Society grooms us to be accessible, likeable, selfless and agreeable. While these qualities are commendable, sometimes the lines blur between self-sabotage and helping others. Learning to say no without feeling guilty doesn’t come easy either. As we are conditioned to believe that saying yes is a sign of a kind heart, an easy-going personality and importantly a person who puts other people’s needs before theirs. Don’t we all strive to have this description over being labelled selfish and difficult?
However, what happens when all the yes(s) lead to pressure, beating up yourself when things go awry and worse, no time to mind yourself? It’s a no-brainer that it will get overwhelming and anxiety will ensue. That is why this guide is for you if you would like to establish healthy boundaries, get better at making decisions and learn to say no without feeling guilty.
Establish the reason before making the decision. (Why)
One of the factors you need to establish in order to say no without feeling guilty includes Why. This stands as the reason for saying No to someone. First, you need to accept that you cannot do everything and sometimes you might accept something that will end up jeopardizing your best intentions. Understanding why you need to say No gives a clear indication that you are decisive and self-aware. Giving the reason (should be brief and firm), shows that you are not being selfish but just can’t say yes due to prior engagements.
No is not a negative word
A No could turn out to be a blessing in disguise and said for the sake of the other party, hence helping them more than you could do by saying yes.
A common Swahili proverb states that Mtoto akililia wembe, mpe. Direct translation: If a child asks for a blade, give it to him/her. However, does that mean the literal sense of this proverb applies in real life? Such that you would give a razor blade to a child, just because they asked for it? Therefore, learn that saying no is not a bad thing. In fact, it proves that you have control over your actions, a clear understanding of the situation and you are wise enough to know when not to be exploited.
Establish Your Priorities. (When)
Just like how you cannot do everything, it goes without saying that priorities matter when it comes to saying No without feeling guilty. Knowing what’s urgent and what can wait, is one key criterion that will give you the push you need when saying no to someone. Remember do not buffer your no.
You cannot please everyone either. Acknowledging this fact and practising self-love above people’s needs will put you on the right path to taking control of your actions and emotions.
To be clear, self-love doesn’t mean going on a mean spree or putting your needs first at the expense of others. It means identifying, practising and implementing what is healthy and good for yourself at the right time.
Scenario; you have an early interview tomorrow morning, but your friend insists that you need to go partying until the cock crows. I mean it is his birthday and what better way to end the night than to go for the after-party? You know very well that you need to sleep so that you can wake up with a fresh mind, but you also don’t want to disappoint your friend or appear less cool among your group of friends.
Do you say no and turn in early or do you go partying and leave the club headed straight for your interview appointment the next day?
“Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens.” Greater good magazine.
While it feels easy to say yes to someone, practising mindfulness is a good way to learn how to say no without feeling guilty. It means being aware of your feelings and paying attention to uncover tactics someone might use to get you to accept something you would rather say no to. These include manipulating tacts like compliments/flattery, complaining, guilt-tripping and blackmailing. Sometimes it might involve harassment which includes threatening or bullying.
Therefore, when saying no to such a person, be mindful and firm. If they become pushy change the subject and if they get aggressive, do not react to their aggressiveness.
Respect others feelings
Learn to respect other people’s feelings by employing a tone that shows you are reasonable in your decision. By being polite, calm, clear and collected, saying no is likely to encourage trust and make the other person accept your decision more than being rude and disrespectful would.
Sometimes you might say no, not because you are uncomfortable with a request, but because you are unavailable. Other times, you might be dealing with authority and maybe you would like to still grant the favour. Or not. Therefore, in this situation come up with an alternative that would suit you and cater to the other person’s needs. If rejecting an authority, propose a compromise and apply tact when giving your answer.
Scenario: One time my former boss said he liked me and constantly he would drop hints and flirt in the middle of work. I felt uncomfortable through this, so when he asked me out, this was my response. “I feel lucky that you view me like that, but I value our work relationship more. And the reason why I cannot reciprocate your feelings is that I respect you even most.” I was happy with the results. We developed a good working relationship, the atmosphere was conducive and I did not feel like taking off every time I saw him.
Say no to self
While it might be easier to say no to somebody else saying no to yourself is more important to avoid guilt. Learn how to say no to yourself by practising delayed gratification, love and compassion towards yourself through self-love.
I am a writer with interest in hair, beauty and fashion. I also like telling stories, but most of all I enjoy listening and reading them. If I'm not doing any of the above, I will be trying to crack a game of chess or monopoly. My biggest fear is being ordinary.