Elton got it wrong. "Sorry" isn't always the hardest word; "no" can be pretty tough too. If your schedule is always overflowing, it's probably worth getting reacquainted with this two-letter word. If you find it hard to say no to extra work, too often cave into your kids' demands or find your social diary cluttered with people that they don’t actually like, you could be one life's people pleasers.

Of course wanting to make people happy is not an intrinsically negative quality - but it's important to train yourself to be less sensitive to other people's needs and more aware of your own. That way you'll stay in balance - and in control.

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  • Be Self-Aware

    Acknowledging your tendency to say "yes" is the an important stepping stone to the brave new world that puts you in control. "The first step is becoming aware of damaging behaviours," advises behaviour analyst <a href="http://drfullerstherapytips.wordpress.com/about/" target="_hplink">Dr Kathleen Fuller</a>, "with this awareness as the golden key for change".

  • Buy Yourself Some Time

    "If you’re uncomfortable being so firm, or are dealing with pushy people, it’s OK to say, “Let me think about it and get back to you”", advises wellness coach <a href="http://stress.about.com/bio/Elizabeth-Scott-M-S-17577.htm" target="_hplink">Elizabeth Scott</a>.This gives you a chance to review your schedule and helps avoid getting pressured into taking on too much without thinking through the implications.

  • Don't Say Yes Just Because You Are Free

    If you need a night off, say no. We have a tendency to think that it's not socially acceptable to say that you can’t do something because you’re not busy. But it should be.

  • Honesty Is The Best Policy

    Don't fabricate reasons to get out of an obligation, <a href="http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stress-relief/SR00039/NSECTIONGROUP=2" target="_hplink">says the Mayo Clinic.</a> "The truth is always the best way to turn down a friend, family member or co-worker." Making up an excuse is always more stressful in the long-run. It's best to face the music straight away...

  • Take Guilt Out Of The Equation

    "Don't agree to a request you would rather decline because of feelings of guilt or obligation", <a href="http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stress-relief/SR00039/NSECTIONGROUP=2" target="_hplink">advises the Mayo Clinic</a>. "Doing so will likely lead to additional stress and resentment."

  • Politely Decline The Debretts Way

    At a loss for words? If all else fails, do as QE2 would do. According to <a href="http://www.debretts.com/etiquette/communication/written/invitations/official-invitations/official-replies.aspx" target="_hplink">Debretts, the authority on correct etiquette</a>, reply on "good-quality cream or white writing paper". The etiquette aficionados offer the following sample reply: "Lord and Lady White thank the Master of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers for his kind invitation for Saturday, 12 February, which they much regret being unable to accept." Copy. Edit. Send.