5 Ways to Say NO Guilt-free

Say no graciously

Saying No Graciously

What do you believe about people who say no to good causes?

A recent client of mine I’ll call Kerry is retired.  So she has lots of time on her hands, right? She can finally get to all those projects she has been saving for retirement like spending time with grandchildren, getting her office organized, serving in her church, traveling, gardening, whatever she fancies.

The only problem is:  Kerry cannot seem to say no to good causes, and believe me they all seem good.   So she piles on the activities, says yes to extra responsibilities like taking a shift at the library, helping with a fundraiser that eats up weeks of her summer, etc.  Now Kerry’s plate is full and she has very little time for her real goals.  She is spending time helping other people with their goals, and has lost sight of her own, or has shuffled them to the bottom of the to-do list.

Also, Kerry does not have a minute to herself!  What about that list of books she has been wanting to read but never gets to?  She needs some time to unwind and relax, but she is busy from dawn to dusk. 

 Saying no is not about selfishness but about self-respect. You’re standing up for what is right for you.”  

~ William Ury, PhD, Harvard Professor and author of The Power of a Positive No: How to Say No & Still Get to Yes.

In Kerry’s case, which is so common among women, she has “Yessed” her way into a very busy schedule and now has little time for relaxation or her own projects like getting organized and gardening.

If saying yes has gotten you into a similar pickle, here is how to say ‘No’ guilt-free so it doesn’t happen again.

Gracious ways to say NO without Guilt:

  1. Is it a reasonable request?  If not, or if it is a demand, that is an easy no. 
  2. Thank the person for thinking of you.  Be sincere with this.  Then add you are already stretched to the limit time-wise.
  3. Make it clear you aren’t rejecting the worthiness of the cause and say something like: “I just don’t have peace about that right now.”
  4. Another option is to say: “If I take it on, I won’t be able to do it justice.”
  5. Set clear boundaries without feeling guilty.  “I’m sorry, if I commit to this it will take away from my family time.”
  6. Suggest other people who can help . . . this will only take a few minutes and the asker will realize you are interested in helping them with their situation.

 Remember, no one is irreplaceable:

“If it’s not brain surgery, others can do it—maybe not with your pizzazz, but it will get done and the cosmos will not explode in the process.”  

~ Susan Newman, PhD, author of The Book of No: 250 Ways to Say It—and Mean It and Stop People-Pleasing Forever.

So next time you are pressured to say yes—even if it is a worthy cause—remember your goals, use the tips and stay within your boundaries.   Be strong.  It does get easier with practice!


Say no to others say yes to yourself