Why Is It So Difficult To Say “NO”?

I see it every day!  As a board-certified Ob/Gyn, I have women coming through my office door telling me how stressed they are, how they are feeling overwhelmed, and struggling to get through the day.  They are frustrated because they are committing to too many things – the “to-do list” just grows longer and more daunting.  Many say that they are doing things which they would rather not do – going against themselves for the sake of others.  Sound familiar?

Why can’t we just say “NO”?  Guilt? Fear of rejection? Need to please?  These are just some of the possible reasons why it is hard for us women to say “NO”.

While researching this challenging issue, I came across a 3-step process to help women with this and it took me aback a bit due to the first step.  Why do we need to say, “I’m sorry”?

  1. Just Say “I'm Sorry—I Can't Do This Right Now" ...
  2. Give Yourself Time....
  3. Say Yes to Something Else.

 How many times do you say, “I’m sorry” during the day?  And for no real reason but to perhaps make the other person feel better? To make us feel less overbearing or arrogant?

Women, in general, tend to be pleasers by nature.  We are brought up to be “nice” and keep the peace, not instigating conflict or drawing attention to ourselves.  Yet, we can change this!  We can be honest, direct and straightforward without causing harm to others while still staying true to ourselves.  When we are confronted with a situation that we simply cannot do or do not want to do, I’m allowing you to just say, “No”.  No excuses, no sorrys, no explanation. 

I’ve found on the tennis court that women when they miss a shot, say I’m sorry.  Men don’t do that. They just move on to the next point.  Why do women feel that they need to apologize because they made an error- a shot into the net or a ball landing long.  We are all trying our best and sometimes the ball just doesn’t go where we want it to go.  Yet, does that mean we have to say, “I’m sorry”?

 Here’s what Oprah has to say about it.  

It is critical that we stay true to ourselves, not allowing people’s wishes or uncomfortable situations to impose unneeded guilt, disdain, resentment or anger.

As Paul Coehlo states, "When you say 'yes' to others, make sure you are not saying 'no' to yourself."

Psychotherapist and author of “Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 days”, Jonathan Alpert, offers these 7 tips to effectively say no:

  1. Say it. Don't beat around the bush or offer weak excuses or hem and haw.
  2. Be assertive and courteous. 
  3. Understand peoples' tactics. 
  4. Set boundaries. 
  5. Put the question back on the person asking.
  6. Be firm. 
  7. Be selfish.


The last one I would take issue with, because by saying “No” we are being more compassionate with ourselves and being “self-less” not “self-ish”.  Taking care of yourself is not selfish but healthy and strongly encouraged.

Please follow these tips and make your holiday season one filled with love and cheer, not obligations and guilt.  More smiles, less stress!  Here’s to saying,  “NO”.


In health and happiness,
Dr. Diana

Citations: 7 Tips for Saying No Effectively | Inc.com


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