We all have times in our lives, sometimes more than we want, when we are asked to do something, give something, or help with something that we don’t want to but yet we say yes anyway. There are somethings we do or agree to because it will help someone, make them happy, or it is a fair compromise, and does not have a negative impact on our emotions or well-being. But what about those times when you truly want to say no, can’t imagine saying yes and having to follow through, but still say yes?

Saying yes too often when you truly want to say no can cause significant distress, resentment, anger, stress, feelings of being taken advantage of, harm to your mental health and well-being, and turmoil or conflicts in relationships. There can be many reasons why we say yes, such as wanting to always please others, fear of missing out or not getting invited in the future, wanting to look good in another person’s eyes, lack of confidence, not wanting to seem selfish or unhelpful, or even uncertainty about what you want and what makes you happy.

There are several areas in our lives in which we may find ourselves in this situation, and it is important to have boundaries we are comfortable with and able to maintain. With simple tips and practice, we can become more comfortable with saying no.

Social/Family/Romantic- Many people say yes to invites and requests due to the fear of missing out, the possibility of not being invited or included in the future, or the concerns about the impact it may have on the relationship. We often view being selfish as a negative, but with how chaotic and full our lives are nowadays, we need to think about ourselves and what little free time we have. It is important for all of us to have time to ourselves, to do things we enjoy, and to take time for self-care. Always saying yes can lead to burnout, resentment, or being viewed as the person to come to for everything since they know you won’t say no. And if someone truly gets furious or ends the relationship because you say no, they were probably not a true friend or meant to be in your life.

Financial- Financial requests can be very difficult to navigate and say no to. An easy way to deal with these requests is to set a rule that you do not lend money to friends, colleagues, or family and stick to it. If that will not work for you, ask yourself this question before lending money to someone in your life: “would I be okay with giving this amount and never getting it back?” If you are okay with the answer being yes, then it may be a situation in which you can lend money without any negative consequences for yourself or the relationship. There are many other scenarios that include giving or contributing money and the key to navigating them is knowing your boundaries and what you feel comfortable with.

Professional- Saying no at work can be especially difficult due to the fear of job loss, consideration for promotions or pay increases in the future, and wanting to look competent and helpful to your colleagues and boss. When you are asked to do something additional at work, take time to consider the request, consider the time/effort/work needed to take on the task, the reality of being able to complete it with your current work load and knowledge, the possible sacrifices or compromises you may have to make in order to complete it, any possible alternatives, and the consequences of saying no. It’s also okay to say that you need help with the project or prioritizing your workload, it is better than taking it all on yourself and possibly failing. Being spread too thin at work can cause burnout, anger, and significant stress. Know what you are truly capable of and say no when it will not be helpful to you or your job.

It is normal to say yes every once in a while, even when you don’t want to, but it may be time to seek help to better understand the motivation behind always saying yes if it is causing significant trouble or stress in your life. It is important to have boundaries and balance in your life, and that includes what you say yes and no to. Do yourself a favor and learn to say no. You will be surprised at how much it can improve your life.