Just Say No!


Can we keep him, pretty please!

I’ve always had trouble with the word no even as a child. My mom claims she would have raised my brother ten times before having to raise me again. I was strong willed, stubborn and loved to say, “no”.

Not much has changed since then, I am still strong willed and stubborn, the difference is now I can’t say no, to anyone. Extra responsibilities at work? Sure, no problem. We’d like you to be the head room parent this year. Ok, I can do that! Would you mind being the website coordinator for football? Yeah, I don’t see why not. Mom, I need another lacrosse stick mine broke today at practice. Ok buddy, we’ll see if we can get a new one.

You see a pattern here? Sometimes I find I can’t even say no to myself. For example when holiday shopping I found a new handbag, at a great deal of course, I just couldn’t say no to it, even though it was not on the list or in my budget.

Does this sound like you? I decided to do a little research to find out the “why” behind the inability to say no; to help keep you stress free and debt free, just by using one simple little word, no.

Are you a people pleaser?

A people pleaser is one of the nicest and most helpful people you know. They never say “no.”  You can always count on them for a favor.  In fact, they spend a great deal of time doing things for other people. They get their work done, help others with their work, make all the plans, and are always there for family members and friends.

I’m afraid

A people pleaser suffers from the fear of rejection and the fear of failure.

Fear of Rejection.  Not wanting to let someone down for fear they will no longer like you or worse, that they’ll disappear from your life.
Fear of Failure.  Not wanting to make a mistake for fear of disappointing someone or being punished.

For example: If you say no to extra work you think you will get fired. If you say no to your child’s teacher they may think you are an absentee parent. If you do not get involved in your child’s activities you feel you won’t fit in with the other parents. If you don’t buy your child a coveted item they might say they hate you. If you don’t buy the item that is a great deal you will be angry with yourself for missing out on it.

Learning to say no

Now that we know the why behind not being able to say no, lets see if we can take steps to correct it.

  • Consider each “no” carefully.  Saying no just to break the cycle won’t fix the underlying problem. Instead, consider each “no” on its own. For example saying no to a friend that you always say yes to when they ask you for money is probably a good choice. However, if they ask you for your advice on a personal matter taking the time to help them is most likely beneficial for your relationship.
  • Be tactful. With your new found freedom to say no you may be inclined to shout it at the next person that asks you for something; the last thing you need is another bad habit. Instead explain why you must say no and maybe include the phrase, “I really wish I could help, but I can’t this time.”
  • Stop feeling guilty.  If your schedule doesn’t permit helping someone or you just don’t want to do it, understand it’s okay to say no. Maybe you had your time allotted for exercise or an evening home alone with a good book, don’t feel guilty for putting yourself first.

Learning to say no will have a profound effect on your life. You will find you are happier, less stressed, and saving more money than ever before. All of those, “Can I have this?” “Will you buy me that?” “I really need this!” are easily answered with the word no. Despite your previous thoughts that saying no would push people away and make you look bad, quite the opposite is true. You are seen as a strong person ready to take on the next task, project or expense, when you want to.

Do you have a hard time saying no?

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About Suzanne Cramer

16 Responses to “Just Say No!”

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  1. Great advice! I definitely have a problem saying no, but I’m slowly working on it. The fear of rejection and guilt was huge, but imagine my amazement when I finally said no to something and the world didn’t end! Learning to say no to myself has helped me be more frugal, and to appreciate the things I have.

  2. Travis says:

    This describes me so well – I always feel like I can, and should, do it all. Then I run around like a madman complaining about how much I have to do. Not only do we have to be selfish with our money, but also with our time! Great post Suzanne!

  3. JMK says:

    I have always had a problem with this. I was raised to always be helpful and somewhere that turned into I must do everything everyone asks of me. I figured if they were asking, then they really must need my help, right? Turns out no. There are valid requests for help, but lots of people are just lazy and will ask you to do things just because they know you will. The real skill, I’ve discovered is to figure out which requests are which. I’ve always been guilty of taking on too much and then frantically trying to get everything done. It’s a recipe for doing nothing well, and being over-stressed in the process.

