How To Say No Without Feeling Guilty
Are you the person who always gets the phone call about helping someone move into their new apartment? Or find yourself staying late at the office to help a co-worker with a project that doesn't even help your job? There is being helpful but then there is also being someone who doesn't know how to say "no". Learn how to take control of your life without feeling guilty with these tips!
In the movie Yes Man, Jim Carrey’s character decides to say “yes” to every opportunity or favor that comes his way. Initially, he has a great time partying with his friends and meeting a new girl. However, as he continually accepts requests, even those he does not want to do, his life starts to become overwhelming and unravels. Similarly, we’re constantly taught to embrace opportunities at work and in our personal lives. While it can help us grow, often accepting a project at work or going on a date you’re asked on feels like it’s done out of obligation instead of excitement. The truth is saying “no” sometimes is important for your health and focus. Seriously, feeling stressed can significantly impact your immune system and ability to achieve your own goals! These tips will help you decline a favor without feeling aggressive.
Some requests are easier than others to turn down, like declining an extra shot of espresso from your barista. Other decisions are more nuanced and can have an affect on your relationships or career. From signing a political petition to accepting a promotion at work, knowing where you are and what your goals are will allow you to evaluate requests and feel confident in your answer. As Lifehacker notes, “Often times the guilt from saying "no" can stem from not really feeling confident in the reason why you said it in the first place.” By knowing yourself, you also can give a prompt answer instead of leaving your friend or boss hanging.
Deciding you don’t want to something it one thing, actually saying that to someone is another. Half of the reason we end up doing crap we have no interest or investment in is because we’re terrified to straight up deny an offer. It’s tempting to pretend you didn’t see an email or text but it’s 2016, everyone knows you’re attached to your phone! Plus, being indirect doesn’t work because people don’t forget they asked you to do something. Alternatively, we often play a game of how many excuses we can insert as to why we TOTALLY would help if only it worked out. The issue with this is that the other person may offer to help solve your fabricated problem! Lifehacker points out, “when you provide an excuse you also provide an opportunity for the person requesting your help to try and solve the problem preventing you from helping them” So, what do you say? Simply saying “no” sounds blunt AF so you can add a little more like, “but thank you for thinking of me”. If it’s a friend, you can provide more context to not sound like you’re blowing them off. Real Simple has a great guide to what to say to common requests, like someone asking to borrow money, without sounding like it’s personal against your friend or family member.
Say Don’t Instead Of Can’t
Swapping out “can’t” for “don’t” is a surprisingly effective way of being direct and empowering yourself on your choice! A study by Boston College and The University of Houston found that people who used the word “don’t” when describing habits were more likely to actually follow through with them. The researchers say the reasoning is, “using the word ‘don’t’ serves as a self-affirmation of one’s personal willpower and control in the relevant self-regulatory goal pursuit, leading to a favorable influence on feelings of empowerment, as well as on actual behavior. On the other hand, saying ‘I can’t do X’ connotes an external focus on impediments.” Basically, changing what word you use when telling someone why you aren’t able to accept their request changes your position from something happening to you to something you are choosing, which will help you feel empowered.
Assist In Another Way
Even with all the research in the world telling us it’s okay to say “no”, some of us will still tremor with guilt. One way to meet the request halfway is to decline helping personally but still pointing them in a direction that will assist their need. You can introduce them to someone who could help out, send links to resources, or do part of the request if you feel you have to contribute. As communication expert Alexandra Frazen writes over at The Muse your alternative should be, “easier, less complicated, or less time-consuming, it doesn’t cost money, or it just feels good for you to offer”