The 4 Steps to Saying No: How to set boundaries for your peace of mind

How to say No in 4 steps this Holiday season
How to say no in 4 steps this Holiday season

It's the holidays. The season of peace, love, and joy... and for many the season of stress, anxiety, and feeling overwhelmed by tasks, duties, family relationships, and commitments. Learning to be comfortable saying no can be a great step toward reducing anxiety, freeing you to focus on what is really meaningful to you this time of year.

When to Say No

Saying no is one way to set a boundary. “Boundaries” is one of those favorite words of therapists, and for good reason. The purpose of boundaries is to protect your time, energy, freedom, values, self-worth, and peace of mind. In a particular situation, decide what you are truly willing to do without holding on to resentment. Ask yourself, is this meaningful to me? If not, consider saying no. The goal is to let your behavior be guided by what is truly meaningful to you instead of guided by guilt.

Remember that a boundary isn’t to control someone else’s behavior. It’s simply to know for yourself what you are willing to do, what you are not willing to do, and when to remove yourself. You don't have control over what someone else asks of you, what their expectations are, or their negative reactions. You can only control your response. If you decide you'd like your response to be, "No thank you," try the steps below.

4 Steps to Saying No

Here are 4 steps to communicating a limit or boundary in the form of a "No."

1) Empathize with the other person

Start with trying to imagine where the other person is coming from. Go ahead and give them the benefit of the doubt that they have a positive intention from their point of view. You can say something like, “I understand that you probably are stressed about/excited about/etc.….” Starting with empathy for the other person's position makes it less likely that they will be on the defensive, and more likely that they will hear what you have to say.