It’s Ok to Say No Even If You Feel a Little Guilty: 8 Tips to Make it Easier
Have you ever had that moment where you stand back and say, “What have I gotten myself into?” Most of the time it’s because we said yes to something we should have said no to in the first place. I’m here to tell you it’s ok to say no.
And why is it that toddlers have the easiest time saying “no” to EVERYTHING when we sometimes can’t say no to anything?
It all started with trying to brush my 2-year-old’s teeth. He’s getting to that “age” where he’s starting to form his own opinions. If I make a request he doesn’t like, it’s usually a resounding “NO.”
I teach 150 twelve-year-olds. Every day. And most of them are boys.
And we’re in the throes of “toddlerhood” here at home.
But I’m not feeling overwhelmed.
I’m also like any other normal mom at home. I still meal plan and cook dinner every night. Do loads of laundry. And try to keep a balanced budget.
I should have a head full of gray hair and communicating only with the occasional nod before I have my first cup of coffee.
But I’m not.
Before you jump to conclusions: No, I’m not Wonder Woman, and no, I don’t relive college days by pulling all-nighters.
So What’s My Secret?
I rely on a pretty simple trick that helps me keep my sanity during this busy stage of life.
It’s taken me awhile to figure out the best tricks to keep the overwhelm at bay. I read a lot and am always wanting to find ways to reduce the stress and still get everything done.
My secret you ask?
I’ve learned it’s ok to say no.
Here’s What I Realized
When I was saying yes to everyone else, I was saying no to things that were really important to me.
There’s always a trade-off.
- I didn’t stop and ponder the sparkly rock my toddler was bending down to pick up. What am I cooking for dinner tonight?
- I missed taking a pause in reading bedtime stories to notice my oldest cuddling up next to me. How much longer is this chapter book?
- I didn’t enjoy the 15 blissful minutes where the toddler was playing with his dumped out cars – alone. Ugh, how long is it going to take to clean those cars up this time?
Most of the time we hear how crucial it is to say no when it comes to business.
But knowing the importance of saying no in life can hold an even greater impact.
Why We’re Not Always Perfect
We aren’t born being people pleasers, just ask my toddler.
He’s really good at saying no. Usually with much emphasis.
But we do tend to become people pleasers as we age.
No one likes the feeling of being impolite to someone when they have to tell them no.
That someone doesn’t even have to be a person. FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) anyone?
There’s a constant need for our attention: social media and keeping up with friends, laundry, the projects on our to-do list.
When we’re caught up in the whirlwind of life, our resolve for saying no becomes weaker and weaker.
Here’s The Thing
I didn’t want life to toss me around like a rag doll while I just waited to be put down again at some point in the future.
That point in the future was never going to arrive. Research shows that we believe we will be less busy and have more time in the future, but this just isn’t the case.
So, I started saying no to people and things (even my boss) – and I’m still learning.
It’s Ok to Say No
The next time you feel the need to make a 5-course meal for dinner, RSVP to every party invitation from your kid’s classmates, or say yes to what everyone else is doing, try these tips for how to say no without feeling guilty.
1 | Be True to Yourself
Find your WHY. When you keep your why at the top of your mind, it will help you decide whether the request for your time is worth it.
Only you know your schedule best and if and when a new commitment will fit. Value your precious time because it’s not unlimited.
For me, I value time with my family above everything else, so it’s become a non-negotiable.
What’s your why? Do your commitments align with it?
2 | Refuse the Request, Not the Person
Most people feel rude or like the other person making the request will get angry if we say no. We don’t want to disappoint anyone. We might even feel this way when we’re learning to say no to friends.
But as with everything else, you have to remember that it’s ultimately up to you in what you fit into your schedule. When you say yes to one thing, you’re saying no to something else.
Letting the person know their opportunity sounds awesome, but that it’s not a good fit for you is one of the best ways to be sincere while saying no.
