How to Say No Without Guilt

I’d be lying if I said I never said yes to something I regretted later. It seems that we all want to help, pitch in and make a difference, be a team player, however sometimes our yes is more to spare feelings or simply avoid saying no, because it makes your stomach churn. If this resonates with you, read on. Being able to say no is essential to developing high integrity relationships and cementing your reputation as being trustworthy. But saying no is hard especially when you don’t want to disappoint. Following are some hints that can make saying no a little bit easier. 

1.  Please oh please don’t feel you have to provide a dissertation when you say no. The more you explain, the more you’ll feel compelled to just say yes. Keep it short. People are looking for an answer, not a lengthy excuse. 

2.  Asking for time to think it over is just fine. If someone asks you to do something that requires an immediate response, I usually decline. Having adequate time to think it over and make the right decision is best for everyone. If someone doesn’t need an immediate response (I’ll always ask) then respond, “How soon do you need to know? Let me think about it and get back to you by that date.” You’re far more likely to make a decision you feel good about vs. being put on the spot. It’s a win-win. 

3.  How about a former employee or colleague that calls to ask you to provide a recommendation for a new position they’re seeking and you’re not comfortable with it. Best response, “I appreciate you thinking of me, but I’m sure there are other people in more of a supervisory role that might be better suited for that. They do it all the time. I wish you great success.”

4.  A colleague asks you to fill-in for an event they can’t make. You know it’s important for them, but you just can’t fit it in your schedule. Be honest. “As much as I want to help out, I’ve already got a commitment. How about reaching out to Mark, he’s great with events like that.”  You said no, but provided the willingness to help find someone else.

5.  Someone asks you to volunteer for an event that you believe in, but your time just doesn’t allow for added commitments. This is where people get in trouble, overextending themselves as the risk of low performance. In my many years of volunteering, there is nothing worse than the perpetual volunteer that never actually shows up or digs in. You don’t want to be that person. JUST SAY NO. People will appreciate your honesty far more than being an ineffectual volunteer.

These are just a few examples of ways to say no and not feel guilty about it, well at least less guilty.  We all want to be the person that people can count on, but you also want to be counted on to say no when it’s not going to help either party. People do appreciate your honest vs. being guilted in to saying no and then either cancelling at the last minute or simply being a low performer. Once you start saying no it will get easier and you’ll find yourself being a better friend, employee, volunteer and colleague.

Make it a great week!


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