Saying no without feeling guilty can be a challenging practice to master. I recently had to muster up the courage to say “no”. Because of this experience, I also know the sense of freedom and excitement one can feel after saying no to something that’s just bringing you down. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find myself agreeing to something in a conversation just because I want to say “yes” to the person; to build rapport, to help or to avoid disappointment. Only later do I stop and question myself, “What was I thinking?”.
For those of us that are overachieving, people pleasers that want to help everyone, this is a real problem. Learning how to say no was one of the challenges we discussed in a recent Mastermind group session. A participant was feeling overwhelmed, overworked and unreasonably exhausted from overcommitment. It’s a vicious cycle that can feel nearly impossible to break, especially if you’re a person of high integrity.
But, kind of like how the best way to fire a client is to never get hired by them in the first place… the best way to not have to renege on your commitments (lest you go batty or blow a gasket) is to learn how to say no in the first place! Do not delay, start today (cheesy I know, but I bet this is relevant to at least one situation you’re in). Practice these 5 steps to mastering the art of saying no and get over feeling guilty.
Don’t rush into making a commitment. It is totally acceptable to tell someone you need some time to think about things before giving your decision. To recap, if you’re being asked to make a decision in the heat of the moment, stop before uttering “yes” or “I’ll do it” or “sign me up” or… The only thing worse the buyer’s remorse is commitment remorse.
Take a minute to reflect on the situation. You’re making a decision here. What is it about? What are you committing yourself to? How much time will it take? What are your other priorities at this time? How does this opportunity support your long term goals? Does it align with your values? And so on and so forth. But be careful here, you don’t want to “should” yourself into a situation you ought to be saying no to. One can easily rationalize making a commitment; often this seemingly rational decision is actually faux logic induced by fear.
Check your logic by making a gut check. Take a few minutes to evaluate how you feel about the opportunity. Do you feel excitement or dread? Do you feel lighthearted with possibility or weighed down with stress? Are you enlivened or overwhelmed by the thought of this opportunity? Generally, if you’re feeling good, this might be worth pursuing. Whereas, if you’re feeling bad, you may want to pass. Of course be cautious here, I’ve found that it’s easy to mistake excitement with nervousness, as they both tend to create a feeling of butterflies in my stomach!
I think many people are nervous about saying no because they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or say something they’ll regret. We’ve all been backed into a corner by the aggressive sales person that has a come back for every “objection” you share. Be compassionate but confident in how to express your decision to the other person. Jot down your ideas, needs, expectations and reasoning. Choose the three main points you want to convey in your communication. Then, practice role playing the conversation with a friend. Consider the other person’s perspective. Show that you care.
How many times have you made a decision not to do something yet never communicated it to the other person? Now how did it feel when you were on the receiving end? I get it, we can’t always say no. I’m not going to call back that telemarketer to tell them I’m not interested in a lower interest rate for my credit card. But when the relationship is important to you, then it is crucial to actually tell the other person “Thanks but, no thanks”. You can always try letting things fizzle out or avoid them until the Gala (or whatever it is) is over, but we all know how awkward it can be to run into the same person another day and you never gave them an answer.
Keep commitments. But also be direct, honest and compassionate in your communication. This is especially important if you have to change an existing commitment. I know it can feel contradictory to one’s sense of integrity to renegotiate an existing commitment, but it’s a necessity for a happy, balanced life. If you’re at the tipping point between burning out or having to say no. Say no!
Have some courage here! You are in fact allowed to say no sometimes. Only when you accept this, are you free from the unnecessary burden of guilt. Feel good by only making commitments that you know you can keep and say “no” to the rest.