Saying no produces feelings of guilt, when you have the mindset that saying yes means you are a kind, generous person, and saying no means you are not. The guilt stems from the notion that the requestor will perceive you as selfish and be “mad” at you, or won’t like you, if you say no.
In reality, saying yes when you really don’t want to, produces even greater feelings of guilt, for when you extend yourself beyond reasonable limits, something or someone else in your life is undoubtedly being shortchanged.
You can say no with confidence that doing so is not a negative reflection on your level of kindness, or generosity of spirit.
How to say no without feeling guilty:
* Be honest
Saying no without guilt requires being honest, not only with the person making the request, but with yourself. If you are already overscheduled with personal obligations to be fulfilled, saying yes will cause you to feel resentful toward the other person, even though you brought the pressure on yourself by not being honest.
Turn your no into a positive by stating something to the effect: “I would love to help you out, however, I am already overscheduled. I know you will understand why I have to say no at this time.” There is no need to apologize or explain further. Dragging out your no with extraneous explanations will incur guilt and potentially wear you down to the point where you might unwisely reverse your decision.
* Be fair
Think about who will bear the brunt of your inability to say no. Will your job suffer because you are overextending yourself helping someone else? Will your family be shortchanged because you are preoccupied pleasing someone else? Will you be irritable and resentful with the person requesting your time and energy?
Saying no when you need to is the fairest way to behave toward others. When you grasp the concept of being fair to others, and yourself, saying no becomes less guilt- inducing.
* Set boundaries
Establish your own boundaries about when you will say yes and no. Much as it is a kind and generous virtue to be of assistance to those in need, there is no virtue laboring under the misconception that you can be all things to all people. No matter how many times you say yes, the day will ultimately come when you will need to say no. By setting priorities and establishing boundaries, you will have the proper mindset that allows you to say yes when possible, and no when necessary, without feeling guilt.
* Learn how to communicate an effective “no”
There are several ways to communicate “no” without offending. You can buy time by saying, “Let me think about this and get back to you.” You can be direct by saying, “I like to help you out, but I will have to put my family first this time.” No one is going to argue, or be offended, with the notion that putting your family first is the right thing to do.
If the person making the request persists, or asks why, calmly repeat yourself, with no further explanations or apologies. You are entitled to say no. Be kind, but firm, and the person making the request will respect you for your honesty and fairness.
Saying no is a healthy habit to develop. The more you practice saying no in minor situations, the easier it becomes to say no without feeling guilty.
Avoid projecting your own feelings onto others. You may be thinking the other person will be upset, when in reality that person might already be thinking of someone else she can pose her request to, and has accepted your no with good grace.
Of course, in situations of real emergency, or tragic events, saying yes is a given, but for everyday impositions by others, you can say a guilt-free no with confidence.
Saying yes, when you really want to say no, will make you feel even more guilty.