As the holidays approach, many people become anxious about spending time with family. With COVID, there is the added stress of gathering with more people than you might feel comfortable with, or perhaps you are concerned about new variants, or if everyone at the gathering is vaccinated.
It is so important to set healthy boundaries in our relationships with others, and in order to do so, saying ‘No’ sometimes is imperative. But, saying no is hard for us, since we do not want to disappoint people.
Here’s a handy list of “Nice ways to say no” from WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan):
Sounds nice, but I’m not available.
I am honoured that you asked me, but I can’t do it.
I’m sorry, but I can’t help you out at this time.
Unfortunately, it’s not a good time.
I am not available at the moment, maybe next time.
Unfortunately, this is not something I can do right now.
I really appreciate you asking me, but I can’t commit to that right now.
Sorry, but I can’t make it, maybe another time.
WRAP also mentions that it is also OK to say ‘NO’ not so nicely, when the occasion calls for it!
So, from this point onwards, you can set healthy boundaries with loved ones in your lives, by saying NO, in a nice way (or perhaps not so nicely). It’s important to stay true to ourselves and be clear and honest with others at the same time.
Do you find it hard to say NO?
You can view another one of my posts here, about saying no.
Setting boundaries and sticking to them is a very important part of mental wellness and recovery.
Many of us have been raised to follow orders–do whatever Mom and Dad tell you to do, listen to the boss, and never challenge authority. We are taught that we are not a “good child, employee, partner, etc.” if we say NO. We may even feel guilty.
This type of thinking can often get us into hot water. It is so important, at times, to say no–loud and proud, mean it, and stick to it. It helps others to understand and respect your limits. Often times, you gain more respect by not being a “yes-man”. If you are not prepared to do something, or you don’t have the time or the desire, or if it goes against your beliefs, then just say no! A long explanation isn’t needed.
Sometimes we say no, and the person at the receiving end still continues to push for a yes. It is so important to stick to your guns and not give in. There is a good reason you said no in the first place. Repeat your answer. If you feel comfortable–clearly explain why you are saying no. If they’re not happy with that, point out to them that they’re not respecting your boundaries.
According to Melody Beattie, in the book The Language of Letting Go:
“The problem is, if we don’t learn to say no, we stop liking ourselves and the people we always try to please. We may even punish others out of resentment.
“When do we say no? When no is what we really mean.
“When we learn to say no, we stop lying. People can trust us, and we can trust ourselves. All sorts of good things happen when we start saying what we mean.”
Go ahead and say NO–if that is what you really mean. It’s not that hard.
It is always so important to have healthy relationships where clear boundaries are set. Firstly, know yourself, your limits, your values and morals — these are the cornerstones to setting boundaries. Boundaries are also about self-esteem. Knowing when to say NO, or ENOUGH! Or even before that point… saying what you will or will not do.
This time of year can be very stressful with family gatherings, work functions and parties with friends. Often, the pressures are greater because we feel obliged to say yes to everything in order not to make waves. Whether it is saying yes to a party that we really do not want to go to, or saying yes to a family member just because you know there will “be hell to pay if you say NO”. But it is so important around this time of year and always, to set clear limits and boundaries in order to have happy and healthy relationships. If your boundaries are repeatedly not respected, then perhaps it is time to rid yourself of that relationship — or turn a close friendship into an acquaintance that you see only occasionally. If it is a family member you can distance yourself from that person and not commit to doing any favours for them, for example.
If possible, it is important to start setting boundaries early on in the relationship — whether it is raising children, a budding friendship or a blossoming romantic relationship. Remember, it is never too late to start implementing personal boundaries and to show some self-respect.
Not long ago, I had the very difficult task of setting clear boundaries with someone very dear to me. There was some really negative and abusive language used towards me and I just put my foot down and said I would not accept that kind of language or disrespect. If you want me to help you do X,Y,Z, then you will have to show me more appreciation, respect, and stop the abusive language. Very soon afterwards (and after some self-reflection on their part), it worked, and our relationship has been much more solid and mutually respectful ever since.
I remember someone saying to me once: you teach people how to treat you. That is why self-esteem is so important. Someone with high self-esteem will expect to be treated with respect and will set clear boundaries with everyone in their circle.
I have many examples in my life of how setting boundaries is paramount to developing healthy relationships. I will not share them with you, however, to protect the innocent! I will say, though: it is so important to do it as individuals and equally important to develop a united front as parents or partners. Do not be afraid to say no, or I will do this but not that. Or give specific time limits that you will be available for. Be clear and concise with your expectations and limitations. And stick to them. Do not waver. Be firm.
”Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.” —Brené Brown
So if your relationships are not as happy or healthy as you would like them to be, start setting clear personal boundaries. You are worth it!