Set Better Boundaries: Just Say No

How to say "no" to the naggers, users, and takers who push the limits in your life.

By Therese Borchard

Up until recently, "No" was dirty word to me. As a stage-four people-pleaser, my vocabulary was rich with affirmatives: "yeah," "sure," "okay," "absolutely," "no problem." But my mouth just couldn’t seem to form the consonant-vowel combination required to say "No," even when "Yes" was simply impossible due to time conficts or just an overdose of stress in my daily life.

I would get stuck at "Nnnnnnn... alright." Which meant I was doing all kinds of things that I didn’t want to, have to, or have time to do.

If you are like me, surrounded by a modest sampling of users, takers, and even well intentioned askers who could zap all your energy if you let them, take heart! Here are a few fun, simple techniques to get your mind and mouth to work in tandem to repeat after me: NO!

Click to start setting better boundaries.

Therese J. Borchard writes the Beyond Blue blog on Beliefnet.

Smile and Shake Your Head

You’ll find this, the most basic form of body language, to be a sweet, nonverbal way to communicate this sentiment: NO WAY.

Fill Your Calendar

Fill up your daily planner with prior commitments, like long, hot bubble baths. That way, you can say, “No, sorry, but I have an appointment for that evening.”

Run Out the Clock

Distract the person who’s asking for your time, change the subject, and stall until it’s time to say good-bye.

Tape Your Mouth Shut

You can do this figuratively (or literally!) until you learn how to say: "no," "nope," "sorry," "can’t," or any other variation. If you don’t say anything, you can’t say, "Sure, I’ll do it!"

Let the Phone Ring

Just because someone is calling doesn’t mean you have to pick up. An even better method: turn your ringers off. That way you won’t even know that you are saying no!

Post a Sign

Think, "Do not disturb" or "Personal Time. Thanks for understanding!" Project to those around you that you’re in privacy mode.

Press "Send"

After you have finished composing a polite regret to yet another request by a pushy friend.

Walk Away

Put one foot in front of the other until some distance has accumulated between you and the persistent nagger.

Volunteer Someone Else

Find a better person for the job (namely, someone who has more time than you). If they can’t do it, it’s up to them to say no for themselves.


This is a stronger version of "post a sign" and "walk away." If you’re still feeling tempted by "yes, I can do that" (when you really can’t), build a metaphorical fort around yourself. Become invisible and completely inaccessible until the users are gone.

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