Most of the clients who seek out my advice as a professional intuitive are empathic or highly sensitive. Because these folks can more easily sense the energy and emotions of others, they can just as easily fall into people-pleasing if they don’t create healthy boundaries. Here are some polite ways of saying “no” in a compassionate way to loved ones, coworkers or anyone else in your life.
1. Practice giving your refusal ahead of time.
Highly sensitive people or HSPs often suffer from anticipatory stress. Minimize this by doing a dress rehearsal of saying “no” in your mind, or even out loud with a friend. This is especially helpful if the person who wants your “yes” is coming to you with a big ask—like a raise. When you have time to practice your refusal, it gives you the opportunity to discern how to phrase this “no” in loving language.
2. Ask for some space to think it over so your “no” is firm.
Whether it’s a big ask like letting a family member move in with you or a smaller ask like watching someone’s pet for the weekend, asking for space gives you time to feel strong and grounded about your “no.” Saying “no” with love doesn’t work as well if you are wishy-washy. Sending mixed signals or giving someone false hope can create extra drama and hurt feelings.
3. Let someone know why you needed to say “no.”
Give the other person a look into the reasoning behind your “no.” If they are pitching you a creative project and you had to say “no,” this could be a teachable moment for them that helps them better prepare their pitch for the next person. Offering someone knowledge or a lesson is an act of love.
4. Remind people that your “no” is not a reflection of the way you feel about them.
You might love your child more than anything in the world, but not have the financial resources to pay for their college education or wedding. Sometimes we would say “yes” in a heartbeat if we could, but we have to put our own needs, like financial wellness, first.
5. Believe that saying “no” can be a great act of love or moment of grace for someone else.
If someone in your life is an addict, or needs to find a bottom with a certain self-sabotaging pattern, a “no” from you could build resilience in this person or point them in a new, healthier direction. This is what some might call “tough” love. Or maybe you are not the ideal person for the asker to marry, for example, and your “no” helps them eventually find a soul mate.
6. Let someone know you would like to be there for them in other ways.
Part of your “no” might be mentioning other ways you can be of assistance, or you could just let this person know that you are open to other ideas about how to be of assistance. This will make the asker feel cared for and important.