Lessons for Leaders 45: How to Set Healthy Boundaries and Say No

Mar 11, 2021 | Lessons for Leaders

How to Set Healthy Boundaries and Say No

So many people talk to me about boundaries and have difficulty setting them   The reality is that if you struggle to say no to people or to have conversations where you need to point out difficulties or draw the line about what’s acceptable and not acceptable, then you’re going to have people walk all over you.

So many people talk to me about healthy boundaries and have difficulty setting them.

The reality is that if you struggle to say no to people or to have conversations where you need to point out difficulties or draw the line about what’s acceptable and not acceptable, then you’re going to have people walk all over you.

But the reality is that if we end up saying yes when we really don’t want to, don’t have time, or any other reason, then we end up feeling resentful, we’re repeatedly programming ourselves that our feelings, time, our priorities don’t matter.  Are we really saying that we don’t matter?  I hope not, but sometimes perhaps we are.

The Mayo clinic has done research that concludes that saying no can help to reduce your stress levels and increase your happiness.  

Reframe How You Think About Boundaries

Saying no isn’t mean or selfish, it’s about rethinking that and recognising that you’re honouring commitments you already have.

You’re setting expectation and setting out what’s ok and what’s not ok for you too.

I like to say boundaries create respect.

Listen to where I talk about how boundaries can enable you to create time to pursue other interests.

Say No to Working All Hours

So my interpretation of this is that it’s OK to say – I’ll respond during the hours of x and y.

When you set your working hours, publicise them, tell people about them.

Draw a line through your diary.  Whether that’s for a weekend, holiday or just a lunch break or other time when you know you need to concentrate without interruptions .. put a line through your diary.   Then you can have a simple phrase … I don’t have availability at that time.  I don’t have availability that week.

Be Factual When Setting Healthy Boundaries

It’s not personal, it’s work. If you’re on social media or in groups, clearly set out when you are available.  Tell people what you expect from them and what is not acceptable.  State this in your client calls or contracts too.

Communicating clearly includes learning to be comfortable saying NO to people. This is key to getting healthy boundaries.

Too much waffle and they will pick holes in what you’re saying. 

No excuses – you don’t really need to give an explanation, and often when there are excuses, you give people space to try and persuade you otherwise. 

No is complete a sentence.  Which I love.  Sometimes that’s all you need. That’s pretty concise!   But if you’re already feeling guilty or worrying about how No will be received, you’ll need a bit more help.

The podcast episode gives real life examples of how you can set healthy boundaries and say no with ease.

A word of caution though – be ready to have to repeat your no.

You’re going to have to repeatedly set your boundaries and say no to people who always want to push for a little more or to persuade you to do something.  It will take time for them to get the message.  

That doesn’t mean you’re not doing it properly, it just means they need to hear it more than once.

Saying no won’t be easy if you’re used to saying yes all the time. But learning to say no is an important part of simplifying your life and managing your stress. And with practice, you may find saying no gets easier.

Lessons for Leaders 45: How to Set Healthy Boundaries and Say No

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Emma Langton

Emma Langton

Executive Leadership Coach

Emma hosts the Lessons for Leaders podcast. Each week she brings you lessons, learnings, tips and advice to enable you to lead with ease in business, without stress, doubt and overwhelm so that I help you to increase your performance, be resilient and thrive in life. Emma has been providing coaching, training and therapeutic support for executives since setting up her business in 2011. Prior to that she spent over 20 years with people at the top of national and multi-national training and communication businesses.


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