Learning how to say no to someone and, harder still, reducing the feelings of guilt that are associated with saying no—is difficult. Most of us like to please others so saying no can be challenging.
Here are some helpful tips that I share with my clients on how to lessen the feelings of guilt when saying no to people.
The first step—which I accredit to Cheryl Richardson, a renowned life coach in self-care strategies—is to rename the word ‘guilt’ to the word ‘discomfort.’ When we say no to somebody, when we turn down their request, we feel a degree of discomfort in our body. As we think thoughts such as—“Will they still like me if I say no?” or “What will they think of me if I say no?”—what we feel and experience at the time is discomfort. It is helpful to focus on this fact.
Another reason why I believe that it is better to adopt the word ‘discomfort’ rather than ‘guilt’ is that discomfort conjures up an image that what you are experiencing is temporary; it is a mild inconvenience that has an end; that once you have said what needs to be said, then the discomfort within you will ease.
Also, the word discomfort changes your focus of attention from a negative outcome—“I feel so guilty about saying no”—to a more positive outcome—“It’ll cause me some discomfort to say no but once I’ve said no I’ll feel better.”
In saying no, in speaking an honest reply you will experience some discomfort but the discomfort will ease once you have spoken your truth.
The second step, which is very important, is to decide how you will respond when saying no. Without doubt the best way is in a loving manner. How can you do that?
- Take time before you respond.
- Develop one or two statements that give you time to think about the matter. For example, you could reply: “I need time to think about it before I can give you an answer.” If you are being pressured for a quick response, then provide a timeframe in which you will respond. “I will let you know by tomorrow morning,” or “I will let you know within the hour; or the next fifteen minutes.” This buys you time in which you can think clearly and respond truthfully.
- Always check-in intuitively as to how best to phrase your answer.
- Before replying, a helpful practice is to write your response. This step can assist you to say what you want to say—clearly, kindly and eloquently.
- After you have said no to a particular situation, ring a friend—someone who can support and encourage you that speaking honestly is an act of self-love and self-care.
It is hard to say no to people at times but it’s better to do that than to allow an answer of yes to eat at your heart and soul for days and weeks on end.
Call to action: Write an empowering statement so that next time you are asked by someone to do something that goes against your inner-voice you can draw on this statement to help you to say no.
Speaking our truth can be difficult at times—but it can also be empowering!