We all have limits and rules that we abide by and set for ourselves within relationships. For example, you might share a personal story with a friend you’ve known for years, and decide not to share this same story with a coworker you just met. These guidelines are referred to as our personal boundaries. Someone with healthy boundaries is comfortable saying “no” when they desire to, but is also capable of maintaining intimate relationships. Generally, our personal boundaries can be classified into three categories: rigid boundaries, porous boundaries, and healthy boundaries.
A person who has rigid boundaries may keep others at a distance. Those who maintain rigid boundaries are likely to avoid intimacy, likely to have only a few close relationships, unlikely to ask for help, guarded with personal information, and often seem detached even from romantic partners. A person who maintains porous boundaries may be overinvolved with others; they may overshare personal information, have difficulty saying “no” when others request things of them, be overinvolved with others’ problems, find that they are dependent on the opinions of others, be accepting of disrespect, and fear being rejected from others if they don’t comply with requests.
A person who maintains healthy boundaries can say “no” to others because they value their own opinions. They don’t compromise their values for others, they understand their personal needs and how to communicate them effectively, they share personal information appropriately, and are accepting when others say “no” to them.
With that being said, most people find that they maintain boundaries that resemble all three categories. For instance, someone may have rigid boundaries at work, maintain porous boundaries with family members, and have healthy boundaries with friends.
So, if you are finding that you are maintaining more porous
boundaries than you would like, saying “no” can help create those healthier
boundaries that you desire!
According to Assael Romanelli, a clinical social worker and
a licensed couples and family therapist, “Saying no to others, means saying yes
How to say “no” positively:
- Let requests land. When others ask
something of you, let their request filter through your body and see how your
body reacts to it. Ask yourself: What value or need is being triggered? What is
this about for you?
- Say no and prepare for ruptures. Accept
the fact that others may be disappointed and resistant to your needs. Expect
anger. Realize that the more you voice your needs and stop adapting to the
needs of others, the more resistance you will get.
- Survive. Settle into the groove of
disappointing others. Over time, this
will allow you to stay open and present to their reactions.
- Counteroffer. After some time, you will be able to make an
offer with your own terms, which can increase the intimacy of the relationship.
- Stay Open. Keep an open mind and give the
other person a chance to calm down. Staying open can give the other person time
to get over their disappointment and the relationship may become close again.
Saying yes to yourself and no to others can be
hard at first. But, saying “no” can lead to several benefits including: respect
for yourself, respect from others, and increased confidence and integrity. So,
give it a shot! You’re worth it.
Brianna Bliss, M.S., LPC
Saying No to Others Is Saying Yes to Yourself