The Positive Power of Saying No

How setting clear boundaries can boost self-esteem.

(Stockbakery /

Saying no can sometimes feel unsettling or unnatural since society often teaches us that a “no” can be construed as rude or insensitive. Many of us have been conditioned to say yes just to avoid confrontation and conflict. 

But learning how to say no more frequently can yield many benefits including improving your general mental health, establishing clear boundaries, encouraging self-care and enhancing your self-worth and confidence. Here are some tips on how to incorporate a positive no into your daily life. 

Say goodbye to being a “yes man”
Synergy Health Programs suggests that to best appreciate the value of saying no it is important to understand why we say yes so often. Saying yes all the time is the ultimate form of people pleasing, and stems from years of being programmed to believe that in order for people to like us we need to make them happy.  

Sometimes we say yes because of Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), afraid that if we say no we will miss out on an experience and later come to regret it. But it is impossible to say yes to everything! Doing this can lead to burn out or stress and we often find ourselves overextended and locked into commitments that will be very difficult for us to honor. 

Shifting the brain to make clear decisions
Saying "no" more frequently alters the way our brains process information and respond to new circumstances, giving us more autonomy over our decisions. Saying no enables us to condition ourselves to create healthy boundaries during the entire decision making process. Additionally, it assists us in putting our own priorities first and in many cases it may even open up new opportunities that we would not have had access to had we gone with our go to answer of “yes”. 

How to respectfully say no 
According to Psychology Today, successfully implementing more healthy answers of “no” will mean finding a way that feels authentic for you. They suggest adopting the “sandwich method”, sandwiching something that may be considered negative between two positives. This could be as simple as saying something like “Thank you for inviting me, but I won’t be able to join you. I’d love to meet some other time, I’ll check my schedule and see what works.” 

Honesty is key to making this work. You have to really check in with yourself and understand why you are saying no. The most important thing is to be aware of your personal needs and make decisions that reflect your self-respect and value your time and resources. 

“Not being able to say no can be hard, and may even push you into a space where you’re exhausted in every possible way. It’s difficult to be in this position, because you always end up prioritizing other’s needs and wants above yours, which in the long run isn’t healthy for you. It is arduous emotionally, mentally and physically,” psychotherapist Shaina Vasundhara Bhatia told Healthshots.

It might take awhile until this new thought paradigm begins to take root, until then Synergy Health Programs recommends rehearsing in advance what your “no” will sound like, being honest about why what has been requested does not work for you and taking your time to think through the consequences of your decision and only then offering your response. 

With time and persistence you will begin to reap the benefits of being true to yourself and you might find that by saying no when something doesn't feel right, you are actually opening the door to a healthier you. 

5 Positive Reasons for Saying ‘No’
6 Unexpected Benefits of Setting Clear Boundaries
How High Is Your Self-Esteem? [Quiz]