3 Ways to Get Better at Saying “No”

September 21, 2017

Hi, I’m Fei, and I’m a recovering Yes-a-holic.

For most of my life, “No” has been a dirty word. I’ve always been a people pleaser. Not only did I grow up in a collectivist culture, there’s something about playing a part in another person’s happiness that helps me feel secure in my own value.

Unfortunately, that has often translated into ignoring or setting aside my own desires in favor of pleasing someone else. This has led me to many situations where I’d find myself acting out of obligation, and harboring resentment.

Thank goodness I found my cuddling work when I did. It was at a cuddle event where I was first taught, even encouraged to say “No”. For me, that was revolutionary. It changed my life!

Here, I’ll share with you 3 tips that will help make it easier to say “No”:


1) Discover the “Yes” in Every “No”

Every “No” we say to someone else is really a “Yes” to ourselves.

Learning to trust the validity of our own wants and needs – even if it’s different from someone else’s agenda – is the key here. I have learned to say the magic phrase “Thank you for taking care of yourself” to myself, whenever I take the courageous act of turning someone else’s request down.

It takes practice to learn to see the our boundaries as clearing the path for something even better. Turning the spotlight on that instead of focusing on what didn’t happen, can ease the sting of saying “No”.

So the next time you struggle to say no, ask yourself, “What is it that I’m saying yes to here instead?”


2) Trust that the World is an Abundant Place

There are two ways we say “Yes” out of scarcity.

The first, is FOMO: The Fear of Missing Out. Oh, I know this fear all too well. Often, I have accepted invitations out of fear that if I turned this down now, I would never be offered the opportunity again. But sometimes the timing is all wrong, and I’ll find myself overwhelmed by what I just agreed to.

If you’ve ever flaked out on something at the last minute, or had to grit your teeth and push through yet another thing on your plate, that’s usually a sign that a simple “No thank you, but ask me again another time!” would have served you better.

You can do that with confidence once you learn to trust that there will always be more.

Another way we avoid saying “No” from a scarcity framework, is by opting to carry the burden of someone else’s needs, even when when it comes at a painful cost to ourselves. When we do this, we’re acting out of the belief that we are the sole provider for their needs.

Letting go of this habit of care-taking, requires us trust in another’s ability to take care of themselves. Simultaneously, it requires us to trust that there will be other sources of help and support out there for them, and that we get to step back and take a break for ourselves.

The next time you struggle to say no, ask yourself: “What is feeling scarce here, and is this actually true?”


3) Get Used to that Awkward “No” Feeling

Ultimately, many of us say “Yes” to avoid that awkward feeling of guilt, or the feeling of pushing others away from us.

Getting to practice saying no, and feeling all of those feelings in a low-stakes environment, can help us get more comfortable around it for when it really matters.

Saying “No” is a skill. The more you practice, the more empowered you will become.

I have spent many evenings at Cuddle Sanctuary saying no to all offers, simply to practice. It’s been the safest place in the world to set boundaries, and get to know my discomfort around it well. All of that practice has paid off.

An Increase in Closeness

Nowadays, I can say “No” with conviction without any of the drama that used to surround it. While I don’t expect to ever completely outgrow my desire to please others (I do still feel that twinge of guilt sometimes), I’ve come a long way in learning how to advocate for my own needs. This ability to set boundaries has been an essential skill in my work as a professional cuddler. I’ve learned to prioritize self-care, and all of my relationships have been enhanced as a result.

I’m now living a much more authentic life, and finding a lot more generosity as a result. I used to fear that saying “No” would propel others away from me. Instead, it has brought others closer.