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Simply stated most people are people-pleasers and they don’t really like saying that word, NO!  Even if it is something they really don’t want to do  they feel obligated when someone they know  asks a favor; or they can  feel pressured  when  a friend  or a colleague needs something done.  People instinctively want to be liked and they feel that saying no automatically makes them a bad person.

In some lines of work the word no is simply not an option such as Military or police force work where that word simply cannot exist during working hours.   Most of the time women don't want to be confrontational and find it far easier to just acquiesce and say nothing or agree with the other person and just yes them to death.  This is a negative way to handle most silent acceptance but seething inside.   When we are not true to our own feelings, when we fail to say what we really mean  deep inside ourselves, we end up feeling powerless, helpless and resentful because we agree to do things that we don’t really want to do.

As women we tend to go through an amazing succession of feelings all in a matter of moments.

What will that person think of me?  How can I refuse them?  Am I being selfish and self centered?  Will they still like me?   I am now anxious, upset and angry all at the same time.  I don’t really want to do that thing, but I just said yes!  Now what can I do?  I am committed and  I don’t want to be.”

 This is not good for anyone, but especially the person who finds themselves harboring resentment when they are 'volunteered' for something they don't want to do. Many 'unassertive' people recognize that their pattern of behavior is to be nice or compliant until  they explode inappropriately basically throwing up all over the closest person.  The time bomb principle.  To give you a good example a client recently told me of an incident where she had opened her home to someone she had known for many years.  The client has had some episodes of bad luck and is without work, income or a place to really call her own.  She is trying hard to keep it together but felt badly that this person needed  help.  The woman in question appears to be a perennial victim and has likely lived her life sucking other people's energy...I call them energy Vampires.

Within 24 hours my client was regretting her decision as the intruder was filling every square inch of space with her negativity and powerlessness.  She was sucking my client dry at a time when she needed positive energy surrounding her.  Even at that she allowed this person to remain in the home for another 24 hours abiding by her agreement to allow her to stay for two days.  In failing to assert herself and say no, she put herself in the position of being abused and brought down by negative talk and actions.  Don't ever do that to yourself because you will explode and use up even more precious energy.

There are three ways this 'explosion' can happen. The first is that the rage happens inside the head and remains unexpressed.  This can lead to illness, headaches, overall unresolved pains in the body which may end in medical treatments.   The second is that the anger is inappropriately expressed, and someone  who is on the perimeter  becomes the recipient of your madness. The third is properly directed at the 'offending party' but is out of  proportion to the  final-straw-event that unleashes it. There is a big difference between being Assertive, that is telling the truth about yourself and being true to your own emotions  and being Aggressive which tends to beat others down without regard to their feelings.  An Assertive Person knows how to say the word NO with strength and conviction and without having to resort to Aggression.


                                      ASSERTIVE VS. AGGRESSIVE

How can you communicate more effectively in every situation?  How can you be true to your own feelings and values and still have people care about you?  How can you learn to say no when you mean no.?   Quite simply you need to become more assertive.  You need to learn how to communicate in a better more effective manner. Different individuals exhibit varying degrees of assertive behavior depending on whether they are in a work, social, academic, recreational or relationship context.

 If you are a  non assertive person you probably feel  taken advantage of, helpless in many situations.  You could feel like you  take on everyone's problems and never really know how to say no.   Essentially you, as the non assertive person are being  emotionally dishonest. . You probably feel hurt, anxious, and even  angry about these behavior patterns.

 Some of the signs or  body language traits of the non-assertive person are: 

  • · Lack of eye contact; looking down or away.
  • · Swaying and shifting of weight from one foot to the other.
  •  Whining and hesitancy when speaking.

Do you fit into the mold of the non-assertive person or do know.   Are you someone who stands in line at the bank or other location watching while tellers stand around chatting and the lines get longer and longer.  Inside you are seething and wondering why the manager...who is clearly on a personal phone call, doesn't get up and fix the situation.  Maybe you have to be back at work and you haven't had lunch.  But you don't speak up you just stand there until you are at the front of the line or until better yet, someone else goes to the Manager and makes her do something.   The real question is do you want to change that behavior?  Do you want to take charge of your life and the decisions that you make in a more effective manner?

An assertive person wouldn't just stand by waiting for something to change.  She  is one who acts in his/her own best interests, stands up for self, expresses feelings honestly, is in charge of self in interpersonal relations, and chooses for self. The basic message sent from an assertive person is "I'm OK and you're OK."   An assertive person is emotionally honest, direct, self-enhancing, and expressive. He/she feels confident, self-respecting at the time of his/her actions as well as later.  She stands up for what she believes is right.

Assertive people generally stand straight, are  steady, and directly face the people to whom they are  speaking  with and maintain eye contact.  They are firm and purpose driven.  They speak slowly and firmly and intelligently with confidence and self assurance. They know they are right in what they are asking or telling the other person and are not afraid to express their truths.

An aggressive person wins by intimidating another.    They frequently hurt others in the process of attempting to control the situation to suit their own needs.   An aggressive person talks down to the other usually raising their voice and often using threats that are ill conceived and unrealistic.  They often feel superior to the other person.  They might shout, clench fists, threaten, point at the person.  That is aggression not assertion.


You are in charge of improving your communications so why not start now. 

 *Be a better listener.

* Be honest about your real feelings when talking to another...without hurting their feelings.

*Being a people pleaser all the time may not be good for your own health. 

*Come from feelings and don't start out by attacking the other person.  

You have a right to make your needs and desires known to the other person but do it responsibly

  • You deny your own importance when you do not ask for what you want.
  • The best way to get exactly what you want is to ask for it directly.
  • Indirect ways of asking for what you want may not be understood.
  • Be assertive and strong when you make a request
  • Asking for what you want is a skill that can be learned. 
  • You have a right to say NO!
  • You deny your own importance when you say yes and you really mean no.
  • Saying no does not imply that you reject another person; you are simply refusing a request.
  • When saying no, it is important to be direct, concise, and to the point.  
  • If you really mean to say no, do not be swayed by pleading, begging, compliments, or other forms of manipulation.  
  • You may offer reasons for your refusal, but don't get carried away with numerous excuses  
  •  A simple apology is adequate; excessive apologies can be offensive  
  •  Demonstrate assertive body language.

              WHAT ABOUT THE WORD NO? 

  • Ask yourself, "Is the request reasonable?" Hedging, hesitating, feeling cornered, and nervousness or tightness screams NO 
  •  Assert your right to ask for more information and for clarification before you answer. 
  •  Once you understand the request and decide you do not want to do it, say NO firmly and calmly.

                              HOW TO SAY NO WITHOUT GUILT

Your 4 step program:  Brevity, clarity, firmness, and honesty 

  • ·Make your answer short and to the point.  
  • ·Be honest, direct and firm  
  • ·Demonstrate assertive body language.
  • ·Say no and don’t feel guilty because you are being true to yourself


  1. The right to be treated with respect always.
  2. The right to have and express your own feelings and opinions and feel safe doing so.
  3. The right to be listened to and taken seriously regardless of whether they agree with you or not.
  4. The right to set your own priorities.
  5. The right to say NO without feeling guilty.
  6. The right to get what you pay for.
  7. The right to make mistakes because you are above all human.
  8. The right to be you whoever that is that particular day.


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