Sometimes life slaps you in the face – and this holidays it certainly did for me. Here it is… I’m a people pleaser who has trouble saying ‘no’. After a rocky encounter with one of my kids over whether they could catch up with a friend, a realised that I have trouble saying (and sticking to) my no’s – not just with my kids but with everyone. Why? Because like most people pleasers I hate seeing people hurt, and I feel so guilty. Argh! Sound familiar? And we often wonder why our kids nag so much or why we feel so stretched. Yes, psychologists struggle with these things too.

So I spoke to Tricia Padoa, TalkSpace Clinical Psychologist, about what I was doing wrong and how I could get better at saying ‘no’ and she told me a few gems;

  1. Saying no and sticking to it models to people we love that ‘no’ actually means ‘no’. This is so important for our young kids, especially since we want our girls in particular to be able to say ‘no’ and know it is ok and sets clear boundaries. This applies to our boys too, although I know that women seem to have more trouble in this area.
  2. Hearing ‘no’ and accepting it is also incredibly important for our kids – particularly for our boys.
  3. When you say ‘no’ and it isn’t actually hurting the other person, then it’s okay. More often and not when we say ‘no’ it is because we are wanting to help the other person (“no you can’t have a sleepover” may actually mean “I know you’re tired and you have things to do tomorrow so I want you to stay at home tonight”). The other person may not understand it at the time, but the ‘no’ comes from a place of kindness.
  4. Sometimes we have to be bigger and stronger than our kids, and setting boundaries by saying ‘no’ is part of that.
  5. Saying ‘no’ to someone else may actually be a ‘yes’ to yourself – and yes, that’s okay. Occasionally we need to say no so we have a little the time and energy to look after our own stuff.

So if you’re like me and notice that you have trouble saying no, when the urge to give in strikes, take a big breath and remind yourself of some of the above. Then repeat after me …. ‘no’.

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