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Do you always say yes, even when you mean no?


Have you ever found yourself agreeing to do someone a ‘favour’, taking on more at work, staying in a relationship you’re not satisfied with, going out when you’d rather stay in?

Most people would say yes to at least one of those things. So why do we do it?


Fundamentally humans are a social species. We like to belong to a group and feel accepted. Maslow called it a Need, Ways to Wellbeing call it Connecting. Bottom line is that we feel we need to belong and keep on the right side of people, doing things that we think they want us to do in order to maintain that ‘belonging’. Why? In a very primitive way, we do it because we want to stay safe. If I’m in a pack, I’m safe. I want to stay in it and have the backing of the group. If I do them a favour, they may do me one too – heck, they may even save my life (said the primal human).


Some people are expert at setting their boundaries and know when to say no; some will always say yes, whether or not they actually fulfil their pledge; others still will automatically say no. The 2 latter groups have learnt this habit and will have built a belief around this behaviour. Once the behaviour is practised a few times, the belief built…..wham bam…..the brain sets its programme and may now run on autopilot. The habit can be hard to notice, let alone break. Fear not, it can be broken with a new computer programmer forming new connections in the brain to link new beliefs to new actions.


Those of you who do set their boundaries and stick to them are probably the most sought after as not only do you make your own lives easier as you don’t waste time and energy deciding or regretting doing something, you also allow those around them to also set their boundaries in a safe place. If you establish a helpful practice, I can also do it and still fit into this particular pack, I still belong and you can still save my life later.


If you are like most other people, different situations and different people will trigger a different reaction in you. So, to help you set boundaries that you want and choose what you say yes to, follow these steps:


Firstly, raise your awareness of which specifics are problematic (eg with a partner)

Second, identify your underlying reason for saying yes (or no) in that situation (if I don’t they may leave me)

Thirdly, ask yourself ‘is that reason true?’ (maybe and maybe not – you don’t know, but if it is then that’s good information)

Lastly, experiment with something different and see what happens. You can always revert back if it’s not useful.


So, give it a go.


Spot it, stop it, choose!