One reason we tend to feel stressed or overwhelmed is because we find it hard to say no to new requests or to new offers. Saying no is challenging because often we don’t want to offend another person or experience feeling guilty for saying no. Over the years, being able to say no without feeling guilty has been one of the most important things I have learned, and that has helped me stay true to what’s important to me.
Knowing that we cannot please everyone can actually be a liberating thing. There are times when people will go out of their way to try and make us feel guilty, which in turn can pressure us to say yes when we really want to say no. Becoming aware of why it is difficult for us to say no is really the starting point. Once we’re comfortable with what we stand for and what’s important to us, saying no becomes a lot easier.
Whenever we’re in a situation where we’re asked to make a decision about something, recognising how our body feels can be one way of knowing whether to say yes or no. Paying attention to that gut feeling we have is usually what’s best for us. Over the years, I learned a few ways to be able to say no without offending someone else, or feeling guilty, while still remaining my true self or as I like to say, a nice person. Here are seven easy ways that can be used for situations when you really want to say no.
- Buy yourself some more time. Oftentimes, we agree to something without thinking it through properly and considering the pros and cons of it. Then if we think we’ve made the wrong decision, it can be easy to start regretting the decision or having some resentment towards the person we’ve saying yes to. A better approach can be to say:
“Can I check my schedule and get back to you?” or “When would you like a decision by?”
- Ask for the priority. This can be quite common in a work situation where an employee may be asked by their manager or supervisor to do additional things. Being expected to do everything you’re asked to do can result in unnecessary stress or pressure. Such a situation can be turned around by asking:
“I have deadlines that needs to be met. Which one would you like me to push pack in order to do this?” or “I working on a number of things at the moment so which one would you like me to put aside to work on this?”
- Offer an alternative. In a work situation, it can be common for people to try and take the easy way out and ask for help even for the smallest tasks or challenges. By offering an alternative, you are still helping them out while maintaining your current priorities. Say something like:
“I can’t do it right now but I can quickly show you what to do to help you get started.”
- Suggest someone else who could help out. Sometimes the person making the request may not have considered other people who could help them out. One way to deflect any additional work can be to say something like:
“I think Tom would be a lot better for that task and he’d be able to do it much quicker than I could.”
- Offer to do it at a later time. Most things are usually not that critical and do not need to be done straight away. By suggesting that it can be done but at a later time, what could happen is the person making the request may do it themselves anyway. Say something like:
“I’d love to help but I can’t do it right now but I can do it next week.”
- Admit any limitations. We can’t be expected to know or do everything so it’s important to share that. Say something like:
“I don’t have any experience with that so I can’t help you.” Or “I don’t feel comfortable doing that.”
- Express your desire to help or participate. This is one that takes a respectable amount of self-confidence to say. However it is necessary in order to be able to complete current priorities and keep your agreements. Say something like:
“It’s nothing against you but I’m not taking on any new projects right now.” Or “Thanks for asking and I’d love to help but I have a lot going on right now so it is better if I say no now rather than keep you waiting.”
Knowing that whenever we say no to something, we’re actually recommitting to what we already have agreed to can be a very empowering thing. Saying no consistently can be a challenging thing. These are some simple ways to say no without offending someone else and being able to do it with respect to the other person.
Question: How do you say no without offending another person and not feeling guilty about it?
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