Drop of Therapy – How to Say “No”

Written by on June 8, 2023

WRITTEN BY: Robert Franklin, Director of Diversity, Health Equity & Inclusion at Children’s Hospital Colorado

Saying ‘no’ can be hard.

Whether you think of yourself as a “people pleaser,” a “yes person,” or if you feel like your love language is through acts of service, it can feel like an out-of-body experience to tell someone ‘no’ – especially if we are in a relationship with them.

Like anything that is a challenge, there is development and growth in the discomfort of trying something new, and practicing a skill so that you get the muscle memory to remember just how strong you can be.  Saying ‘no’ is a great practice for creating and communicating boundaries.  You get to choose if you are going to give of yourself, your time, energy or space.

If you don’t have a solid practice, you won’t have clear or solid boundaries, and risk being taken advantage of, or losing yourself in service to others.  Remember, just because you give of yourself, you are not entitled to someone doing that for you.  So, you need to be sure what you are saying ‘yes’ to is worth the time, energy and effort – it’s something you want.

The toughest part of saying ‘no’ is really just getting the word out.  We’ve been trained and educated to think that ‘no’ is mean, or disrespectful.  Since not every person who might ask us to give of ourselves will accept the complete sentence that is the word, ‘no’, we might need to use more words to make sure they understand.  Try out these sentence starters in places and conversations that have lower stakes, and as you get more confident and comfortable, use them in places where it means more to you.

  1. “I’m not in a place where I can support you/that right now.”
  2. “Doing that will hurt me/us, and is not something I want for me/us.”
  3. “What can we think of/do to help you do that instead?”

If you want to learn more about Robert Franklin & everything he does for the community, be sure to find him on LinkedIn to connect with him.

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