How to say no…. and not feel guilty

Do you really have to do it all?  

There’s a strong chance that asking yourself that question might make you feel uncomfortable. It’s a very female characteristic to try to do everything.  We juggle work, childcare, running a home, caring for relatives etc., leaving little time for ourselves but by ignoring our own needs we are doing ourselves, and the most important people in our lives, a real disservice.

Learning to say no is a very powerful skill to have, but if you are a people pleaser it can be hard.  Look at it this way; when you say “Yes” to someone you’re also saying “No” to someone else and often that other person is you.

Taking control of you time and creating some space to do something good for yourself is not an indulgence or a luxury and it shouldn’t make you feel guilty.  Self care is incredibly important, not only for your own well being but you’ll be better equipped to deal with everything else that’s going on in your life too.

So if you’d like to say No more often but find it hard, here are a few tips:

1. Be clear about what’s important to you and what isn’t.

When you need to refocus your energy you need to be clear about what you want to give your time to and what you don’t.  Before you can say no with confidence you have to be clear that you want to say no.

2. Say no to the request, not the person.

Saying no can make you feel guilty but it becomes a whole lot easier when its clear that you’re not rejecting the person, just declining their request for your time.

3. Explain why.

You’re too busy, you’re going to a class at that time or you’re simply too tired.  Be kind and keep it simple and be honest about why you’re saying no.

4. Stand firm if they get pushy.

If people are used to hearing you say “Yes” all the time, hearing you say “no” may take them by surprise.  Or perhaps they’re someone who doesn’t give up easily. Either way, give yourself permission to be just as insistent as they are.

5. Practice.

Everything gets easier with practice so choose a situation where you can say no without feeling too uncomfortable.  For example – say no to cashier who tries to sell you chocolate at the till, the cold caller on the phone trying to sell you insurance or the “chuggers” on the high street trying to sign you up to their charity.  Or even stand in front of the mirror and say no out loud 10 times.  It might sound crazy but you’re building up your “no” muscle!

6. Be prepared to miss out.

Some of us hate to miss out.  In fact FOMO (fear of missing out) is now a recognised source of real anxiety and stress for many people who are becoming addicted to social media.  So if saying no makes you feel like you’re missing an opportunity try flipping that thought and view it instead as a trade off.  Remind yourself why you’re saying no.  It’s because you’re saying yes to something that more important – you’re simply choosing one opportunity over another.

7. Gather your courage.

Saying no takes courage, especially in the beginning.  You might feel like you’re letting someone down or being a bad friend/mum/partner.  Or perhaps you worry that people will start to think about you in a more negative light – you’ll need courage to deal with these thoughts.  Keep reminding yourself about why you’re saying no and have the confidence to take control of your time.

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