The Art Of Saying No: Boundaries And Difficult People

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have difficult people in their lives.

Now we all have our moments of humanity where stress takes over and we act in ways we regret later.

And then there are some who seem to thrive on setting unrealistic expectations, raising voices and/or using passive aggressive remarks to engage with their outer world…essentially “normalizing” unhealthy behavior and dragging others into their own psychological reality.

And they get away with it.

Due the co-dependent nature of many relationships, it can be tough to stand up and say No to unreasonable people.

But why do we say Yes when we really don’t want to ?

The 2 most common reason’s I see with my clients are fear of consequence and self-judgement.

Fear Of Consequence

One of the biggest stressors in life is the negative opinions of others. Even if you were brought up in a secure and loving family environment, we have become conditioned to over-concern ourselves with how others will perceive us. Couple this with the societal trend of forming strong opinions without having all the facts and many would choose to just tolerate bad behavior instead of being unfairly labelled.

Sometimes the fearful consequences are circumstantial, such as losing a job, being bullied or losing a relationship. Past personal experience can influence this as negative memories (and the associated emotions) are re-triggered in the present.

And others times the fears are the product of an undisciplined imagination, influenced by over-exposure to negative media (this is one of the reason’s I limit how much ‘news’ I watch).

To challenge these fears, it is essential to separate our cognitive processes from the reality of what is actually happening now. Instead of focusing on the source of the stress (the difficult person), step back and focus on our co-dependent responses…and despite how we feel, decide if we going to unconsciously react (and say Yes) or consciously act (and say No).


At any point we can (and probably will) be judged for something. The younger you were when this happened, the stronger the impact.

When such experiences happen and without a healthy platform to express our emotions or opinions, it is common to internalize the messages of criticism.

And then we judge ourselves. We look for reason why we are bad people, why we should have said Yes to a request (despite how unreasonable it might have been) and why we shouldn’t speak up (despite how we are being treated).

Fear of consequence and self-judgement tend to go hand in hand…creating a vicious cycle and damaging self-worth. Breaking this cycle involves learning to stop devaluing ourselves and start taking risks around establishing boundaries (especially with those who won’t like it).

This does not happen over night and needs lots of support and reflection, but for myself and many of my clients, it became a huge turning point and lead to massive personal and psychological growth…but all we had to do was learn to say No.

If you have any questions, I would love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading and please don’t hesitate to share this article.

Take care


PS. If you enjoyed my articles or videos, or would like help with working on your self-esteem, then you will love my online personal development program, The Self-Esteem Blueprint, where you will empower yourself with knowledge and tools to take control of your stress and worry, your relationships, your boundaries and your self-worth. The program is open for registration NOW and I would love to have you on board.

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