    Several years ago when a layoff forced our long overdue financial overhaul, we had to decide what stayed and what was cut from our spending and lifestyle in general. With the layoff as a valid excuse, we were suddenly free to decline invitations to events we didn’t want to attend anyway. We opted out of unecessary gift exchanges, and in general stopped doing anything that wasn’t actually a priority for us. It was as if the layoff gave us permission to say no to everything unecessary or unimportant that we had allowed into our lives. The layoff was a short term situation, but the improvements in our lives were long lasting. We occasionally still attend a family event out of obligation (don’t we all?), but its done with no resentment now because we know it’s important to another family member, and it’s a one time situation. What we don’t do is accept every invitation without considering if it’s necessary and can be accomodated without causing undue financial or time stress. Likewise with our spending priorities. After a lot of soul searching we realized that retiring early and travelling with our kids every year in the meantime were our only real priorities. That revelation has given us the motivation to plot a course very different from most people we know. We no longer feel the need to either keep up with the Jonses or explain our alternative choice. We will likely always have the oldest vehicle of everyone we know; we are the only ones we know who do not have either cable or satelite tv. It took us until our 40s to learn the lesson but we’ve finally become comfortable saying no to many things so we can say yes to the few that are important to us.

    • @JMK Isn’t funny how we need that “excuse” to make it ok to say no? In your case that layoff may have been the best thing that could have happened to your family 🙂 I have found over the years all of the requests to attend events, or make purchases I didn’t really need or want were mostly because of the peer pressure I felt to do so. I love not participating in numerous family gift exchanges, saying no to all those “tupperware” like home parties and spending my fun money were I really want to.
      Thanks for sharing!

  4. I absolutely hate saying no. I think for me the hardest thing is the fear that I am going to be disappointing people as well as missing out on possible opportunities. I think there’s a balance to be had and finding a middle ground in which your No really is wise and not feeling guilty as a result.

    • @John S I here you…as you can see saying no has truly been a challenge for me. When evaluating a request I always ask myself, “Does this benefit me in anyway? Will it further my career? Can this benefit my family?” Sometimes having those hard and fast questions answered makes the choice to say no an easy one.

  5. Karie says:

    I have always had a serious problem with this. Now I find I can better say no in several occasions but I have a hard time saying no to my kids – ex – new lacrosse stick, competitive program instead of recreational, etc!

    In terms of money, I remember more than one case being taken advantage of! One example is of my bosses calling me a star employee and me taking on the work of 2 people who they laid off and no extra pay and working way more hours and the responsibility of doing payroll with little training. I remember quitting the job because I was so stressed out instead of talking to my bosses because I didn’t want to let them down!
    I could have got extra pay or a promotion but I didn’t want them to think I wasn’t a star anymore!

    • @Karie When it comes to your job it can be especially difficult to say no, especially in today’s job market. Sometimes a remember to your boss that overworking you may cause unneccessary mistakes and that your quality of work will suffer. You are already a star in their eyes 🙂

      Yes saying to my son continues to be the most difficult no. His disappointment always crushes me. But I have found that if I say, “You could use your money to buy it.” He thinks long and hard about whether or not he wants something. I always feel this is a lesson that learned early on can help to prevent bad spending habits.

  6. Dr. Sheba says:

    I have no problem saying no. In my line of work, I have to. Some people call it mean, but I have no time to stress over what people think of me.

  7. It’s really hard to say “no”. I’m affraid someone will be dissapointed or (especially at work) my boss/cooworker will think that I’m lazy or unhappy with my job so they’ll “help me” and fire me just to find somebody who says “yes” all the time. But I try to work on that and now, when somebody invites me for a party/coffee/lunch and suggests day/time I always say: “let me check this in my calendar because I just want to be sure I won’t be late for a meeting with you or block your schedule”. And you know what? It works!

  8. Laurie says:

    Wonderful post, Suzanne! This used to be a huge problem for me (I too was raised to be a people-pleaser), but since I’ve conquered it, my stress level has plummeted! Now I say “yes” when I can, but “no” when I need to. What a relief!

  9. Jane Savers says:

    I have 2 great talents. 1 is sleeping and the other is saying NO. Never a problem with saying no to my children, friends, the schools or work.

    Always polite, always as few words as possible and never with an explanation.

  10. Monica says:

    I am getting better at saying “no”. I had to learn since I didn’t have credit cards lol.

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