How to Say NO without the Guilt

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Saying no is one of the hardest things for a people pleaser, and I know because I was a chronic one for many years. The guilt that would build up inside of me was unbearable and was completely soul crushing. As humans we like to be helpful, it’s a trait we all have. It feels good when we do it, so we like to offer it freely. However, there is a fine line between being overly helpful and knowing our boundaries instead of being taken advantage of because we don’t know how to say NO without the guilt.

Saying no is not about becoming a stuck-up bitch who never helps anyone ever again. We want to find the middle ground where we understand when we can help without feeling stressed and our limitations.

Pretty much saying no is about asserting your boundaries and if you want to do that with more ease head over to this article here >> Six Steps To Maintain And Set Boundaries With Ease

In my early 20’s I lived in a share house with the sweetest flatmate Kelly, she would do all the things for everyone! She was a ‘YES’ lady.

‘Hey Kel, could you give me a lift to the grocery store?’
‘Hey Kel, do you want to come out tonight?’
‘Hey Kel, can you help me for a few hours to finish up my work?’
‘Hey Kel, can you grab a carton of milk on your way home?’
‘Hey Kel, are you good to do overtime tonight?’
‘Hey Kel, do you want to stay in and have a party tonight?’
‘Hey Kel, can you pick us up a carton of beer?’
‘Hey Kel, can I borrow $10?”

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes….

One day in our kitchen I noticed how tired she was. I asked her what was going on. She was absolutely exhausted, as it turned out she was doing her job, helping her mum after work when she wasn’t doing overtime, plus running a thousand errands for us in the house and her friends. I continued to ask her, why do you do it?

Kel’s response was because she felt in debt to us as flatmates for living in such an amazing house and letting her live there. She felt she owed her mum because she was her mum. She liked her boss, so when it came to overtime she couldn’t say no because she didn’t want to let her down.

So we spoke about the power of saying ‘No’. A simple no, without the excuses.

Of course the next day I needed Kel’s help, and do you know what she said? ‘NO!’ It took me a minute to check myself but then I cheered her on for doing so. It was a bittersweet moment of course, but I got to watch Kel over the coming weeks shift her energy and step into her own power.

 

So Why Learn how to say NO?

When we continually say Yes to things we don’t really want, we are saying NO to ourselves. We are reconfirming that other people matter more than we do. And this pattern brings up a whole lot of junk. Feelings of resentment, comparison, avoidance cause real damage to our relationships.

Firstly, our relationship to self deteriorates because we are prioritising others needs over our own. We deny ourselves what we need, maybe a night in, instead of going out for drinks after work.

Secondly, our relationships with others because we have shifted our perception of the other person. Assuming the outcome of the situation we therefore change what we know would be beneficial to suit them. Over time relationships can strain when we are not honest about our needs and draw our boundaries. We end up carrying resentment towards them which changes how we act. Thus creating tension in the relationship.

 

Tools to help Saying No without the Guilt

Before we dive into the list below, it’s important to realize that while practicing any of the suggestions below that initially one will no doubt still feel guilt. Remember we are wired to want to help. Saying No without guilt is a practice, and the tools below are here to help us. Because after all, it is our social patterning that we need to address, it’s the reason why we feel we ‘should’ do something instead of doing it because we want to.

1. There is no need to explain yourself

We have all witnessed people talk about how they can’t do something for whatever reason and go on and on. Where instead a simple ‘no, sorry I can’t’ is actually enough. Practicing a no without an excuse is to help us build up our muscles, that it is okay to prioritise ourself. That we don’t need to justify or offer an explanation to someone else for our comings and goings.

Try: Thanks, but I’ll have to pass. Sorry, not today. No, thank you.

2. Give yourself more time to respond

It’s always those one-offs that catch us off guard that get us saying yes in an instant. In work environments, it’s too easy to simply say yes when we are busy and focused on a task. Or a friend rolls a request at us and we have no idea of our answer and find it easier to give in and say yes, instead of actually thinking it through. Instead of instantly reacting to questions with a yes try to pause for a moment to think it through or respond in a way that buys a little time.

