intend to deliver on that Yes.

    • Jessica says:

      There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying “yes” if you really want to do something, but feeling obligated to always say “yes” is a slippery slope that can lead to being taking advantage of. The most difficult thing is follow-through, whether it’s a “yes” or a “no.” The “yes” or the “no” doesn’t matter so long as you’re true to yourself.

    • Jessica says:

      Don’t be so hard on yourself, Mary. I’m sure as a mom and grandma, you have said “no” plenty if times. “No, don’t touch the stove.” “No, you can’t have dessert until you finish your veggies.” Keep on polishing!

  14. cartoline says:

    hahha…nicely said! it can be difficult to say ‘no’, but sometimes it feels so good when you say these two magic letters! 🙂

  15. moodsnmoments says:

    i completely support and say a yes to NO albeit am a bad practitioner of it. We all live in hope and aspire to get there someday. A very well articulated post. thank you for sharing and congrats on being freshly pressed.

    • Jessica says:

      Thank you so much! As we get older, we begin to realize what is really important to us and our “no” backbone becomes stronger. The more we practice at saying “no” when we really mean it, the easier it will be.

  16. thomasnwafor says:

    Some people just know how to play on your good nature, I am exactly the same as you, I like to help others, but there comes a point were you have to look after number one, otherwise you wont be happy. No one likes being used, and what is worse being used or being a bit selfish?

    I am developing a new habit, a new way of life, and it involves LA1 – Luck after number one for a while, lets see where that gets me

  17. inthebarberschair says:

    This is a really great and very relevant post. I have now reach the stage in life where I can say no without guilt or shame. The key is to understand why you would say yes to all and sundry.
    Mine was to control people through my social persona. For me it goes back to childhood and through emotional neglect I learnt to please for my love and develop my status in the family home as favourite child.
    Well I got there in the end and am a true and congruent adult now. Hoorah.
    Great post!

    • Jessica says:

      Congratulations! We all say “yes” for a variety of reasons, but I’m glad you have learned that saying “no” can come without guilt. It’s all a part of the learning process.

  18. Chatty Owl says:

    I can see myself stomping my feet and saying no to someone who asks for a favour. I still have this possessive vain attitude inside me. *sigh*
    Sometimes i think i should say yes more and stop being such a brat.

  19. madstickynotes says:

    You’re not the only one who feels like they have to say yes, even when the favors/gestures aren’t returned and memories are tainted. Been there, still doing it.
    Great piece!

  20. Jam says:

    Oh sure, I don’t say No. But I don’t say Yes either. I just wouldn’t show up when there’s an event, and if someone asks me to do something I do something else. Okay, that’s rude. But it’s too unfair for me to do things I don’t even like only to please someone.

    • Jessica says:

      Yes, it is unfair to say “yes” just to please someone else. Try “no” on for size and see if you like it. People will respect you more for standing your ground than blowing them off.

  21. Rohan 7 Things says:

    Great post, couldn’t agree more! The development and enforcement of strong boundaries is so important. I used to get walked over and agree to everything because I was almost addicted to being the “good guy”. But it caused exhaustion, resentment and I found myself in places, and with people I wouldn’t actually choose to be with if I was honest about it!

    These days I’m much more discerning, I always try to listen to how I feel about something before responding. You can’t make all the people happy all the time, but you can at least try and take care of your own needs properly.

    I’ve found that the decent people will respect our need to say no sometimes, and jerks and bullies will out themselves as the manipulative people they are 🙂 It’s a win – win situation.

    Thanks for the reminder! We should never be afraid to say no when we need to 🙂


  22. jamharl says:

    hmmm… guilty man here. 😀 Probably, we just want to be cool that’s why we always say “yes”? But, turn out to be not cool. My remedy for the insincere yes I’ve announce is “smile”. Well, trying not to do that again.

