Fear Of Saying “No” – OCD and Assertive Communication

Does saying “no” make you feel anxious and guilty?

Well, I guess you are not alone. I have always found it very difficult to say “no” and I am not sure whether it has anything to do with my Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, but there is one thing that I know: saying “no” can make you feel terrible, especially when you have to say it to a person that you love and you really do not want to hurt.

And saying “no” is not the only thing that is difficult to do, but sometimes it can be challenging to state your opinion. Either because you’re afraid of hurting others or either because you’re afraid that others may think you are stupid.

But how could we overcome this feeling? How could we express ourselves and say “no” without hurting others?

The answer is: Assertive Communication

If you say that this sounded clichée, I will totally agree with you. I still remember the first time when I heard people talking about assertive communication and I thought it was some kind of “corporate bullshit”. But learning more about it made me realize that it is a very important thing.

First of all: What is Assertive Communication?

It is a way of expressing your thoughts, feelings and needs in an open and honest way. While respecting your and other people’s rights.

Sounds beautiful, does it not?

Why is Assertive Communication important?

There are a lot of books, websites and training courses that talk about assertive communication. So instead of giving the standard answer to this question, I would rather share my own experiences with you.

I have always been a very social and outgoing person so I have never had difficulties with talking to people but one thing that has always been very hard for me is saying “no”. Obviously, it is not the actual word that is difficult for me to pronounce but I am terribly afraid of hurting others and if someone asks me a favor, it will be almost impossible for me to tell them that I wouldn’t be able to help.

And it is not only when people ask me to help them. But in general. Let’s say I have the flu and my friends call me to ask if I want to go out with them. Any sane person would say “no”, but not me. Because I am extremely afraid of hurting others. The only thing that I get wrong is that sometimes I can hurt others by constantly saying “yes” to everything. Because if I go out with flu, it might put other people in danger and because not being able to deliver on promises will make other people feel disappointed. For example when you tell your cousin you will help him with his homework but at the end you won’t be able to make it because you told other ten people that you would help them with other things. But then, it is difficult to say “no”.

What if my cousin will think that I do not love him enough? What if my friends think that I’m just being lazy?

Obviously, it is not something OCD specific but this is something that will definitely make your OCD worse because it will make you feel anxious and guilty.

When I was at high school, my “saying yes to everything” habit used to be much more okay, because I could actually deliver on all my promises – as I had a lot more free time. But since I started working, it has obviously gotten a lot more difficult. And oh yes, work: do not think that I behave differently at my workplace. I am the type of person who will say “yes” to every single incoming request.

Because what if they will fire me if I say no? What if they think that I am not competent enough? What if they think I am lazy?

Obviously these are lies that my OCD is telling me but at the end of the day, you can never know, can you? So, I usually end up with an amount of work that’s almost impossible to handle, with a lot of post-work activities (because I’ve agreed to attend every single event my friends invited to) and the only reason why I am still doing fine is that I have a very understanding manager and friends who know me pretty well…..

I have recently read an article about OCD and Social Scrupulosity that I can totally relate to: https://psychcentral.com/lib/ocd-and-social-scrupulosity/

How to communicate assertively?

So, assertive communication is about respecting your and other people’s rights but what are the other forms of communication? Not being able to say”no” is definitely not assertive but what would we call that type of communication?

Passive communication is when you communicate in a way that you only focus on what others’ need and when you only care about not hurting other people’s feelings. While focusing only on your needs during a conversation and ignoring what others think or how they feel would be called aggressive.

Express your opinions honestly

It’s absolutely okay to have a different opinion. I know it can be pretty challenging to tell people that you do not agree with them but the people who truly love you will not start to hate you only because you have a different opinion about something. On the contrary: having a different opinion will make you more interesting.

Say “I” instead of “We”

I am pretty sure that everyone who has worked in customer service has already heard this one. But saying “I” will make your whole message a lot more personal.

Stand Up For Yourself

Standing up for yourself does not mean that you are aggressive. I do not tell you to be selfish, but you should stop thinking that other people have more rights than you do. If you have OCD, it will be a pretty difficult thing to do because one of the main features of OCD is the feeling of guilt, but you really should not feel guilty for standing up for yourself!

Learn To Say No

It is an extremely important thing to do and as I have mentioned above, I am still working on it. And it’s not only for your own sake, but also for others. If you always say “yes” to everything, it is very likely that you will not be able to deliver on all your promises. And failing to deliver on your promises will make you feel even more guilty and it will also make other people feel disappointed – and this is exactly the thing that you’re afraid of, are you not?

Watch your tone and your body language

According to Albert Mehrabian’s communication model, only 7% of what we communicate consists of the literal content of the actual message. Our tone of voice such as tone, intonation and volume, take up 38% and as much as 55% of communication consists of body language: such as gestures and facial expressions.
Pretty interesting, is it not? Even if you do not agree with someone, you will still be able to have a nice conversation with them: you just have to watch your tone and your body language.

Assert Yourself

Assertive Communication is a hot topic and there are a lot of interesting articles about it. So let me share a couple of them with you:

More about OCD?

Your Experiences

As you know, there’s one more thing that I love more than writing my stories: reading yours. So please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section.



8 thoughts on “Fear Of Saying “No” – OCD and Assertive Communication

  1. Hi Mark !
    Learning to say ‘no’ is difficult for all of us to learn, but it gets easier with practise.
    As you say, often we can be anxious about hurting another’s feelings, but we are not responsible for others’ feelings.
    Thanks for sharing this valuable post on assertive communication.
    We all are happier when we are assertive. 🤗


    1. Hi Sally,

      It is very difficult indeed. What helped me a lot was learning how to say “no” without actually pronouncing the word “no” itself.
      And also realizing that I hurt other people more by saying yes and then not being able to do what I have promised I’d do.
      Thank you for reading! 🙂




      1. Hi Mark ! I so agree with you. We hurt people more when we say “yes”, and then can’t follow through. Saying “no” when we need to is part of self-nurturing. As we continue to learn what nurtures us, and what stresses us, we grow in wellness. Stressors are individual for all of us. For me, I become very stressed when forced to rush. Other people thrive in a busy atmospbere. Thanks for sharing your valuable blog. 🤗

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hi Sally,

        Yes 😦 I have hurt a lot of people by not saying no…that is exactly why I am forcing myself to be more assertive. And indeed, what stresses us is different for everyone. for example, i have always enjoyed being in a rush.

        thank you very much for reading my blog and thank you for sharing yours ❤




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