Have you ever thought about this? Do you over-explain something when you are saying no to a request, or to an intrusive question? Did you know that you do not have to explain your thoughts to someone simply because they asked? And that the tendency to do this typically occurs with someone we care about, or someone that has power over us? Learning this is crucial to your ability to set a clear and healthy boundary.


Do you over-explain?

When you want or need to say no to someone, the best way to do so is to say it up front, without procrastination, in a way that the other has a chance of hearing. That means presenting it without excuses, yet in a voice tone that conveys respect for the listener. Ther hardest part of this is staying grounded if they happen to have a big emotional response. If you are communicating with a person who tends to be highly emotional, angry, or condescending, it can be a special challenge to find your courage. Avoidance is so much easier, but it doesn’t get the job done. It leaves you accepting something that goes against your values. Holding steady and staying grounded is a skill that comes with practice, like any skill. This skill has a name: self differentiation.

Healthy Self Differentiation And Over-Explaining

Healthy self differentiation is a 50 cent term that means you have a true grasp on what it is you want and/or need, or it’s opposite, what you don’t want or dislike. You must be able to successfully communicate those wants/needs, and stay grounded if you get a response filled with emotion. When you do, it helps tremendously to to stay ‘still’ and see if you can hear what is under the person’s emotions. If you can do that, you can address it. And if you can do this, your person will feel like you get them, that you truly hear and understand them. And really, that is all any of us want.

One way to understand this is by looking at someone you have observed give a clear, easy to understand “no” and ask yourself if it actually increased your respect for them. I have a good friend who is a master at this. She is warm and compassionate, and a good communicator, but rarely does things that she does not want to do.

A Key Area That Invites Over-Explaining

If you have adult children that ask you repeatedly for help in the form of money, living space, or that feel emotionally demanding/chaotic, as a parent you may feel guilty (although I would posit that this is a form of shame, not guilt) when you want to say no to the latest ask. You may have said yes so many times, the “new no” is much more difficult to address. It is behaviorally tough to endure the response, and implement the change, because the emotional blowback can be harsh. It’s not too different from a toddler’s loud protests when they have been allowed to stay up late and watch TV, and you need to get them on a better bedtime schedule. Unless you happen to be dealing with someone that has a mental health diagnosis, it can be true that we often we have created our own little monsters.

The ‘new no’ can be tough to implement.

Who Tends To Over-Explain?

Sometimes people who find it difficult to say no are pleasers, and they may have an insecure or avoidant style of attachment learned in childhood as a matter of their own survival in their birth family. This can definitely be overcome when you become more aware it is what you are doing. Another stopper can be when you experience social anxiety, and operate by the fear of what others may think of you. That is a truly painful way to live that kills both opportunity and joy.

If you recognize yourself in these descriptions, a good therapist can help you increase your awareness., and change this habitual tendency, or perhaps increase your ability to withstand the fear while you learn to get better at this skill. You can start slowly–there is no need to decide it is an all or nothing proposition. Contact me here if this is a need you have. Once you learn how to manage this, you wan’t believe how empowering it is!