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Setting Boundaries: When to Say Yes and When to Say No

by Sep 1, 2017Mental Health0 comments

Where do you stand on setting boundaries? Should you be a yes person or a no person?

Just scanning the book titles on Amazon can be confusing. Bethany Frankel says I should come from A Place of Yes but William Ury in his book says I should practice The Power of a Positive No. Amy Poehler says Yes, Please but Dr. Kevin Leman says, Smart Women Know When to Say No. Don’t even get me started on the TLC show “Say Yes to the Dress.”

When you are a “yes” person, you are open to new experiences, willing to take chances, game to get out of your comfort zone and take risks. When you are a “no” person you are setting boundaries and firm limits; you are practicing good self-care techniques and you are letting go of being a people pleaser.

The challenge in life is not just learning to say “yes” or “no,” it’s the art of learning when, and under what circumstances, you should be a “yes” person and when to be a “no” person.

Setting boundaries: when you should say “yes” to things:

1. When someone asks for your help or advice on how to break into your current business.

We all get requests from friends, friends of friends, long lost cousins, who heard you are working in XYZ industry. When I started my private practice I called every contact I had and asked to meet for coffee. I was pleasantly surprised when a busy, established therapist or psychiatrist was willing to take the time to meet with me and talk to me about how they built their practice. As a policy now, when someone calls me and asks me to coffee, I always say yes. I have extended this to all requests I get. I have helped psychology graduate students with school projects, I have made the time to talk to individuals who want to start companies, apps, software that cater to therapists and coaches. We were all “just starting out” and know how humbling it can be to ask for help. The time you take to help someone else is nothing to you but it means a whole lot to him or her.

2. When a friend, boyfriend/girlfriend, parent suggests trying out a new hobby, going on a trip and/or learning a new skill.

Now if your mother calls you and suggests 3 weeks of fly-fishing in Alaska – then please go ahead and say “no.” There are times when you are invited to do things that sound completely unappealing – that is an easy no. What about the times when the hobby, trip, adventure sounds interesting? If it peaks your interest in anyway – say yes. If an old friend you haven’t seen in a while asks to go away for the weekend – say yes because if you keep saying “no, not this year” or “no I can never take time off from work,” that weekend trip with your friend will never happen. Sometimes you have to make things work because, if you don’t, the opportunity goes away and most times, never comes back. If you want to learn a new hobby, waiting a year is not going to make any difference, if anything it could make it harder to learn something new.

3. A friend, colleague, family member asks a favor of you and you know they would say yes to you if the roles were reversed.

If you know that your best friend would never say no to picking you up from the airport – do the same for her – offer to pick her up the next time she is going on a trip. If you have a colleague that is always asking you if you need help, and she comes to you and asks for a favor – say yes. That person respects you, cares about you, thinks about you – do the same for them.


Setting boundaries: when you should say “no” to things:

1. Any friend, colleague, family member that makes you feel bad about yourself, makes you feel worse after you spend time with them or takes and never gives.

This is not a friendship or relationship. They are not thinking about you and they do not respect you, you don’t have an obligation to be the “bigger person” or “the good sister.” Relationships should lift you up, make you happy and make you feel like you are better off knowing that person vs. not knowing them. Life is too busy to waste with people that don’t contribute to your life in a meaningful way.

2. When an ex wants to be your friend on social media.

If you and your ex had a great relationship that ended mutually and now when you run into each other it’s like seeing a great old friend, then feel free to be Instagram or TikTok (or pick your social media of choice) friends. Most significant relationships don’t end so amicably. Usually at least one person got hurt and despite the many break-up conversations you have had since the break-up, there are still unresolved feelings. Do you really want to know what restaurants he is going to? Trips she is on? New people they are dating? Not me. Why torture yourself, why make every scroll through your feed like dodging heartbreak bombs. Spare your heart – decline the request.

3. When someone wants to tell how to “lose weight, tell you how they cured their back/knee/arm pain, how they schedule their day to be more efficient, etc.”

We are all full of good advice (look at me – I’m writing a blog giving advice and guidance) but you have the right to say no to any information you don’t need or want. This is a tough one because the advice giver means well but if you have been working on your issues with food, increased your exercise plan and are starting to become more aware of your own body shaming, then having someone tell you how they eliminated carbs and lost 20 pounds can really set you back. It makes you question the work you have already done and derails your progress. If you don’t want to hurt their feelings just say, “I appreciate your advice but I have a plan that is working for me” or “that’s a great suggestion but before you go on I feel good about how I’m handling the situation.”

What are some of your “yes” or “no” situations? Is it easy for you to say “no?” Is it easy for you to say “yes?” Leave a comment below and tell me what you say “yes” and “no” to…