Tuesday, November 20, 2012

4 Tips to Saying NO Without the Guilt

The Holidays are upon us!

There are parties to attend, and plan. Concerts to go to. Shopping to finish. Gifts to make. Cards to send. The house to decorate. Oh, and don't forget about your business!

So much to do, so little time... and there's even less time if you've become a "Yes" person.

Have you become a "Yes" person?

My mom was a "Yes" person. She was involved in so many things... always busy. When I got older, I started having people ask me to do things, be on this committee, volunteer for this or that. My mom pulled me aside and told me that I need to learn to say NO. Know your limits and don't give away all of your time. It took me a few years before I really understood what she meant by that, and now, I can say no without feeling guilty.

But knowing how to say no isn't something that comes naturally to a lot of people. It sure was rough for me. But if your tendency to spew out the yes word on autopilot is beginning to grate on you (and your family), then it’s high time to take some corrective action and stop surrendering your free time to the needs of others.

Please know that I don't mean you shouldn't volunteer, or belong to a service group, or offer to help someone. This is about saying yes to yourself and your family. Yes to finishing work and spending time with the kids. Yes to an early night with a book or yes to ordering in a pizza. It's about knowing what you can do, knowing your limits... time limits & spending limits.

I know it can be hard turning people away when you have been that yes person for so long. At first, I would feel horrible when I had to refuse to help someone out. But then I realized that saying NO does not make me a bad person. It simply means I am respecting the fact that I can’t or don’t want to do something.  The key to saying no effectively is to keep calm, smile, and be assertive.

How to say NO without feeling guilty:

Be gracious
If you decline a request politely you won’t have to worry about hurting the other person’s feelings. They will understand that it’s something you can’t do for them and will appreciate you letting them know in a gentle and caring manner. Often a smile and a simple ‘I’m sorry but...’ will do.

Be honest
The worst thing you can do is make up some elaborate excuse as to why you can’t do something. Not only do you run the risk of the person finding out about your white lie, but you will start to feel guilty for not being truthful. We're trying to get away from the guilt, not create more! Instead, be upfront and tell the requester you won’t be able to help. You don't need an elaborate explanation.

Stop the Guilt
A strong desire to please other people is often at the root of why some people not only struggle to say no, but feel guilty about it afterwards. No one wants to be thought of as rude or unhelpful and we all want to avoid conflict, but you can't please everyone. And how pleased would that person be if they knew that you were over-extending yourself by saying yes to their request? Then they would probably feel guilty.

Know that it’s OK
It’s your prerogative whether or not you want to do something and it’s OK for you to say no. In fact it’s healthy to do so, particularly if something is going to take up your much needed time and space.

Learning how to say no is learning how to be a better communicator, not just with the person you are refusing but with yourself. Sure it may be tough turning other people down if your natural instinct is to say yes, but there are simply times when you deserve to put your needs before others.


  1. Just say no, politely. Thanks, Kelly.

    1. You're welcome, Linda :) I used to have such a hard time saying no and always felt like a huge explanation was necessary. Not any more, thank goodness!

  2. This is so true. Everyone should read it. I just shared your new collab board with everyone. What another awesome-sauce idea!

    1. Thanks Renae! I think I've become addicted to group boards. I have another one in my head for after Thanksgiving :)

  3. OMG Kelly. I fight not to be a "Yes" person all the time. I cannot tell you how many times I've felt bad about saying No...or said yes just b/c I was afraid that someone would think I was rude or being mean if I said "No".

    I genuinely want to help and do everything but it is hard to realize your limits and just give a polite "I'm sorry, but I can't do it right now." The struggle to not be a yes person is getting easier, but it's still something I have to fight every now and then.


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