How To Say No Without Feeling Guilty

It's always a hand-wringing situation when you get cornered with a request that you really, really don't want to do. But whether you're a people-pleaser at heart or just got master-level manipulated, it can be hard to say no without feeling guilty. They catch you at the perfect moment, and before you know it you feel yourself on the cusp of agreeing. Whether it's a simple request like coming out for drinks with friends you haven't spent time with a while, or a little more intrusive like taking on an extra project as a favor, it can feel a little tricky letting the requester down. And so a big chunk of the time we just grit our teeth, roll our eyes mentally, and agree to do it. So in short, we take the martyr road.

While that can seem like the easier route (no awkward confrontations or fast tap dancing with lies,) it doesn't help you much. You're saddling your schedule full of tasks that take away time from your real priorities and goals, and you're completely taking out your own feelings from the equation. As in, if you feel guilty saying no, why doesn't the person asking feel guilty asking you? The answer lies in the fact that they have their matters straight and you don't. Below are seven ways to say no without feeling guilty — take back your weekends, people!

1. Come To Terms With The Fact That There's Only So Many Hours In The Day

As much as we'd like to find a way to cram in a few more hours into each day, we have to come to terms with the fact that we just can't. And since we can't we have to prioritize, right? Right. So if someone comes to you asking you to help them with something or join them for a whole evening or afternoon, you need to consider what you'll be putting on the back burner to do it. And if it's something that'll help you get closer to your goals, you shouldn't feel guilty about choosing that over someone else's requests.

Royale Scuderi, creative strategist and lifestyle writer for Lifehack, advised, "It’s important to use your time in the way that honors your priorities, helps you reach your goals and serves your needs. You decide what’s worth your time and what’s not." Don't let others determine your timelines — if you fall behind, that's only on you!

2. Get A Firm Grasp On Your Priorities And Convictions

When we don't know what our priorities are or don't have any defined goals, it can be easy to be talked into favors. If you feel like you're constantly bullied into giving away your time, figure out your month's objectives and stick to them (even if it's spending Saturday nights relaxing from the hard work you put into the week.) You'll be hard-pressed to feel guilty doing what keeps your life moving forward.

Maralee McKee, writer of etiqueete blog Manners Mentor, advised, "When we understand that saying 'yes' means we would be standing on platitudes, but saying 'no' means we’re staying true to our priorities and convictions, 'no' becomes a lot easier to say, and guilt goes out the window because we realize it’s the right decision." If you're time isn't ear-marked for something, it can feel selfish to refuse. It it's already spoken for, well, you're just staying on track with the plan, right?

3. Offer Up Real Reasons Why You Can't

When you have a solid reason for why you can't go along with someone's request, it becomes a "case closed" kind of situation. So make sure to tell them!

McKee pointed out, "Don’t wimp out and be vague with your answer to avoid hurting their feelings. It raises false hope for the other person, makes you seem indecisive, and slows down the process of the person knowing who is going to be helping." Being vague and apologetic and wishy-washy only makes the refusal process drag out. Be quick and firm — you have your reasons, and you need to stick to them.

4. Admit That You Don't Have A Bottomless Amount Of Energy

It would be lovely to be able to run on the same level of enthusiasm as when that first coffee kick hits, but the fact is that most of our energy peters out by the time 5 p.m. comes round. Because of that, you need to spend your energy on worthwhile tasks, not a bunch of menial ones that'll leave you burnt out.

Scuderi pointed out, "Pour that energy into doing a better job on those activities that you really must do or choose to do. More energy helps you feel better, be happier, and have greater productivity." If you realize you need to give most of your energy to that which is important in your life, you won't feel guilty admitting to the favor-asker you really can't do it all.

5. Understand People Are Coming At You With Tactics

Think about the last time you asked someone for a favor: Chances are, you knew what buttons to push. Well the person coming up to you is phrasing things in a way that'll make it hard for you to say no, and they're doing that because they thought it out. If they don't feel guilty cornering you, you shouldn't feel guilty refusing.

Jonathan Alpert, psychotherapist and author of "Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days", told entrepreneur site Inc., "Many people and organizations use manipulation techniques, whether knowingly or not. For example, think about when you get a solicitation for a donation to a charity and there are forced options: 'Most people donate $20 — how much would you like to donate?'" Realize the social pressures that are being used to convince a yes out of you, and shake it off.

6. Say No With A Question

If you really hate disappointing people, make the request work for both of you. For example, tell them you need to take care of your own business first, and then you can make time for them afterward.

Alpert advised, "Let's say a supervisor is asking you to take on several tasks — more than you can handle. You might say, 'I'm happy to do X, Y, and Z; however, I would need three weeks, rather than two, to do a good job. How would you like me to prioritize them?'" If your timeline doesn't work for them, at least they know you tried. And you still kept your own priorities ahead of others — win!

7. Think Of It This Way: Saying 'No' To One Thing Is Saying 'Yes' To Another

Some of us are just people-pleasers to the core, and saying no will forever feel uncomfortable to us. In cases like those, think of it this way: Saying no to one thing is just saying yes to another. There's no reason to feel guilty about already agreeing to something else, and it helps you set up boundaries to the repeat favor-askers.

According to Scuderi, "You gain confidence when you stand firm and honor your boundaries. Surprisingly you also gain the respect. When you’re clear and firm about what you will and won’t do, people actually respect you more."

Saying no to a favor is just admitting you already agreed to a prior comitment (whether that's working on a side project or honoring your de-stressing ritual after a long work day.) By getting your priorities straight, sticking firm to your reasons, and setting boundaries, you'll be hard-pressed to feel guilty when you say no.

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