3 | Find a Compromise
There are times when we really want to say yes, but there’s something about the request that doesn’t work for us. Maybe it’s the timing, the time involved, or even the topic.
Either way, a compromise usually makes everyone happy. You can say, “I’d love to help with a party this month, but I already have this such-and-such commitment. What about next month?”
Maybe your boss is asking you to do something extra. Remember, it’s ok to say no to your boss too.
You can reframe their request by saying, “I’d love to help you out, but I have these other projects on my to-do list. How do you want me to prioritize them so I can give each one the proper attention to be successful?”
Warning, make sure you’re still being true to yourself and not just saying yes because you feel pressured.
Because inevitably when the time comes to follow through with your yes, the timing is all off and you wish you hadn’t said yes in the first place.
4 | Don’t Beat Around the Bush
I’ve found that when I’m open and honest about my thoughts and feelings that the person responds positively and is able to see the request through my eyes.
When you beat around the bush, the person may try to take advantage of your weakness and hound you for a yes.
It’s like when our kids ask and ask for something, and we finally cave just to have a moment of peace and quiet.
Parents, it’s ok to say to no to your child, even beneficial for them to learn that they can’t have everything they want. Acceptance is a life skill our kids must learn.
Adults aren’t much different when asking something of us. Repetition is still a successful marketing strategy. Just watch TV for an hour. 🙂
5 | Don’t Answer Right Away
Sleep on it. Most of the time in the moment we don’t have all the information we need to fully realize the scope of a request whether it’s from a friend or boss.
It’s easy enough to say, “Can I think about it and get back to you?”
If that person pressures you or doesn’t respect your time to think, be firm in your decision and don’t give in when you feel uncomfortable.
You can even say, “I need to consult my spouse” or “I don’t have my calendar with me.”
I use this tip a lot when it comes to saying no to product-type parties. With my family taking priority, I simply don’t have time for extra parties.
So, taking time to ponder will allow you to really think about the situation and prepare a no if needed.
6 | Don’t Apologize for Saying No
When we have our goals and priorities set for ourselves, they become a compass that helps point us north and saying no becomes easier and easier.
By stating the why behind your no as it relates to your priorities gives the person very little room for argument.
You are the only guardian of your time and how you spend it can have long-lasting effects.
One of my favorite quotes is from author Annie Dillard:
“How we spend our days, is of course, how we spend our lives.”
We shouldn’t let others’ priorities become our own.
7 | Keep Doors Open
One thing we don’t want to do is burn any bridges even if we have to say no. The easiest way is to solve this is to think of a sandwich. You sandwich your no between two yeses.
Here’s a script:
The Compliment – “I’m so honored you’d think of me.” or “That’s an amazing idea.”
The No – “I can’t at this time because of XYZ.”
The Compliment – “Thanks again for thinking of me.” or “Keep me in mind for next time and maybe my schedule will allow for it.”
When you place your no between more appealing words, it sometimes softens the no for the person on the receiving end. It also leaves room for the relationship to stay intact.
8 | Repeat No, If Needed
You’ll always have those people who have more determination than anyone else on earth. With those kinds of people, we may have to repeat our no a million and one times.
There’s nothing wrong with having to repeat yourself. The trick comes in keeping up our strength on their hundredth ask.
But you can do it! Keep your WHY imprinted on your brain.
Whether your why is as simple as wanting to spend more time with your family or some bigger goal of accomplishing a dream, Warren Buffett says it best:
“The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything.”
The desires of our hearts should be the motivation we need to live a life we love.
What are you saying no to in order to make room for less overwhelm in your life?
And remember, it’s ok to say no.
Even if we have to say no to family and friends.
Now It’s Your Turn
I want to hear from you. When was the last time you said no to something even though you may have felt a little guilty? Leave a comment below.
Hi, I’m Heather: boymom, avid learner of cultivating a life you love, and teacher of simplifying to make room for your passions. I help moms reduce their stress and learn how to juggle all the moving parts of life. Grab my FREE checklist of tips to bring out the best in you.