Difficulty Saying “No”


I find it difficult to say no when people demand or request something even if it causes me inconvenience. Some people are very pushy and simply not ready to respect my convenience. If I deal with them sternly some understand while others feel offended. Even if their offense is unjustified, I feel guilty if they show disappointment and try to make up in some way or the other. It stresses me. How do I deal with them?

—Sangita, India


Dear Sangita,

To relate to other people’s needs in a balanced way, it’s important to develop healthy boundaries. Everyone needs them, yet establishing them take time and patience. It comes through trial and error, and it is time for you to begin that process. You will make mistakes, and that is part of getting clear.

One thing to keep in mind is that you have more alternatives than just saying: “Yes”, or: “Deal with them sternly.” When you are unable to fulfill someone else’s request, you can simply say kindly but firmly, “I’m very sorry, but that won’t work for me right now,” or “I understand your need, but I’m not able to fulfill it at this time.” Some of the people you have been in the habit of pleasing may not accept that answer, but you need to stand firm.

To be able to stand firm, you need to develop a better sense of who you are and what is possible or appropriate for you. For this, I suggest that you establish a solid meditation practice. It will help you stay even-minded in the face of these requests, stay in touch with your own self, and not be afflicted by guilt. You can begin learning how to meditate here.

As your practice deepens, you’ll feel stronger, clearer and more peaceful, and be less affected by how people behave. That’s when you’ll be able to share your love with them.