How To Effectively Deal With The Guilt Of Saying No

As someone who could rarely say 'no' when asked for anything, the author faced a lot of issues. However, she finally learnt to say it and you can too!

As someone who could rarely say ‘no’ when asked for anything, the author faced a lot of issues. However, she finally learnt to say it and you can too!

I recently met a friend who asked me to help her. She said she needed help in connecting with someone she’d seen on my Facebook friend list. I didn’t know how to say no because I don’t like asking favours from friends, more so if I’ve already asked them for a favour earlier.

And that got me thinking about how to say ‘no’ to the many things in life- right from jobs to friends to family and everything else in between.

Let me share my thoughts on how to say ‘No’ without the guilt. But before that, I must admit, I find it difficult to say ‘no’ and I make sure that I go all out and make sure things are done. Have I been taken for a ride? I most definitely have, on several occasions and I am sure you have been too.

I just couldn’t say ‘no’

It is just because most often we are just not firm enough to refuse or ask what is due to us in the situation. I often take up projects without asking what is in it for me and then at the end of the project wonder whether I will get that thank you note or not.

Sometimes I wish I had put my foot down and said ‘not until I know what I am in for.’ It is probably because I undervalue myself. Do you undervalue yourself too?

Maybe like me, you also think that since it’s for a friend, let me help out or you too feel grateful for the work that comes your way. Or maybe, just maybe, it is because you NEEDED that particular project or because you feel strongly about that particular cause. It has happened with me quite often.

Peer pressure is real- even as you grow up

I worked in corporate for a long time, and here I saw a number of my peers living in the fear of losing to one another. It was difficult for most of them to say no. They were either scared of losing the project or being looked at as inefficient or incapable of doing the task or worthy of that promotion.

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Peer pressure, is the worst kind of fear as it never says ‘no.’ It makes you wonder whether it should be about standing up for yourself and being okay with ‘cutting your losses,’ as they say. There are ways such as giving a valid reason, offering an alternative, perhaps reminding your superior of your work at hand. Definitely discussing and never beating around the bush. It may seem simple enough but will it work in the corporate world? Perhaps it will, or it just might not. But isn’t it worth a try?

Say no, if you have nothing in it for you

Then there are those times we probably should have said ‘no’ to a social service or a social service event. If you’re an expert or a speaker or have a specific interest in something you’ve been asked to speak or volunteer at one of these, free of cost.

There’s nothing wrong with lending a hand, especially if you find happiness in doing so – but beware of those taking advantage of your expertise. Consider the fact that sometimes they are making the money, paying others but not you. Think about it before you get into such projects because had they approached an agency or a professional they would have had to pay through their noses.

You could offer discounts and that’s fine, but don’t allow them to openly share or discuss it with others. I learnt it the hard way. Today the least I expect, is conveyance or I won’t be going unless it is something or someone that matters to me. At the end of the day it should be your call.

Say no if you aren’t comfortable

One of the more difficult ‘nos’ is to look a friend or family member in the eye and say, ‘No, I can’t. I can’t lend you the money.’ Then, if you do either, the awkwardness can be even worse. You could offer to help in other ways, but only if you’re sure you have the time to do so,

Never offer something to do something you can’t live up to. The best way is just to say, “I’m not in a position to lend you money right now.” Or perhaps try, “I really don’t feel comfortable doing that.”

Chipping in isn’t always mandatory!

And there’s the ‘no’ to chipping in for a gift. Faced that? We’ve all had to face this either during a wedding, some festival, a birthday or someone’s farewell at work.

If it is a colleague you’ve never spoken to or are not comfortable with, you don’t need to chip in. Chances are, the person asking you to chip in, will have no clue at all about this. Clarify the nature of your relationship upfront because it is not an obligation and you can say no.

Be firm, yet polite

Then there is that wedding in the family – the worst kind of dilemma. Have you faced that discussion on what gift to give at a family wedding? Should it be a combined one or separate one. That combined gift is a real worry because no one ever agrees on one thing.

It could also be that guest list you need to cut down to size when you really can’t squeeze in or afford another guest. Why should you feel awkward or guilty about it? After all it is your event.

I refuse to be a part of any joint gifting option because the contribution amount may not be what I had in mind. A simple ‘No, thank you’ or ‘I will give a separate gift’ works fine for me.

Don’t say yes if you aren’t okay with it

The dictionary says ‘no’ means, ‘used to give negative answer or decision or denial.’

Easy to read but difficult to action indeed; but needs to be done. Let me just say, ‘no’ is not a difficult word to use. Everyone has a right to say so just respect it. Use it carefully enough to be able to demand what is due to you, without offending anyone.

Here is one to sum it up this saying ‘no’ business-

“Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying
YES too quickly and not saying NO soon enough.”

~ Josh Billings (Humour writer & lecturer)

Picture credits: Pexels

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About the Author


Effective administrator, coordinator & communicator,retired with 38 yrs of experience as Manager,Corp.Commn,ICICI Bank.Invited back as consultant after retirement to archive history of the bank. Hold event management diploma from NIEM, read more...

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