top of page

5 Things for HSPs to "KNOW" When Starting to Say "NO"

Let’s face it, as a highly sensitive woman it can be uncomfortable to know someone is upset with us. And by uncomfortable, I mean excruciatingly unbearable. Which is why we become people pleasers.

That’s why we usually do whatever we can to avoid that discomfort, even if it means sacrificing our happiness for someone else’s.

(Scroll down for 5 things you should know when you start saying "no" to others)

bear with his arms up with the caption "how about no"

For many years it seemed as if the word “no” wasn’t in my vocabulary. I look back now at some of the requests to which I said “yes” and the debacles that ensued.

I think for the longest time I didn’t even know I was allowed to say no to people. (HSPs can do that?? What??) I thought that if they asked me for something and I was available and able to do it, I had to agree.

Over time I learned to say “no”. At first it was uncomfortable to the nth degree. I couldn’t even do it with conviction. It usually came out passive-aggressively or coupled with a lot of reasons – or excuses – along with endless apologies about why I couldn’t do something.

In the beginning, I thought I owed the person a full explanation to show that I was only saying no because I had good reason. I usually ended up leaving some sort of loophole for the other person to work around and still get their way.

Here is an example of what I was like when trying to saying no

FAMILY MEMBER: Can you help me organize my closets tomorrow?

ME: No, I have to work.

FAMILY MEMBER: Oh, ok. You can help me on your day off then, right?

ME: Um, I guess so.

ALSO ME: Silently resenting them for asking me instead of silently resenting that I didn’t stay firm in my boundaries.

Hmm, let me try this "no" thing again

FRIEND: What are you doing this weekend?

ME: I'm not sure, why?

FRIEND: I have to deliver some of my old baby furniture to my sister who lives five hours away. Will you come with me since you aren't doing anything anyway?

ME: Oh, ah, no thanks.

FRIEND: Please, please, please? It is such a boring ride and I need someone to entertain me.

ME: No, I am sorry but I won't be able to.

FRIEND: But can't you just go this one time....for me? I would do this for you. (No, no they would not have done the same for me. Many of my friendships and relationships were one-sided before I stopped people-pleasing.)

grumpy cat with the caption "no."

In the second scenario, I actually held strong to my no. Because this person was not used to me saying no, they actually called me again to plead some more, hoping I would change my mind.

I still stuck with my answer, but guess what? I spent the whole weekend feeling guilty because they "made" me feel guilty. What??? Btw, I now know that I "allowed" myself to feel guilty.

It took me a long time to realize that my people pleasing behavior way so unhealthy. As an HSP, it was initially awkward and uncomfortable to set boundaries but little by little it became easier.

Below is what I learned in my

I'm-no-longer-going-to-be-a-people-pleaser journey:


We often feel we need to clarify why we are denying someone’s request but in reality keeping it concise is usually better. Less is more as it doesn’t provide a lot of opportunities for wiggle room.


When you initially attempt to instill a boundary it may not go over well. If people are used to getting their way with you, they are not likely to take you first “no” at face value. That is a good sign that you should definitely be creating a boundary with this person.


In order to be taken seriously, "Clear is kind," as Brené Brown says. If we only enforce boundaries some of the time, we are sending mixed messages. Once you create boundaries, you may need to continually enforce them.


Keep in mind that some people might be so upset that you are no longer willing to do whatever it takes to make them happy that they may leave you. However, this probably was not a healthy relationship in the first place. Anyone who truly cares about you will be happy that you are standing up for yourself.


This may sound absurd if you are new to setting boundaries, at least it would have if someone said it to me all those years ago. Over time, it won’t feel mean or like a selfish act to say no but rather an act of self-preservation. Bonus, your resentment will fade, too!


Saying no doesn't have to be intimidating. Remember, when you say no, you're not only protecting your time and energy – you're also showing the world that you prioritize self-care.

So go ahead, say no with a smile. You earned it!


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page