How often do you find yourself saying the word yes out loud when your brain is screaming no, no, NO!? Toddlers say no to just about everything, yet when we reach adulthood, it’s suddenly one of the hardest words to utter. Why is that? Why are you always saying yes, when you are desperate to say no?

As a result, you feel bad about saying yes, you feel disappointed with yourself for saying yes, and you start to resent the person who asked the favor in the first place.

Why You Say Yes When You Mean No

There is a multitude of reasons why you may be saying yes to everything, even though you really want to say no. Here are just a few of those reasons:

  • You’re a people pleaser. This is probably one of the most common ones – you say yes because you believe that you’re helping someone out, you’re making them happy, and part of you is worried about what your friend/family member will think of you if you say no.
  • You don’t want to hurt anyone. You can’t overcome the feeling that you will upset someone by saying no, that you will disappoint them and shade their view of you. 
  • You are plagued by guilt. How can you say no to someone you love/admire/respect? You will look and feel selfish.
  • You are caught off guard. It’s difficult to say no when someone surprises you with their request. You stammer and search your brain for an excuse and, when you can’t find one, you end up saying yes.
  • It’s an authority figure. It can be difficult to say no to someone who holds power over you because you worry that their view of you will be shaded, that it could affect your job and your ability to progress in your career.
  • It feels reciprocal. You say yes because you believe the person would do it for you if the situation was reversed.
  • It’s about power and duty. Saying no shows weakness and, if someone senses weakness, they’ll go for the jugular.

We often strive to create this picture of ourselves in the eyes of others, a need for other people to view us as good. We want people to see that we care about other people and as people who are making a contribution, are helpful and kind. Yet, it’s vital that at the same time, you take care of yourself and prioritize your wants and needs. When you say yes, even though you mean no, you’re increasing your stress levels thus sapping your energy, decreasing your self-esteem, and increasing resentment. You should be able to see the difference between this type of yes and a genuine yes. When you say yes and truly mean it, you give it your full focus and energy. You feel energized and replenished as you lend your help rather than drained, resentful, and — let’s face it, just plain bad!

The key is striking a balance between your needs and those of others. So, when you are faced with a question, favor, or demand on your time then you need to check in with yourself about your needs and whether your energy levels and schedule have room for more. If you can handle it, good! Go ahead and say yes. On the other hand, you have no room or expendable energy at the moment, simply turn down the request. When you deliver, your no you don’t need to offer excuses or apologies. Be direct with your no and remember no now is far better than resenting someone down the line. It may be tempting to avoid the inevitable by saying you’ll think about it, but that’s only going to make you more stressed. Start by practicing your no’s, whether it is in the mirror or using a friend. You’re not a bad person for saying no and putting your needs first.

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