    Your post is awesome and no wonder it’s among of the freshly pressed posts. 😉

  23. broadsideblog says:

    Clearly an issue for many of us! I started saying no much more clearly a few years ago and my life has never been happier. I still volunteer my time to good causes, (a commitment I’ve made to sit on a board), but now have much more time and emotional energy for my own life and needs, professional and personal. The amount of resentment and even anger that saying “yes” builds up — when you know you should be saying no but are too weak or scared — is crazy.

    Some people are delighted to be lazy and to take advantage of others’ good natures — or unwillingness to set boundaries — and the rest of us get run ragged trying to please them. Because….?

    • Jessica says:

      It’s a shame that people do take advantage of others. I’m happy that despite saying “no” when need be, you are still volunteering for the causes you believe in, Caitlin. No one should exclusively say “no” to everything. It’s all about figuring out what is important to you.

  24. Serish Rana says:

    I love the way you wrote this piece; I’m an amateur blogger and from what I have read so far this is one of my favourites. Hope I can improve my style to flow as well as this!
    I like the way you have developed the concept of ‘No’ throughout a life cycle, its so relevant and applicable. Thanks for posting!

    • Jessica says:

      Thank you, Serish! Very high praise indeed and I’m not sure I’m worth it. Blogging is a process; the more you do it, the better you’ll be. Even the greatest writers had room for improvement. They just practiced much more than anyone else. Keep on blogging!

  25. katforhan says:

    So true! I often feel like others needs are more legitimate than my own for some reason… These are words to remember! Thank you!

  26. L says:

    Congrats again Jess, very proud of you! If I hadn’t have said yes I wouldn’t have met the guy who’s changed the way I look at everything 🙂

  27. Andrew J. Stillman says:

    I wish I could say no all the time! I feel like I might have some making up to do for my terrible two’s, though….I was a little devil back then. I’m still trying to rack up my good karma from the terror I was. 😦

  28. zengirl42 says:

    I am just learning how to use this oh so wonderful word! I have found that more often than not, people respect those who say no, especially if they were previously the “yes man” or “yes woman”. Seems like we could all use a little bit of that terrible two year old back some times.

    Love your point of view, great post!

    • Jessica says:

      People are understanding. I know I wouldn’t be upset if someone told me “no,” so why do I assume they would be upset with me if the roles were reversed?

      • zengirl42 says:

        I think it is partially that we often don’t want to admit to ourselves that either we don’t have the time or don’t want to do whatever favor or task is being asked of us, especially if it is by a friend. I have also read studies that suggest that women, being wired extremely socially and community oriented, put a higher importance on being liked, and so feel that there will be a greater fall out from somebody not liking them.

  29. Megan's Musings says:

    I feel like you read my mind. Saying “no” is something I have been learning a long time. We as adults also need to learn how to ask people things and give them the opportunity to say no.

    • Jessica says:

      You hit the nail on the head, Megan! We need to not only ask for what we need, but allow others the chance to say “no.” We can’t expect anyone to be receptive if we ourselves are not receptive.

  30. nerdgeistofficial says:

    Im the same or at least I am trying not to be, you just need to learn to draw the line. If a friend is mad at you for saying no then they are not much of a friend to begin with. I know that fact is hard to accept but its true.

  31. Topaz says:

    Wish I could be brave enough to say “no”… this article was very interesting. Thank you for your thoughts!

  32. essiefiori says:

    I feel relieved reading this post, knowing I’m not alone feeling obliged to say yes to people most of the time! An incident like this happened to me yesterday. Great post!!

  33. Madhurima says:

    so so so so so TRUE!!! just the other day i was complaining to a friend that i simply learn to say no… the terrible truth is that the world respects people who hold their ground and can say no in spite of us literally getting ourselves worn out with the perpetual yes.. thanks for the post!

  34. Not quite 40 says:

    I have come to the agreement with my mum that I will ONLY ask her for help or for something if she is willing to say ‘no.’ If I ever find that she has been a ‘Yes Woman’ and caused herself major problems and she would rather have said no but didn’t because she felt she couldn’t; then I WILL stop asking her.