Try: Can I let you know in an hour {insert timeframe of choice}. No, but maybe another time.

NOTE: buying yourself a little time to respond is great, but it is equally important to follow through and provide an answer instead of simply avoiding the situation. Sometimes practicing the pause response allows us enough time to work out, can we really do it.

3. Referrals

Honestly, this is one of the best techniques I have ever come across for saying no. I am still being helpful by simply redirecting the person to someone else that can help. For example, a friend has broken down on the freeway and needs her tire fixed, she phones for help, so of course, we want to run to her aid. However, in reality, cars are totally not our thing and she is better off calling roadside-assistance for help. They have the skills after all. This can work in so many situations, especially if you are not wanting to play the role of councilor, doctor, naturopath, mechanic, cleaner, builder, etc anymore.

Try: I’m sorry I can’t you could try xyz {insert person for them to contact}. I know someone who would be perfect for this.

4. Know your limitations

We are all blessed with a unique set of skills, we can’t do everything and that is totally okay. Learning who we are and our values take time. Most of us have a measure for our time, finances, relationships, and our home environment. So it’s important to start practicing being respectful of those values by simply saying NO when it doesn’t match up. For example, if you don’t have the funds to give a friend a spare $100 then don’t, if you can’t work overtime due to another commitment, then don’t.

Each time we let one of our values drop, we are devaluing ourselves.

Try: Sorry, I don’t have time for that today. Sorry, I can’t help you at this time.

5. Offer a counter solution

Often there are simple solutions to problems that we don’t feel we can offer up because we doubt that the other person will accept what we do have. That is why offering a counter solutionr is a great practice to start the process of saying no. It helps us to identify our limitations and still offer support in a way that feels good for us instead of just caving into what we have been asked. For example perhaps a friend needs your help doing something on Saturday but you have a full day planned out with your family. Instead of saying yes in a heartbeat and moving your family day out you could suggest that you can help on Sunday instead. Think of this as offering what you can do instead of what you can’t.

I can’t help you with that, but I can do *this* for you instead

6. Be persistent

There are people out there that have gotten really use to how we say Yes to everything. It almost becomes expectant, like my friend Kel, she as the yes lady. When practicing saying no, you may come across that one person who wont take no for an answer, they will keep going and going until you break. Well the only solution is for you to stand your ground and to reinforce your response, over and over again until they get it. This one took me a little practice at first because I was very tempted to start adding excuses when they kept it up.

Them: “Can you help me get to work?”
You: “Sorry, I can’t.”
Them: “You can pick me up whatever time stuits?”
You: “Sorry, I can’t.”
Them: “What if I give you petrol money?”
You: “Sorry, I can’t.”
Try: Just keep repeating the response until they hear it.

7. Permission Slip

It’s okay to honour ourselves. I am here to give us all the permission slip to prioritise our needs and that we are allowed to say NO! There is absolutely no need to do all the things for everyone around us. It’s okay to take 10 min outside without the kids to catch our breath for a moment and sip tea in silence. It’s okay to ask for help, it’s okay to turn down our best friend for a Friday night dinner when we are exhausted. It’s okay to not be the first one at the scene to help in family matters. We are not responsible for anyone else but responsible for ourselves! Remember that.

Try: I’m honoured you’ve asked, but I can’t. Thank you so much for thinking of me, but sorry not today

 

I hope you have found this helpful in your quest to saying No without the guilt. If you have any other practices that you use to say no, leave a comment below I would love to hear. Or perhaps let me know which one you are going to start practicing first.

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I'm Lizzie Moult

Storyteller, mentor, and adventurous Aussie country girl who’s here to teach you how to stop taking on other people’s shit so you can learn to trust yourself and your vision while feeling confident enough to create it.

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