If you can’t say No, you can’t say Yes.

I’m talking about boundaries. I’ve been reading a lot about this lately and I have a lot to learn.

It’s a paradox that good relationships have clear boundaries. The people in them are clear about what they will and won’t tolerate and what they will and won’t do.

Why it’s good for relationships

It sounds weird that boundaries are good for relationships. At first it sounds like more walls and less closeness. But it’s not.

Consider this: if you’re not communicating what you want and don’t want, you’re not communicating how you feel. If that’s the case, you are not close to the other person because they don’t really know you.

Know yourself

In order to be clear about what’s ok you have to know yourself pretty well. That means you notice when you feel that sinking feeling. If there’s a metaphorical foot on your windpipe it means you “don’t wanna, you don’t like it, you want it to stop”.

On the other side of things, if you get a warm-hearted free feeling then it’s a full-hearted “yes!”.

Notice your physical symptoms. Notice the warm feelings and the heavy ones. Find out what your personal feelings are. Learn what they mean.

Boundaries are fences with gates

As I understand it, good boundaries are fences with gates, not high brick walls. They allow other people to know how you like to be treated.


I suspect it’s pretty common to care about others and to try to anticipate what they need. If it comes out as courtesy and kindness, it’s healthy. Where it’s not so good is when it’s done in fear. If it’s people-pleasing based in fear, it’s not a good thing. Or if the motivation is “fixing” another person. Not so good.

It can be common to live life anticipating each other instead of connecting. But really knowing each other causes connection and a sense of safety that is never achieved through compliance.

Connecting honestly

Connecting with boundaries and honesty is risky. It might shake things up and rock the boat but it’s the only way to build a stable foundation.

We all have a right to be counted equally in our relationships. When we don’t use that right we aren’t really participating. Going through the motions isn’t being good to those you love. Tell them “No” sometimes so you can also say a full-hearted “yes!”. And when you say what you mean and you mean what you say people trust you.

I’m practising saying a few more “No’s” so I can also say “Yes!”. I want a life built on honesty. That needs to start with me.


When you stand up for yourself and your priorities you feel protected. The “should” word starts to lose it’s sting. You protect your time to write, or sing, or sleep, or dream, or dance. You protect your time and your life. And when you give, you give willingly, with your whole heart.