How to Say No: 9 Tips for Setting Boundaries

We get it – it’s tough to say no! If you’re anything like us, you might have a very difficult time setting boundaries for yourself in both your personal life and your love life. If you’re a perpetual people-pleaser, you’re probably putting everyone else’s needs above your own. While wanting to make others happy is a great thing, it’s not so great to forget about YOU! Saying “no” can be really hard for some people, but it’s a crucial skill to have when setting boundaries.

Here are 9 tips for harnessing the power of “no” and setting boundaries for yourself:

1. Reflect

You can’t fix a problem without first identifying what it is, right? The first step to setting boundaries is to evaluate your current relationships. How do they make you feel? Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you feel taken advantage of?
  • Do you feel like your friend/family member/partner’s needs are prioritized over your own?
  • Do you think that you command an equal amount of respect in the relationship as the other person?
  • Who tends to compromise more?
  • Do you often find yourself doing things you knew would be emotionally taxing out of obligation to the other person?

At the end of the day, you should aim for equal amounts of emotional investment, compromise and respect in your important relationships. If that’s not the case, then it’s time to set some boundaries!

2. Have a Discussion

Once you’ve identified the problem, it’s time to have an open discussion about it. Sometimes, setting boundaries in a relationship can be as easy as talking about it with your partner. You may discover that you thought you were on the same page about certain things, but actually aren’t. Here are some of the most important things to talk about:

  • Sharing/borrowing material possessions
  • Boundaries related to the time you spend together
  • Boundaries about physical and sexual touch

If you’ve never talked about boundaries before, it might feel uncomfortable – but that’s okay. It’s important to maintain good communication skills in your relationship to ensure each of your needs are met and you’re both feeling supported.

3. Follow Through

Talking about boundaries is essential, but so is following through with them! (Actions speak louder than words, right?) Communicating and creating boundaries is only half the battle: it’s important to continually stick up for yourself and your boundaries if they are being challenged. If you need to have another conversation (or a few) that’s fine! You both need to stay on top of the boundaries you’ve set, and hold each other (and yourself) accountable when they’re being compromised.


4. Focus on Self-Care

No matter how happy you are in your relationship, it’s still important to focus on self-care. A huge part of that is taking the space that you need for yourself to check in and process your emotions. Self-care looks different for different people and there really is no right or wrong way to practice it, as long as you are engaging in healthy activities. Some ideas include exercising, eating well, trying yoga, journaling, or meditating.

Maintaining self-care will often require you to say “no” in your relationship, whether it’s to hanging out, doing activities together, helping them with a project, or whatever it may be. Framing boundaries as a way to practice self care often makes it easier to take the space we need in a relationship.

5. Free Yourself From Guilt

Saying no is tough, especially if you’re hit with feelings of guilt afterward. This is where self-care comes into play! You need to give yourself permission to put yourself first. Try building your self-confidence and reminding yourself that you need to do what’s best for your well-being. Focus less on being concerned with others’ perception of you and focus more on how setting boundaries creates positive space for you to grow in your relationship.

6. Practice

Once you set the intention to create more boundaries in your life, start off small! Decline a work call after business hours. Say no to a colleague who wants to grab coffee during lunch if you’re having a stressful day. Don’t let your friend borrow your favorite sweater if you know they’re a slob.

The more you incorporate “no” into your vocabulary, the more you’ll realize it’s not such a scary thing to say! People don’t take it as personally as you think, and with more practice, you’ll be able to take on bigger, more important boundaries with confidence.

7. Couples Worksheets

Setting boundaries is an essential part of any healthy relationship. If you feel like you and your partner need to discuss boundaries, but you’re not sure how to go about it, you should consider using a couple’s worksheet that focuses on setting boundaries.

The worksheet provides a framework for how to have meaningful conversations about your needs and comfort levels with different things. It also offers examples of how to say “no,” including: “I am not comfortable with that,” “I draw the line here,” and “this is not acceptable.” The worksheet can help take some of the emotions out of the situation and provide you with a game plan for how to move forward in the relationship in a respectful way.

8. Find Support

It’s okay to turn to friends and family for help! Sometimes it’s helpful to have a third-party perspective on your romantic relationship. They may be able to help you recognize unhealthy behaviors and create a plan for establishing boundaries.

If you’d rather not involve friends or family, you can always turn to relationship self-help books or online forums. Talking to a therapist or relationship coach is also a beneficial option, whether it’s by yourself or with your partner.

9. Use Relish

For many modern couples, traditional counseling just isn’t an option due to restraints on budget and time. If that is the case for you, don’t fear! Instead of going down the path of traditional therapy, try out Relish.

Relish is a relationship coaching app that you and your partner can use to help you achieve your relationship goals, including goals related to setting and upholding healthy boundaries. You and your partner can make accounts, take insight quizzes, and message with professional relationship coaches to assess the status of your relationship and make goals to improve it. The process is very goal oriented, so you and your partner are bound to see tangible improvements in your relationship!

Here’s the bottom line: Boundaries help ensure that you are comfortable and respected in the relationship, and that your needs are valued as much as the other person’s. That sounds like a pretty solid reason to start saying “no” more, right?

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