Defining Personal Boundaries: 5 Ways to Politely Say No!

One of the rules I’ve learnt during my journey of self discovery is that personal boundaries matter. 

Personal boundaries are the rules or limits that you identify for others’ behaviour towards you. They define what you will, or will not, tolerate as reasonable, safe and acceptable treatment. 

Before consciously defining my own boundaries, I was a complete and utter people pleaser. I would go out of my way to help anyone, I just wanted to make other’s lives easier and happier. The down side to this was that I would often find myself feeling worn out, agitated and taken advantage of. I started to become resentful about the amount of time and energy that I was giving away to everyone else.

How many times have you found yourself going along with someone’s request for some kind of help, despite already feeling exhausted? How often have you pushed your own needs aside to deal with someone else’s problems?  And how often have you found yourself feeling worse, feeling quite frankly drained following your good deeds? I’ve been there- it feels like you’re giving, but really, you’re giving half heartedly.

One of the most difficult things about firming up your personal boundaries is learning to say no.

Saying no can feel really selfish, especially when you feel like someone is relying on you.

But let me make this clear: You always have a choice!

There is usually a choice for you, and for the person making the request. It is not your responsibility to solve everyone else’s problems- particularly when you don’t have the time, energy or resources to reasonable deal with them.

Saying no does not have to be done in a negative, dismissive way. If, like me, you struggle to say no, try out some of these techniques:

5 ways to say no without being rude!

  1. I’d love to but… Just be honest about why you can’t help with their request right now. Starting out by saying that you’d like to be able to help them, but then going on to explain why you just can’t, helps to soften the blow!
  2. Now is not a good time for me, but I could… If time is the issue, if it’s not that you can’t help, but there is a time which suits you better, offer it up as an alternative!
  3. I’m sorry I can’t do that, but I could… If you are unable to do the thing that has been asked of you, but you can help in another way, make the suggestion and see how it works out.
  4. I’m sorry I can’t help, but I know someone that might be able to… suggest someone that you think might be in a better position to help.
  5. Let me just check, and I’ll get back to you… If you’re not entirely sure whether you can, or even whether you want to help with the other person’s request, give your self some breathing space to think it through. You’re not saying no, but you’re not committing to a yes that you will later regret!

It is also useful to bear in mind that the person making the request does usually have a choice as well. If they are choosing to lean on you rather than taking responsibility for their own issues, then actually, you may not be doing them any favours by bending to their demands.

Now, I give to others on my own terms. When I learned to say no to requests that weren’t reasonable for me, I found that giving became enjoyable again. This was because I am now giving out of choice, rather than from a misguided sense of responsibility.

Giving or helping no longer feels like an added pressure put on to an already overflowing schedule.

Another bonus to understanding my boundaries is that I no longer internalise it as failure if I can’t help someone. I see it for exactly what it is, rather than a reflection of my own value as a human being.

Where do you need to firm up your boundaries in order to protect and improve your well being?

If you need any help with identifying or putting your boundaries in place, feel free to get in touch.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback.




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