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Saying NO to Emotional Manipulators

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Saying “no” to people comes very easily to some and is nearly impossible for others.

I have found that many people with  C-PTSD have trouble saying no.  If you were brought up in a mentally or otherwise abusive childhood, saying “NO,” may be associated with severe consequences to you.

If you lived with a parent that had narcissistic personality disorder or borderline personality disorder, then they probably used confusion tactics on you, to the point where there was “no” way to say no to them.

Gaslighting can confuse our ability to trust ourselves and our perceptions.

It may be difficult to tell what situations that “NO,” would be perfectly okay, and what situations where saying no, would really cause a problem.

If you grew up in an environment where your feelings and thoughts were not considered relevant, then you probably feel that your feeling of wanting to say no, just does not count. Even though the same person may say “No” to you all the time, you do not feel that you have the same right to say no, that they do.

If you were even in an abusive situation where disobeying meant punishment , then you probably have a fear of retaliation from others.  There is an anxiety response triggered by saying no and  refusing to comply with another person’s request.


Triggers are very real and the tendency is to want to avoid feeling the bodily sensations  associated with them. Ignoring triggers and going against our conditioned responses, is a very difficult thing to do.


You are allowed to set personal boundaries for yourself. You can also set boundaries for certain people that you do not want crossed.

You can set boundaries in regards to your emotions, your time, your energy, your work and your social interactions. You can set boundaries in regards to dating, doing work for people and doing favors for people.

You can set boundaries about your personal space and your personal items. 

 Any situation where someone is trying to get you to do something by using your emotions against you, is a situation where your boundaries need to come into play.  

Sometimes people do not accept your simple NO or your reasons for saying NO. They try to convince you be making you feel guilty or by shaming you. 

They are trying to use your good and caring personality against you.

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They want you to feel bad and they do this by intentionally pushing whatever buttons they know you have. If they know that you want to feel like you are cooperative they will call you uncooperative.

If they know that you have helped them many times in the past, they will lie and tell you that they do not remember the last time you did them any favors.

Don’t fall for these manipulative behaviors. If someone feels the need to make you feel guilty in order to do them a favor, then they really do not deserve the favor.

People should accept No, especially if you have perfectly good reasons for saying no, even if the reason is that you just do not feel comfortable doing it or do not want to do it.

Here is a list of ways to say NO…


No, thank you.

No, I really cannot do that.

No, I do not want to do that.

No, I am not interested in that.

No, I cannot find time in my schedule to do that.

 No, I am just too overloaded right now, to do that.

No, I am not interested in doing that.  

No, you go ahead without me.

No, please ask someone else.

No, I do not have to think about it.  I would rather tell you NO right now.

I said no. Please respect my answer

If you have a history with this person that tells you that they will counter any reasons you give them for saying No, then you can try something like this..

“In the past my giving reasons for my No, seems to have just been an opening for someone to tell me the reasons are not good enough or to dispute my reasons in some way. So this time I am going to say simply No without going over my reasons with you. “

If they refuse to accept your “no”, then you still do not have to do what they want just to make them stop complaining.

 Just because they are going to upset that you told them “no”,  does not mean that you are responsible for their feelings. As long as you were not intentionally trying to hurt their feelings, then you did not cause for them to feel bad.

If someone  is an adult then they are responsible for their own feelings. Much of the time, manipulative people are acting when they get dramatic with you. They can be very dramatic about how disappointed they are in you or about how selfish they think you are.

These are more reasons not to tell them  “yes”  every time they demand something from you. The more times they are able to manipulate you, the more they will resort to the same tactics over and over again. 

**Please note that this article is not talking about partner relationships where the person will physically abuse you or will otherwise punish you for saying no. Those relationships are volatile and should be escaped as soon as possible but I never recommend to ignite retaliation in a severely abusive person.

It is designed more for situations where you are in no immediate danger  or impending danger.

This article is also not a recommendation to tell your boss no to doing work, thus risking your job. If your boss is abusive it is a different topic and must be handled with a different strategy that is not discussed in this post.

6 thoughts on “Saying NO to Emotional Manipulators”

  1. Saying ‘No’ has always meant, for me, being attacked. Sometimes emotionally. Sometimes Physically. Even to this day, saying ‘No’ has very heavy consequences.

    I try to pick my battles though. As long as I’m financially dependent, I have to keep the peace. At least, for my children’s sake. They don’t need to see that kind of crazy.

    That all changes VERY soon though. we will be out of here faster than we know, and you better believe I’ll be saying no till I’m blue in the face. LOL (not really that much)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, you are right. Do not do anything to upset him and make him retaliate. The saying NO methods are better for people dealing with in laws, adults with narcissistic parents, and someone you are newly dating to see if they accept No for an answer or if you need to walk.
      I hope you can get out. I know how hard it can be, especially when kids are involved, and that when you are financially dependent they will use that against you.
      Sending you peaceful energies,

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks! It’s actually not my husband. He and I don’t live together anymore. It’s my situation now- where I had to go to when my husband abandoned us and left the kids & I destitute that is the problem.
        But I will be out of here soon. So, I’m just sucking it up until then. Crazy how once you recognize one narc in your life, you start to see all the others that kind of “cultivated” your ability to attract an endless number of them.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I understand. I am living in a similarly disturbing situation with pathological people who are controlling, cruel and continually underminung my ability to get on my feet so can leave. At this point I have to keep my bank accounts, the amount of money I make and my mail away from them. They will open mail,,,etc.
      When my brother in law gave me his car, they tried to take it away from me and put it in their name, so they could control over how and if I could get to work and threaten my job, to manipulate me. I have to keep the car title. and registration hidden and not in the glove compartment of the car. I have to keep my car keys hidden, because they took them once and took the car when needed to get to work.
      They came back with the car and said I had to put it in their name now, because they got the oil changed.

      They said since they “have to” take care of “car repairs” they should be allowed to have the title in their name. I never asked them…nor would I have asked them…to get my oil changed. They took it when I was sleeping in the morning.

      It is horrible living with people like this. I feel for you. And I know what you mean about arguing with them . You have to pretend to comply as best as possible because they will retaliate. They would take my bunny away or have my car towed or something awful.

      I hope you can get out soon…with your brain in tact,

      Much love

      Liked by 1 person

    3. The same tactics, the same feeling of entitlement, refusing to respect you as an independent adult with rights to make your own choices, grade-school bullying tactics…..all the same Playbook. ….


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