Say No • ep. 22

A tween or teen girl with brown skin and curly black hair with red tips says no while holding her thumb down.

People Pleasers Unite

I’ve mentioned before that I have a history of being a people pleaser …

Back in episode 016, Get to Know You, I mentioned my past need for external validation, meaning my self-esteem depended on approval from others. I said Yes when people asked me to do things because I wanted people to like me, so I tried to be accommodating. They’d say, Steph, can you do me a favor? May I borrow your …? Are you free this weekend to …? You’re really good at this, so will you help …? I said Yes to a lot of things I didn’t have time or energy or desire to do but I thought people expected me to so I felt obligated, like I had to say Yes. And then I’d feel frustrated or even mad about it, and the validation I was looking for never lasted.

I didn’t have to say Yes to those things I didn’t want to do. I didn’t need to be like other people just so they’d like me. I shouldn’t have agreed to do something because I thought others expected me to.

But I was afraid to say No.

I was worried people wouldn’t accept me or include me. I was more concerned about what they thought about me. I didn’t want them to feel bad if I said No, so instead I was left feeling bad by saying Yes.


Have you ever heard of boundaries? It’s more than personal space. Brene Brown explained boundaries simply as “what’s okay and what’s not okay.” Like what works for you, and what doesn’t. Holding your boundaries is a form of self care, and it’s important to prioritize yourself and your needs by asserting your boundaries with people.

Saying No is a simple way to draw a boundary with someone. 

Saying No can be hard, though! You don’t want to hurt people’s feelings, you don’t want to be left out, and you don’t want your friends to feel like they can’t count on you. Boundaries are really important in friendships, it’s actually hard to maintain a friendship without boundaries. If you are always saying Yes when you want to say No, then you’re not being true to yourself or being your true self with others. You can’t build a genuine friendship if you’re pretending you’re okay with things when you’re actually not. Relationships are rooted in respect, so first show yourself respect by drawing and holding your boundaries by saying No when you need to, and respect your friends when they do, too.

How to Say No

So how do you say No?
Listen closely: No.

Did you catch that? Want me to spell that for you? It’s N-O-.

No. is a complete sentence, girls! I could just end the episode right here, but I get it. I’m still fighting off my own people pleaser voice that worries about what people will think if I draw a boundary and say No. But setting boundaries isn’t mean, and you can be kind while you do it.

Other Ways to Say No

So if you like options, here are some other ways to say No:

Thanks, but that won’t work for me.

I can’t right now, I’ll let you know if that changes.

I’m not able to help with that.

I wish it did, but this doesn’t fit with my schedule.

No, but thanks for offering.

I won’t be able to, but it sounds really neat!

Aww, I have another commitment that night.

I appreciate you thinking of me, however, I can’t do that.

I’ll try to make it next time. Have fun!

No, thank you.

Not Sorry

Notice how I did not use the word Sorry? That’s because you don’t need to apologize for your boundaries. If there is something you’re sorry about, you can express that, but you don’t have to feel bad about saying No.

If someone asks you why not, you can simply reiterate that it doesn’t work for you. You don’t have to justify saying No, or explain yourself, or give an excuse. 

Some people may suggest another request (Can you do … instead? How about …?), and they might even pressure you to say Yes. If your answer is still No, you can say so. If you’d like to offer an alternative that works for you, you could say I am not able to … but am able to … or  I am available on … . However you choose to respond, maintain your boundaries.

You Can’t Control Them, Only You

People may not like it when you say No. They may be disappointed, upset, or unkind. They are responsible for their feelings — you can’t control their response; you can only control yourself.

I can tell you from personal experience, the times that I said Yes when I didn’t want to or it didn’t work for me, I did not like the pit in my stomach feeling like I should’ve been honest. I was bitter and begrudgingly went along with it. And the times I held my boundaries by saying No helped me preserve and strengthen my relationships with my friends.

And on the flip side, when someone has expressed their boundary with me, letting me know that something didn’t work for them, I was glad they shared that info with me. I don’t want anyone to feel forced to do anything, like they have to say Yes, and feel miserable for it. Even if I was a bit disappointed at first, about whatever it was, it worked out for both of us.

Use both Yes and No

If someone asks you to do something and you want to do it, and you have the time, energy, availability, then by all means, do it!

I think it’s great to say Yes when something works for you. And you can also hold your boundaries and say No when it doesn’t.

No Poster Printable

To help you with this, I created a “No” poster for you to print out, personalize, and post on your wall where you’ll see it, remember it, practice it, and believe it — that’s the important part.

No poster printable


A few books that illustrate saying No are:
I Can Say No by Jenny Simmons
Ruvi Rhino Lost Her “No”: Set and Keep Boundaries by Kim Linette

If you have a topic suggestion, I’d love to hear from you! Send an email (tweens get the OK from your parents) to .

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yes, please!

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