Setting Boundaries and Saying 'No

Setting Boundaries and Saying "No"

Setting Boundaries and Saying "No"

One of the areas we often struggle with is setting boundaries. This means saying "no" to certain people, demands, attitudes, and even circumstances. Even when something threatens to overwhelm us, we can still improve the situation by standing up for ourselves and saying “no, this is not ok with me!”

The implication isn’t that you are impolite, selfish, or not a nice person. Knowing how to set and maintain boundaries means understanding what you can and cannot handle.

Those boundaries require letting people know that they cannot take advantage of you, manipulate you, or guilt you into doing something you do not want to do.

There are various reasons we feel we can’t say "no":

  1. We feel we have to please people in order to be liked.
  2. We want to avoid conflict and confrontation.
  3. We don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.
  4. We don’t want to be judged for saying “no."

Saying "no" is particularly difficult when a person involved is a friend or a family member. Here are a few things you can try:

Remember that being nice does not mean that anything goes and you have to say "yes" in order to remain “nice” for others – you can’t please everyone. Being nice and being assertive are not mutually exclusive concepts.

Saying "no" to someone is not the same as rejecting a person – you are saying "no" to the request.

You don’t need to offer profuse apologies and justifications for saying "no," especially if you know that saying “yes” to someone else means that you have to say "no" to time to yourself, your kids, or your partner. Most people will understand if you say “I would love to do this but I promised to spend time with my kids.”

Practice, intentionally and often. Ask a friend or a partner (if they are not a part of the problem) to practice various scenarios in which you want to say "no" but end up saying “yes.” Ask them for feedback.

You can also practice this on your own. Imagine someone with a request and say "no" aloud in front of a mirror. Our body language sometimes says something different – a “maybe” or “if you keep asking, I’ll eventually say “yes…”

As you practice saying "no" in front of a mirror, pay attention to your body language - extend your spine, shoulders back, chin up. Try this right now. This posture is incompatible with feelings of doubt, guilt, shame, or fear. Even the tone of your voice will be louder, firm, and confident.

Practice frequently, until you don’t feel discomfort or anxiety when saying “no." This is important because, otherwise, when someone will ask something of you, your mind may go blank and you may end up forgetting all you practiced.

Lana Mamisashvilli is a psychotherapist who has worked in the field of perinatal mental health (pregnancy and postpartum) for more than 12 years and is passionate about helping new moms transition to motherhood. Healthy Moms cardholders receive a free 30 minute initial consultation with Lana (in person or by phone) and 25% off therapy sessions. Find out more here:


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