How to say NO without feeling guilty

Learning to say no is a powerful skill. Of course saying yes is more fun but when we are trying to juggle all the things modern life throws at us from child care to office politics, then it’s essential we admit to ourselves that there’s a limit to how much we can do in a day, and that our days are already full.

Starting to say NO more often is like giving your life a mini declutter. Whether it's being realistic and saying no to something you want to do but just don't have the time for or saying no to things you don't want to do - it's time to create some space.

Here’s the thing, saying YES is not only fun, but it’s easy. We often say yes to things because we think our future self can handle it, I mean, you’re husband will be able to look after the kids that night or you’ll be able to book the day off work right?

Saying YES to happiness means saying no to people or things that don’t serve you.

So just how do you say no? Here are 5 ways to say no without feeling guilty…

Just come out with it.

There’s no point in beating around the bush or thinking about excuses. You need to just say no. If you delay, stall or come up with a reason why you can’t this time, then you’re just providing another opening for that person to ask. Provide a brief (and we mean brief) explanation if you really need to but don’t feel compelled to do so. Sometimes less is more.

Remain polite.

Just because you’re saying no, it doesn’t mean you have to be rude about it. Stay polite and maybe say “I’m sorry, I can’t right now but I’ll let you know when I can” - which will change the whole dynamic of the question. Or “I really appreciate you asking but I have too much on my plate at this moment in time”. You’re being direct, honest and remaining civil.

Try to stick with this 3-point formula when it comes to saying no with grace…

  • Start with a compliment
  • Give your answer
  • Thank the person asking

Be firm.

Saying no can be uncomfortable, and often the people asking the question know it. So when you’ve made your decision, stand by it. If the other person can’t respect your decision then it’s time to evaluate where they sit in your life. Don’t ever say yes because you feel uncomfortable.

Don’t lie!

You may think that you’re protecting someone’s feelings by making up a lie to cover why you don’t want to (or can’t) do something but lying will mean you really do have something to be guilty about. Plus, usually when you lie to get out of something, you have to follow that lie up.

For example if you say you can’t attend a party because your in-laws are visiting, the likelihood is that you’re going to be asked how that visit went. Or you’re going to have to spend the whole time making sure none of your family post on social media so that you won’t get caught out.

Lying will only increase the pain of saying no.

You know, it’s OK to be selfish.

It’s not a bad thing to put your needs first. We are running extremely busy lives and we can’t always put other people ahead of ourselves. If you prioritise someone else's needs over your own then you’re going to find resentment will start to mount up and your own life will start to suffer.

No is one of the shortest words in the English language but it’s also the most difficult for us to say. Saying no doesn’t make you selfish, rude or unkind, it just means that you’re setting your own limits.

How easy do you find it to say no?