Do you Say “Yes” When You Mean “No”?

Do you say “yes” when you want to say “no”? Do you take care of others’ needs and ignore your own. Do you avoid setting boundaries or don’t hold boundaries and then you don’t get what you need?

“The Pleaser” is one of the Whopping Mistakes in my book “Why did you load the dishwasher like that? 9 Whopping Mistakes that Push Love Away.”


Do you make their needs more important than yours? Sometimes that is part of the give-and-take of a relationship where you have committed to be a partner. This can apply to your personal and your work relationships.

When you always put others first, you train people that you will take care of them. (There are exceptions, such as infants and people who are sick, but we can’t keep giving and giving endlessly. Sometimes, you do it because you care, and then they expect it. Maybe you are afraid that they won’t like you as much, or even continue to love you, if you didn’t do what they asked.  Maybe you are afraid if you said “no,” they would leave you.   If this is your challenge, what would you say to a friend if they were afraid to ask for what they want and then felt resentful when they supported others and never asked or received what they wanted. If it’s a mutual relationship, then over time that means both of you have your needs met.


If you are The Pleaser, it’s unlikely that you will have a chance of getting what you want unless you ask. They don’t know what you need because you don’t tell them, and they are not mind-readers.  And if they wouldn’t like you if you didn’t do what they wanted or if you started asking them to help you, what kind of a partner, friend, or colleague are they?  You deserve better!

Most of my clients want to have relationships that are a partnership, where there is mutual support. Why don’t you give the people in your life a chance to contribute to you?


If you are a Pleaser, you probably grew up not getting your needs met, so you stopped asking and stopped expecting… anything. You didn’t think you deserved to get you needs met. You didn’t think you were worthy of friendship and love. Maybe you thought if you asked for something, the other person might leave. The relationship, even if you didn’t get what you wanted, is better than being alone.  This might have been true when you were young. The problem is if you still believe this. This is now an old habit that is still running their life.

Are you a Pleaser? You are worthy of love and respect. You deserve kindness and caring. Now is your time. You have a right and an obligation to yourself to ask for what you want. Ask with kindness and without expectations.

If you are always the giver and never the receiver and you are asking for what you want but not getting it, then that is something to consider. Do you really want to be in a relationship where the other person does not value you as a partner?


A request means the other person can say “No.” It’s not a demand – do it or else. When your boss asks you to do something that is part of your job, you really can’t say “no,” but you could negotiate – “I have Project X and Project Y both due the end of this week. If I take on Project Z, do you want me to work on X or Y this week?” or “I can’t make dinner Friday, I’m on an all day call. If you want to stop at the store and get a roasted chicken, I’ll make the salad but it won’t be until 6:30pm or we can order in.”

The people in your life are not mind readers so you must verbally state the request and it must be clear – what and when and any other requirements. If they say “No, and it really is important, now you know you have to speak more clearly about what you need.

If they accept your request, they are making a promise. That doesn’t always mean it will be done. It’s a good idea to set up times to check in and see how things are going if it will take time to complete.

If they say “No,” then you have lost nothing. You can see if they are open to negotiate if you can be flexible.

Recognize that you may have trained them that you don’t ask for what you want. If you think that’s what is happening, then have a conversation with them, especially if your requests are normal everyday requests appropriate for your relationship.

A request has to work for both of you. Often other people are Pleasers and will say “Yes” when they mean “No” or “I’m not sure.” Part of making a request is to be clear if they understand what you need and if they accept, you both are clear it will get done.


A boundary is something that you are saying is important and it is not negotiable. Your roommate cannot go in your room and borrow anything. Your children must pick up their toys every night and put them away (unless they are sick). However, a request may be a good first step for you asking for what you want if you haven’t asked before.

A boundary is a demand in the sense that they need to honor the boundary (even if you may negotiate exceptions, some aspects can be negotiated like the example about children picking up their toys). “No” is not an option and if they violate your boundary, there are consequences.

If you roommate goes into your room again, you might ask them to move out. Or put a lock on your door.

If you haven’t made it clear to them that this is important to you, now is the time to clarify this is non-negotiable.

Think through what you say is a boundary. Have a conversation with the person to create something that you are comfortable with and so are they.

If the other person doesn’t listen and at least try to meet your needs and respect your boundaries, then it’s time to have a conversation. You cannot be the only giver if it is a true relationship. Your boss knows you need to leave home by 5pm to pick up your children in daycare. As you are leaving, he comes in to your office to discuss a project. Let him know you need to pick your child up and must leave now. Suggest that if he needs it done tomorrow, you both come in 30 minutes early to go over the project and then you’ll clear your morning schedule to get it done by noon.

Let’s look at some areas where boundaries are important.


Money is often an area where you did not set a boundary or you set it but they didn’t honor it.

If you are not responsible for their financial situation, then you are under no obligation to give them money. If they have not kept their agreements to repay and done so with integrity, know that you could be undermining their opportunity to step up and own their life by saving them.

You might have a friend or family member who borrows money regularly, promises to pay you back but seldom or never does.  Next time they ask, set a boundary! What could you say from love and kindness that is a firm “no?” “John, you said you would pay me back in October. I’m not a bank.”

If they ask again, set the boundary again. Just say “no.” Don’t engage. Do not back down. If you back down, then your boundary wasn’t real and next time they won’t honor it because they know if they ask enough, you’ll cave.  Hold your boundary.


What if you are single and dating someone who wants to have sex and you are not ready? If they do not honor your “no” early in the relationship, they never will. If you say “yes” when you want to say “no,” you are letting others use you.

What if they are late all the time or not reliable in other ways that are important to you? Their car is dirty. Their house is a mess. They wear jeans when you’ve invited them to a special event – a party, or to meet your friends or family. Have a discussion with them. Understand their point of view and share yours.

The point of dating is to find out if you are a great (not perfect) match and can love the things that you don’t like about them.


What if a family member, such as your partner or child, has promised to help you prepare dinner and clean up and then is too tired to keep their promise? The photo above tells it all! How do you create the opening for them to see their partnership is critical to the family and you? Create a conversation where you come to mutual agreement about each person’s role so it is workable, and no one has an unfair burden.

Imagine you are in a vacation house with several adult family members. You’re an excellent cook so they asked you to make dinner the first night. If you all agreed to share the cooking effort for a family vacation, then it’s someone else’s turn for the rest of the dinners. If they want you to cook more and you want to relax, just say “No thank you. We all agreed that we would each cook a meal. I cooked last night. I’m done cooking. Who is going to make dinner tonight?” If they say, “Will you please make your special pasta dish,” will you give in and say “Thanks. OK…, I’ll do it.” or will you hold the boundary and say, “Thanks. And the way you learn to cook is to do it. It’s your turn.”


Think about this: Others teach you how they want to be treated. You must teach people how you want to be treated, too. You can start today. Tell them how you feel.  Tell them what you need. Be kind. Both people can negotiate – there doesn’t have to be only one person who gets what they want!

Be persistent in clarifying what you want and what works. Be kind about it. If you have particular requirements, review what they are doing regularly to ensure it meets your needs. Check-in after they complete each step if you have specific requirements that must be met.

When you are doing something for them, be sure you are clear that what you are doing meets their needs. And if they don’t check in with you, and you have any concerns, check-in with them before the delivery date. How they know that they must check in weekly or regularly is to set times to meet and immediately check in with them if they miss. We teach people to keep their promises or we teach them their promises don’t matter. What lesson are you teaching them?


If you want support to set and hold a boundary, and you are ready to take action and don’t have a mentor or a coach, I invite you to explore my Boundaries Quiz so that we can set up a call to go over results.

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