I know I Need To Say ‘No’ More Often….But How?

Guest Blog: Maxine Smith - Body Awareness Therapies

Maxine has kindly shared her latest blog with us to share on our site - Maxine runs mindfulness sessions through working with horses allowing for peaceful and mindful connections within the present moments.

No, depending on the circumstances has been a word I struggled with since I was a child. It was so much easier to say yes and be compliant than to say no and feel guilty.

I was afraid of disappointing others, getting into trouble, losing friendships, being wrong, alone, judged, being made to seem unreasonable, too sensitive, over reacting, sacked! I would put others needs before my own. In fact, I had no sense of myself. I was always too afraid of being challenged when saying no, to mean it and stick to it.

I would end up fitting extra tasks into my schedule. This would mean that I would often be late for arrangements that had been made months earlier; I would put others in awkward situations in my bid to please everyone and in fact I would end up letting everyone down instead.

There were occasions where I had found myself in dangerous situations and had a strong feeling that saying no would put me at risk. Not necessarily mortal but it was so much easier to say yes than take the chance of finding out what that ‘no’ would mean.

I was often left with was a strong feeling of regret. I would think long and hard, sometimes for days and months of what I could, would or should have said or done and what I would do if I found myself in the same situation in the future.

I would always feel bad and get down on myself. I had a victim mentality. I was downtrodden and disempowered. I would blame others for how I allowed them to treat me and did not recognise that I needed to take responsibility for the outcomes I had created.

I had become a ‘yes’ person

‘Yes’ had become an automatic response that led to the very situations I was trying to avoid. I struggled to be honest with family, friends, with my employers and those I managed and led. I rarely thought about the time, energy and the help I needed to fulfil that yes.

There were occasions where I had felt very uncomfortable, put upon, used, manipulated but because I was unable to verbalise what I was feeling or come up with a good reason for saying no, I would say, yes. If nothing else, it got me out of a difficult situation in that moment. However, it would create an even bigger one later down the line. An issue created by my inability to say no!

The ‘Yes’ was usually, accompanied by a now all too familiar cold, shivery feeling of fearful anxiety. Saying yes all the time was leaving me tired, unhappy, time poor, constantly on edge, at loggerheads with my nearest and dearest and tapping away at the ‘respect bank’ I had built up at work. At work I was afraid of being replaced or sacked! I was damaging my relationships more than I realised.

But how could I suddenly begin saying no when I had always said yes? What would that mean for me and for my friendships and relationships, my job? What had changed why I could suddenly say no now? I still had to deal the fact that I might make others feel bad, that they would think I was being unreasonable, or worse still, have them thinking I thought I was something special.

I still ran the risk of damaging my relationships with those close to me and with management who had the power to sack by behind – in many different ways!! Properly daunting!!!! Scary!!

I was hurting

I was hurting! Filled with fear and anxiety, lacking in trust. I struggled to create lasting relationships. I was afraid to ask for help at work. I had to battle with the concept that actually everyone would have thoughts and opinions about me and I was not going to please everyone all the time. People could do and say things to me and I couldn’t tell them I didn’t like what they had said or done.

I had become a doormat, a yes person. I didn’t know who was genuine and had my best interests at heart, from who was using me for who I had become and the lessons I had taught them about how to treat me! Where I thought that saying yes would preserve my relationships, it took a long time to learn that I had damaged many of them beyond repair, because I was so busy lying to others and being false, that it took some decades to learn that I was also doing the same thing to myself.

How I learnt to say ‘No’ more effectively.

When I began working with horses, they introduced me to ‘boundaries’ and the concept that actually ‘No’ was not a bad word. I had heard of boundaries before but I didn’t really know the full extent and depth of what they actually were. I most certainly didn’t relate them to healthy relationships.

As for ‘No’, there is nothing like a 10-ton horse pushing past you to help you to learn how to effectively say ‘No’ and put boundaries in place.  Yes I could easily interpret the horses behaviour as being rude and disrespectful….but is that not what I had been allowing all along. They would only treat me the way I allowed them to. Therefore, by setting boundaries and saying ‘No’, I was able to negotiate our contact and create a healthy relationship with a horse and stop it pushing me around.

I had to clearly demonstrate what was acceptable to me. I had to allow myself the space to say no and demonstrate how I wanted to be treated. I had to get over that feeling of being horrible to the horse when I asked him stop and back up. Those were my human feelings I was placing onto the horse. Not only so horses set boundaries with each other all the time, they are experts in doing so.

Here are some tips my horse friends have taught to me on how to effectively say, ‘No’

  1. Explore different ways to say ‘No’ until you find a way that is comfortable for you.

  2. Give yourself time to make a decision and plan your response.

  3. If you are unsure of what decision to make, weigh up your options and what it would mean to say yes. Do not forget to consider whether you want to do ‘whatever’ in the first place.

  4. It is OK to say ‘No’ and not have an acceptable reason to others.

  5. Practice saying no in situations and with people who have little to no impact on your life.

  6. Be mindful of how you feel when communicating your ‘No’. Avoid doing it when you are feeling hurt or angry

  7. When communicating your ‘No’ be clear, firm and say what you mean and mean what you say.

Do not get me wrong, saying ‘No’ is a daily work in progress, as I am faced with different situations all the time, especially being in business. However, the lessons, these beautiful creatures teach me each day, has helped me to create positive and supportive relationships where ‘No’ is accepted and I am respected.

Need help saying ‘No’ too? We can help. Call or email Maxine on 07572 363041 or

You can also visit my website:

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