3 Tips for Setting Boundaries & Learning to Say “No”


Setting Boundaries, Renewing Our Commitment To Ourselves

brene brown quote boundariesThis spring, as we think about reawakening and rejuvenation, we’re also thinking about renewing our commitment to ourselves. When it comes to our relationships, setting boundaries is about loving ourselves enough to say no. It’s not about spite or being malicious, but instead saying yes to ourselves for a change.

We may be the giving or accepting type; saying yes when we want to say no, agreeing, giving, doing, and accepting when we really can’t or when we want to say no.

Why do we do this?

We Are All Worthy Of Respect

Often times we don’t speak up out of fear or guilt. As though we don’t deserve to be treated better, or saying ‘no’ may mean we’ll be judged or rejected. Remember that we are all worthy, and being able to set boundaries is giving ourselves the respect we deserve.

So I’ll ask the classic Self-Compassion question: What would you tell your child, a dear friend or loved one to do if they were being mistreated or if they were saying yes when they wanted to say no?

You’d probably tell them to set some boundaries.

Choosing Discomfort Over Resentment

As Brene Brown says: “Choose discomfort over resentment.” We may not feel great about setting a boundary in the moment, but that moment of discomfort will prevent long-lasting feelings of resentment.

We also want to be compassionate, so we don’t damage a relationship that may be important to us.

brene brown quote boundaries

3 Key Tips For Saying “No” and Setting Boundaries”

1. Get to Know Your Resentment

That is, what does it feel like inside when you say yes to something you want to say no to? Or when you feel offended and don’t speak up?

That feeling lives some where in your body; maybe it’s the knot in your belly or the lump in your throat. Once you know what it feels like, you’ll be more keenly aware of it when it comes up, and hopefully be able to address it well.

2. Rehearse a Few One-Liners

You can probably predict the situations and/or people that push your limits. Be constructive and mentally prepare for them instead of having that anger-laden mental conversation with yourself later about all the should-have’s and could-have’s.

Here are some options for saying ‘no’ gently: “Sorry, but I won’t be able to take that on.” “I wish I could help, but I have a lot on my plate right now.” And try these for expressing hurt feelings: “That hurts, please don’t say that.” or “That makes me feel bad.”

3. Take a Breath

When those moments come up and you’re asked to do something you don’t want to, or someone offends you and you notice that uncomfortable feeling inside, start by taking a few breaths to regain composure and bring about your courage.

Then pick a pre-rehearsed one-liner for the moment.

You Are Enough And You Are Worthy Of Love and Belonging

The people in your life that truly love and care about you will (eventually) appreciate the respect you’re giving yourself, which in turn will help the relationship grow stronger.As Brene Brown reminds us in her Ted Talk The Power of Vulnerability, you are enough and you are worthy of love and belonging.

2 responses to “3 Tips for Setting Boundaries & Learning to Say “No””

  1. Naomi Teeter says:

    Also ask yourself, “will this person accept the answer NO just as easily as they will accept the answer YES?” A lot of times, they will.

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About the Author

Shiri Macri, MA, LCMHC

Since 2004, Shiri’s approach as a therapist for treating binge and emotional eating is holistic, focusing not only on the presented issue at hand but also considering overall health. Working in this way often includes mindfulness-based approaches. Now as a trained MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) teacher, Shiri’s love of mindfulness and meditation practices are at the forefront of her blog writings and recordings. Shiri is the Clinical Director at the Women's Center for Binge & Emotional Eating, affiliated with Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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