6 Reasons for HSPs to Say NO

It can be hard to say no to someone and even harder to say no when we want to be liked and included. It’s human nature to worry that people won’t like us or we fear that we’ll put important relationships at risk so we can easily become people pleasers without even realizing it. 

And as HSPs we very often feel overwhelming guilt when saying no to someone, so we end up saying yes and we put others needs before our own even when it’s not the best choice for our mental health. 

The other day I was watching one of the first episodes of the show Friends… it might have been the very first one actually. Joey and Chandler are complaining that they have very reluctantly agreed to help Ross put together furniture in his new apartment and they ask Phoebe if she wants to come over and help… she very politely says… “Oh I wish I could, but I don’t want to.” What a great line! If only we could all be that direct and honest about our feelings and needs without being judged for it.

I started to think about all the times I’ve said yes when I should’ve said NO. Not because I was selfish or didn’t want to help but because I just wasn’t in a place in my life where I had anything extra to give to someone else. 

Do you feel guilty for saying NO?

This is especially true for women and marginalized people and adding high sensitivity can take the guilt to a whole other level. It’s actually alarmingly common to feel guilt for saying no, but it is completely misplaced.

We may not always realize it because it’s so ingrained in us but our society tells us, especially as women and people of color, that much of our value as human beings lies in how we please and serve others.  

Here are 6 reasons to say NO:

1. You will never please everyone:

If someone decides to cut ties with you because you need to say NO to something they’ve asked, you probably need to think about releasing them from your life. Sadly this has happened to me with friends and even family but in the end it turned out for the best. Sometimes as HSPs we can feel responsible for other people’s happiness but it’s simply not true and we can never “people please” someone else into a place of genuine happiness. Your true friends, people who respect you and want the healthiest version of you in their lives will understand. 

2. Listen to your gut:

What does your instinct tell you? If we just stop for a moment and really listen to our inner voice we know that our intuition is our clearest guide. This is especially true for us as highly sensitives. Our gut feelings allow us to know something without over analyzing it, it’s where we bridge the gap between our conscious and unconscious mind and it’s usually where our best and most honest decisions come from. If your instinct is to say NO then you should probably do it. 

3. You want to set healthy boundaries:

For our health and well-being as HSPs we have to set boundaries with our time and energy. We can easily deplete our emotional and physical energy by saying yes when our gut says NO and this is especially true when something doesn’t align with our values. If you’re asked and you say NO, maybe offer an alternative… recommend a friend or co-worker who might be interested or maybe you can help out at a later date.  

4. You think it’s rude or mean to say NO

We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings as HSPs but there is a difference between being assertive about our needs and values and being unhelpful and rude. I always think about it as the difference between being nice and being kind. Nice is about being pleasing and agreeable and can often come from a place of just wanting to be liked. But kindness goes deeper and it’s about our intention. Kindness comes from a place of empathy and having our hearts in the right place. So we can say NO with kindness and be authentic and caring at the same time.   

5. We need rest and recovery.

This may seem like such an obvious one for us but how many times do we overextend ourselves to put others first? The demands of our society were not designed for highly sensitive people and our modern lifestyles already leave us burned out, exhausted and overwhelmed. When we stretch ourselves too thin we’re not helping anyone, especially ourselves. We need to be realistic about our needs and our priorities. We can’t help anyone effectively if we’re frustrated, tired, and angry. We’ll only end up resentful and unhappy. 

6. Saying NO to someone is saying YES to yourself

We can’t ever really go wrong by speaking our truth. I’m not saying our truth will always be understood or liked, but it must be respected if by no one other than ourselves. Living our truth is the least selfish thing we can do. When we do this we come from a place of peace and ease that radiates to others. When we say NO from this place what we’re really saying to someone is “No I will not give you less of myself, less than I’m capable of. I will not give you my stress and anxiety.”  

There’s no perfect or right way to say NO. But you can find a way that works best for you. 

Our culture praises busyness and encourages all things hectic. Saying NO with compassion and empathy will go a long way and if someone can’t accept that you’re saying No with kindness then maybe they aren’t valuing you or your time and mental health. Remember self-care isn’t selfish. 

Here’s a few ways you can say NO with kindness: 

  1. Thank you for thinking of me but I can’t…
  2. That sounds great, maybe next time…
  3. Unfortunately, I’m not taking on anything new right now…
  4. Now isn’t a good time but I’m happy to support you in other ways… 
  5. No thank you

Remember we have choices!

We don’t have to be as blunt as Phoebe on Friends but if we’re clear about saying NO then our decision should be respected. If you’ve decided you need to say NO then you don’t have any reasons to feel guilty. It takes courage to admit to others and yourself that you’re not interested or willing to commit to something that doesn’t serve you. 

Do you struggle to say NO? Are you great at saying NO and have more tips to share? Let us know in the comments!

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