How To Start Saying 'No' More Often When The World Expects A 'Yes'

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embarrassed looking woman with hand over her mouth

Expectations — everyone has them for you and about you. You have them for you and about you. But where do they come from?

Learning how to say "no" to these expectations will take you a long way. If you grew up in a normal home, there was probably a lot of "shoulds" given to you.

"You should be seen and not heard."

"Boys should not cry."

"Girls should behave like little ladies."

These "shoulds" continue to permeate our lives as adults.

"You should get out more, you spend too much time by yourself!"

"You should get online and meet someone."

"You don’t have any kids at home, you should stay late to help out."

"You shouldn’t work so much! When do you even see your kids?"

You get the picture.

RELATED: Why Learning To Say 'No' Is The Most Important Part Of Self-Love

Suddenly, it feels like you're simply saying "yes" to the world instead of deciding for yourself.

And once these ideas are in your brain, it can be particularly challenging to define what you want without being influenced by what you think other people want from you.

And learning how to say "no" is tough!

You do not want to let people down or disappoint people. You want to be seen as loving, caring, grateful, and helpful.

You need to know that you're definitely loving, caring, grateful, and helpful! But, you're also exhausted due to all this conditioning. You're saying "yes" to others when you would rather say "no."

How do you get comfortable saying "no" when everyone is expecting a "yes"?

Here are 3 steps to learn how to say "no" honestly more often. 

1. Start small.

Look at your calendar on Saturday for the following week. Is there some activity which you would rather not do? Decline it. Just one.

Bonus: Take that time and do something you would like to do for yourself. Read a book. Watch a show. Play with your kids. Hit the gym. Stare into space. Take a nap. Do you.

Reward yourself for taking care of your own needs first.

RELATED: This Is How I Stopped Letting Everyone Treat Me Like A Doormat ( & Started Saying 'No')

2. Do not explain yourself.

You owe no one an explanation of your "no." Humans are all very self-focused creatures. The reality is that most people are not thinking about you as much as you think they are, because they're thinking of themselves.

Most people will move on from your "no" without much of a thought. Let them.

Note: Not explaining yourself can become more challenging the closer the relationship is.

Remember, you teach people how to treat you. Be firm in not explaining yourself, but don't make a big deal out of it.

If the other person does, a quick remark of, "Why are you so hung up on this?" can work wonders.

No one wants to be called out as hung up on whether you will make it to virtual book club this month.

3. Do a root cause analysis.

This sounds like work, but this is what it means: You get into a pattern of saying "yes" to others and ignoring your own desires because, on some level, it serves you to do so.

This seems counterintuitive, but it's true. An example of this is seeking the approval of others.

Perhaps, when you were younger, you got the impression that to be liked or admired or gain attention, you had to be agreeable.

Being agreeable and "going with the flow" meant that you would have someone to sit with at lunch, or you would get invited to the party.

Something good would happen if you just said "yes" — so you prioritized saying "yes!"

But, you're an adult now and the same strategies for keeping yourself safe and cared for are not as effective.

Take some time to think about what you might be gaining from your current behavior and what other ways you could give yourself the same affirmation.

Following these steps is a great way to start incorporating more "nos" into your life. It will not work every time and that's OK.

There will be times where you still end up saying "yes" when you would rather say "no" because life is rarely so black and white.

But with a little practice, you will be making those decisions consciously and with reason, not just to meet others’ expectations of you.

RELATED: Why You Need To Set Boundaries And Learn To Say "No"

Amy Bracht is a certified life coach and PSYCH-K(tm) facilitator specializing in client transformations. For more information, visit her website.