Learning How to Say “No” To Loved Ones: It’s Easier than You Think

By Josie Brown

justsaynoWhile growing up, Lacie* was “the good kid.” The eldest of five motherless siblings, the role of junior mom was thrust upon her at a very young age. “I’ve changed diapers on every single one of my brothers,” she laughs. “They’ve got no secrets from me.”

By doing so, Lacie missed out on some of the more carefree experiences enjoyed by other girls her age.

“Sometimes I wished I had hung with my friends instead of a bunch of little boys,” she says wistfully.

Now thirty-five, Lacie regularly gets  cajoled into watching her brothers’ children—and she lives part-time with her boyfriend Henry and his teen-age children from a previous marriage.

Everyone is so needy,” she sighs. “Henry would rather let the dishes pile up in the sink than get his hands wet. Sometimes his  kids have to be carpooled to school then to little league and ballet. At the same time, my brothers and their wives are always in dire straits for a babysitter. I do all this, yet I’ve never had one offer of help! I guess I just don’t know how to say “no.” ”

She’s right about that. And it’s time she learned how.

Learning How to Say “No” To Your Loved Ones

But this won’t be easy. She will have to undo years of emotional conditioning that began with her desire to help and please her father.

What motivates a woman to do too much for others? It starts when the woman thinks that there is no one else there to pick up the pieces.

At a young age, Lacie developed a resilience she never knew she had. Then, as others realize they can rely on her, they also take advantage of her. Soon she is stressed out from this excessive responsibility, but she has no where to turn.

In taking all this onto herself, Lacie was deprived of some very necessary emotional growth stages. She was never allowed the time to just be a kid, or to have kid-size responsibilities. As she got older, instead of taking time for fun and self-discovery, she moved into a relationship where once again she was a caregiver to both her husband and his ready-made family.

By the time her own children came into the picture, she was entrenched in a role that she might not have experienced until her late twenties or early thirties.

Somewhere along the line, Lacie convinced herself that she was not worthy of these desires. Instead, she took on the role as victim.

But you cannot be a victim of the circumstances you’ve created.

To break this perception, both in her mind and that of her boyfriend’s and family’s, she must first learn to say “no.”

Her first step in doing so is to recognize the fact that she is indeed giving too much. Once she admits this to herself, she can alleviate any guilt by allowing herself to say no to others. This can be done without anger or worry that she will hurt someone’s feelings.

She can simply say, “I’m sorry. That does not fit into my plans for today.”

Lacie wonders, “Will saying no mean that I am no longer be a “nice person?”

Of course not. Many “nice people” deny their own needs to support others.

If Henry leans on her to do something that takes away from her own agenda, she needs to make her stance clear: “Honey, I’d like to help, but I’ve got my hands full. Perhaps you can do it yourself. And, by the way, I’d appreciate it if you could help me, too, with (name the chore) — “.

Lacie’s final step is to trust Henry and the others around her to step up to the plate for when she needs a little help. All she has to do is ask.

She may not have done this in the past, but, it’s never too late to start.


#1. “Sweetheart, will you be a doll and …” There’s truth in that old saying — you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. So go ahead and sweeten up your request, with a kiss and a thank you.

#2. “Honey, I need you to —-” Men love taking direction, so be the boss.

#3. “Here’s what’s on my agenda today. So you’ll have to add this to YOUR list…” Yes, you are a busy person. And yes, guilt trips work!

BOTTOM LINE: Don’t be afraid to ask for help from those who love and respect you.



CIGFMR180Josie Brown, SingleMindedWomen.com’s Relationships Channel Editor, is the author of two novels: IMPOSSIBLY TONGUE-TIED, and TRUE HOLLYWOOD LIES. Her next book, written with her husband, Martin, is the perfect self-help manual for your BFF (…okay, and for you, too). It’s THE COMPLETE IDIOT’S GUIDE TO FINDING MR. RIGHT [September 2009]. Look for her third novel The DILF, in bookstores in Summer 2010.


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