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You often find yourself in situations where you want to say No to the person asking you to do something you don't want to do, but you fail to utter "No".
If you find it difficult to say No, here’s how you can say No without feeling guilty.
“She was overridden with work; the deadline was nearing; the reports had to be submitted by the evening. Her phone started ringing. It was her cousin calling to pick up her kids from school because she needed to be somewhere. Rayna couldn’t say no; even though she was drowning at work, she agreed to pick up the kids. This wasn’t the first time this has happened. She just couldn’t say no to people when they asked for help. She couldn’t deny them, even if she had to give up her own needs. She couldn’t submit the report that evening. It cost her the job.”
Some of us struggle with saying no in the face when someone asks for help and even we are unable to cater to their demands. We often undermine the power of saying No, and subsequently face issues when we fail to say No.
Many people pleasers are compulsively addicted to the habit of saying yes, that they put their own needs, desires, dreams, sometimes even professional obligations on hold. Resulting in frustration, stress, anxiety, and an impending sense of loss of control over their lives.
In my previous blog, I told about how people struggle with saying No to others, why they do it, and the importance of saying no, without feeling the guilt.
Now, I will tell you how to gently say No without offending the other party while establishing a firm boundary of your own needs and obligations.
How to break the habit of always saying yes
First and foremost, whenever you feel hesitant to say yes, remind yourself that it’s okay to say no. This isn’t about refusing to help them. The goal is to learn to say no without the added feelings of guilt when you know it’s the best decision given your circumstances.
Following are some ways you can say no based on the situation.
Be direct and straightforward
We tend to use the least resistant words to avoid conflict, which comes out as us being unsure or less confident. This sends mixed messages to the other person. They might think that though you are somewhat busy, you can still accommodate their request. As a result, they tend to pressurize you or push you to accept their demands. That's why avoid beating around the bush.
Be honest and straight about why you can’t help them, so that they don’t feel rejected while at the same time understanding your reason.
Be direct, honest, and respectful. For example, “I cannot help you at the moment because I have this work due in a couple of hours."
Don’t stall for time if you can’t accommodate their request
It will only build up resentment in the relationship you share with that person. Doing so may feel uncomfortable. It may even cause the person to respond in anger. You can’t control their response nor the emotions behind it. Being sincere with a direct “no” shows respect. It also prevents the request from hanging over your head like a sword or like a noose around your neck.
Replace “No" with another word
This lessens the blow of rejection. For example, instead of saying “No, I cannot do this right now", try saying “I'd like to help you but right now my hands are full.”
Resist the urge to offer excuses
Giving false excuses can make us feel guilty; the other person may realize your deception and deem you untrustworthy or flighty. It can also lead them to renegotiate with you and further manipulation. So being honest is the easiest way out.
Take ownership of your decisions
We often tend to shift the onus of our choice to the circumstances instead of it being our conscious decision. If we kept avoiding taking ownership of our decision to decline requests, we would never truly feel empowered with a sense of personal agency.
Every time we say “I can’t,” we train our minds to avoid taking responsibility. “I can’t” implies that we’re at the mercy of external factors. Over time, this gives us the sense of a serious lack of control. We begin to believe that external factors undermine our authority - that our personal decisions aren’t truly ours to make.
That’s the opposite of empowering. It can have a significant negative effect on our behavior and thought patterns. So instead of saying “I can’t”, boldly say “I don’t want to"
Ask the requester to follow up later if it’s not urgent
In the matter of urgency, give an alternative, or refer to someone who can help or is better qualified to do so. This won’t leave the other person hanging while at the same time, protecting your interests.
And lastly, be honest about your capabilities, availability and resources so that unfair expectations and entitlements don’t arise.
It's hard for a lot of people to deny requests. The practice of saying no, though difficult to adapt to, will be very rewarding and absolutely worth it in the long run. You will find more time and energy for your own pursuits, invest in your interests, and get the must needed “me time".
And I leave you here with a beautiful quote by Anna Taylor
“Love yourself enough to set boundaries. Your time and energy are precious. You get to choose how you use it. You teach people how to treat you by deciding what you will and won’t accept.”
Thanks for taking the time to read. If you enjoyed what you’ve read, please share.
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References and resources
 Zahariades, Damon(2017). The Art of Saying No: How to Stand Your Ground, Reclaim Time and Energy, and Refuse to be Taken for Granted
 Ury, William(2007). The Power of a Positive No
Altucher, Claudia and James(2014). The Power of No: Because One Little Word Can Bring Health, Abundance, and Happiness