    As someone who likes helping others, it got through to her. And now I feel more comfortable asking for help because I know she feels comfortable saying no. So for all of us who have difficulty saying no because we want to please people, the best way we can please people is to be true to ourselves – and say no from time to time!

    • Jessica says:

      Right you are! I’m still pretty bad at asking for help when I need it, but I am getting better at the ol’ “no.” I’m glad both you and your mom made the breakthrough that it is perfectly alright to say “no” and ask for help when needed.

  35. erisa1602 says:

    Well I am giving a 100% yes to this post! You’ve done awesome Jessica, I myself say yes to everything my friends want me to do and it does feel like they are somewhat (and to an extent) taking advantage of me. I know and will always understand that is not the case but now I know it is definitely ok to say no… thank you so much, you’ve helped me made my choices clear (in a good way ofcourse)! 😀

  36. 'Lucky' Lance says:

    Just found your Blog & am following. Loved this blog & the overall message. Looking for positive, helpful blogs, similar to mine. Welcome & feel free to check mine out. Lucky Lance

  37. savvybookkeeping says:

    This is a great post – thank u Jessica. Obviously a lot of other people can relate to this post as well. When I say “no” every now and then I do feel guilty, but am trying to replace that feeling of guilt with a feeling of being a bit stronger person each time.

    • Jessica says:

      Sounds like you know what you’re doing! The feeling of becoming a stronger individual should always outweigh the guilt associated with saying “no.” 🙂

  38. alanamichelle90 says:

    Ahh, the people pleaser! That’s me, unfortunately! I find it so hard to say ‘no’. To the extent that i have a stack of unused cards from a number of retail shops i’ve signed up for. Yep, I can’t even say ‘no’ to sales people i will never see again! There’s a lot of us out there though. Hopefully your blog can be a wake up to myself and others and i can work that little bit harder at getting across that frightning two-letter word.

    • Jessica says:

      You are not alone, Alana. Saying “no” can be very difficult even if you never see a person again. Here’s hoping that two-letter word becomes a little less frightening.

  39. Soltech Security says:

    Great post! I definitely think its something i have a hard time with as well and somehow feel bad if i say no even if saying yes would greatly burden me in one way or another. I think we’re alike in the fact that we like to help people but sometimes it’s just at the expense of my own time or commitments, and yet I will stay say yes. Just have to bite the bullet and say no from time to time knowing or hoping that those who ask things of you will understand that you have things going on that need tending to as well.

    • Jessica says:

      Exactly! People will understand. I know I would understand if someone had to say “no” so why should I/we think others wouldn’t be just as understanding?

  40. Truth and Cake says:

    “But rather than disappoint the asker, we disappoint ourselves by pushing aside our feelings and pressing forward.” Yes. I love the way you phrased this. We disappoint ourselves. As a recovering people pleaser, I’ve struggled for a long time with this dance. It’s usually a heck of a lot easier to shoulder the discomfort than to worry that people won’t like you. But I’ve found that people actually respect you more when you have boundaries. And when you don’t, they usually pick up on that and ask for more and more. Great post, Jessica!

    • Jessica says:

      People do respect boundaries! I wish we all could ingrain that into our psyches. Saying “no” won’t make someone dislike you, but for whatever reason, we make it such an uncomfortable process. Thanks for the insight, Rian!

  41. livingrichblog says:

    No is a complete sentence ! When I first heard that quote, everything clicked for me. While I still struggle with this, it’s getting easier for me to say no, without feeling like I need to explain myself, whenever I’m spread too thin. Great post!

  42. happyoddoneout says:

    Wow, I just read your post and I can totally relate to it, however, I still feel very happy to say YES and it makes me thrilled to be able to extend a helping arm, however what really makes this experience a bit disappointing, is knowing that you can’t depend on others the way people depend on you, most people would disappoint you if you ever tried to reach out.

    • Jessica says:

      There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying, “Yes.” I say it quite frequently. 🙂 It’s when you say “yes” when you want to say “no” because you feel obligated that there is a problem. I’m glad you can relate to this post and keep lending that helping hand. The world needs more of that!

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