All the mistakes I ever made in my life were when I wanted to say no, and said yes.
Are you afflicted with the disease to please?
So you're a people-pleaser.
Big deal. So am I.
And so is the guy next door, Oprah and the President of The United States.
In fact, everyone's a people-pleaser to some extent.
And that’s fine and healthy. Needing to be loved and approved of is as natural as wanting food and shelter.
It’s when you become addicted to pleasing people that it's a problem.
In fact, more than a problem, a disease.
'The Disease To Please' as H. B. Braiker called it.
And it’s consuming you.
You want everyone to like you. To love you. You dread disapproval.
And people-pleasing seems the safe way to inoculate yourself against conflict and confrontation in relationships, whether family, friends, or at work.
You fail to speak up, fail to say what’s on your mind, fail to allow yourself to be the real you.
Fail to say 'no'.
So how do you know if you've got the disease to please? If you're a 'yes' junkie?
Just be honest with yourself...
Are you constantly running around being everyone else's go-to person?
- The one who will always change their plans at a moment’s notice.
- The one who will always take on more work and stay late.
- The one who’s still clearing away everyone else’s trash at the end of the party.
The one who will always say 'yes'.
The one who never says 'no'.
Because if so, it's screwing up your life. No, scrub that. It's already screwed up your life.
If it can be called your life, because your 'yes' addiction comes at a heavy price...
How To Use The Ultimate Guilt-Free Guide To Saying NO!
The best way to use The Ultimate Guilt-Free Guide To Saying NO! is to start at the beginning and read to the end:-)
In reality, most of us know how to say 'no', what we need is the motivation and support to actually stand up for ourselves and say it.
This is why I don't give actual scripts to say 'no' until the second half of the post. The reality is, you'll never use them unless you have resolved to take action and reclaim your life - and that's what the first half of this post is about - reclaiming your life.
For those of you who simply want to get to the strategies or scripts or haven't got the time to read all of this in one go download a PDF of the full post here. You'll also receive Bonus resources to make your 'no' even more guilt-free and effective:
- The Best Medium To Say Your No
- When ( & How) To Take Your No Back
download the PDF & bonuses here
or use the Quick Navigation below to skip to different sections
But whichever way you use The Ultimate Guilt-Free Guide To Saying No! use it, say no!
And reclaim your life - You only get the one!
Your Life Is Not Your Own
Every day you hear the alarm you feel a sense of tedious inevitability. A sense that you’re stuck in an endless cycle of ‘yes’ days.
And, no matter how hard you try, you’ll just keep saying ‘yes’ day after day, week after week, year after year.
Until the day you die.
Which might come as a relief because endlessly saying 'yes' has stolen life’s magic. It’s left you overwhelmed, over-committed and overstretched.
It’s got you doing too many things, things you don’t like. Sometimes with people you’d rather spend less time with, way less time with.
But the alternative seems impossible. What on earth would happen...
- If you gave up saying 'yes' to everyone and every request.
- If you put your needs before theirs.
- If you stood up for yourself and learned to say 'no'.
They’d reject you, surely? There’d be rows, repercussions. They’d disown you.
The very idea of saying ‘no’ is enough to bring on a panic attack.
So you say 'yes'. Again...and again...and again.
And it’s eating you up inside.
But you can’t keep it locked up forever. In fact you’d love to scream it out. To have it tattooed on your forehead, emblazoned on your front. To carry a giant placard with it scrawled in big red brushstroke...
NO! NO! NO!
But there’s one reason above all others that stops that 'no' escaping your lips...
Guilt - The Dark Force
There's no problem so awful, that you can't add some guilt to it and make it even worse.
'Guilt’s conned you into believing by saying ‘no’ you’ll commit some heinous crime. That standing up for yourself will rob you of your happiness and peace of mind. Among all those lies, 4 big, fat ones stand out that are stopping you from taking action and saying that 'no'...
You feel it's wrong to put yourself first.
Oh boy, it feels disgustingly selfish to say ‘no’ to a good friend doesn’t it? After all, they’ve helped you out plenty in the past.
But sometimes their request comes at exactly the wrong time. You’re already up to your ears in promises. You honestly haven’t got enough puff to support their wonderful charity event, run their kids to and from weekend football or look after the dog.
And maybe, just maybe, good friend or not, they've asked once too often.
So you want to say 'no', but you end up saying a weak-ass yes. After all, good friends are supposed to support each other, aren't they?
You feel it will cause conflict and hurt people's feelings.
Saying ‘no’ can feel horribly harsh. You worry that it’s too easy to unintentionally injure someone’s feelings. You fret that a declined dinner invitation or coffee meet up could leave them feeling rejected.
And you'd be mortified if you upset someone because you genuinely care about other people’s feelings. So you go anyway and spend the whole time resenting being there.
You feel it's wrong to relax and do nothing.
Taking time out seems so wrong, doesn’t it? You stress that you’re wasting time, that you're being unproductive. Heck you can’t contribute anything while lounging on the couch or staring out of the window.
That’s got lazy written all over it! And that’s why your guilty feelings start beating you up the instant you even contemplate some quality down time, some unstructured ‘do nothing’ time.
So you sign up for that course or say 'yes' to that golden opportunity. And then spend every minute regretting it, dreaming of chilling out on the couch with a good book, movie or friend instead.
You feel ungrateful.
You feel ungrateful if you turn down an opportunity – after all, not everyone is offered such a chance. That seems unbelievably spoiled.
And that’s why it tears you up with guilt to think of saying anything other ‘yes’ to every opportunity even if it's just a trial yoga class. You couldn’t bear to be the person who takes their privileges for granted.
So once again you say 'yes' and end up hating every minute of it, wishing you were doing anything but.
Come Over To The Light
I used to to do and feel the same. I used to feel the Dark Force of Guilt tugging at me. And occassionally I still do.
But now I resist. I’ve had it with guilt. I’m done being an unwilling passenger on a one way guilt trip to regret, resentment and self-directed rage that I can't get my self together to say 'no'!
And unless you want to go on screwing up your life - or worse still, living someone else's - I suggest you do too.
You see, I noticed that there were those who seemed all but immune to guilt and the need to please. Indeed, many of the people I was constantly saying 'yes' to, were often saying 'no' to everyone else, me included.
And guess what? They were still popular, loved, respected even. And not despite standing up for themselves and saying no often, but seemingly because of it.
So I started taking notes from them, learning ways to stand up for myself, to give a straightforward answer, to say 'no'. It wasn’t easy at first, and I still need to check myself to stop falling back into my old people-pleasing ways to this day.
But the amazing thing is, there have been very few rows or repercussions, despite what guilt whispered in my ear. And far from disowning me, apart from a few people who were better out of my life, I am more liked and respected than I ever was before.
A few weeks ago, for instance, I said 'no' to my boss…without passing out in fear! I politely refused to do something I felt strongly was an unfair request. Standing my ground that morning removed a situation that had been hideously stressful for three years.
And far from falling into a fire pit of angry responses and reprisals, my boss simply respected me the more for speaking out and saying 'no'.
It's time you said no.
- No to all those dull, unwanted social requests.
- No to all those people you dont want or need in your life.
- No to all those dead end tasks offloaded on you.
No to someone else's life - and yes to yours.
And don't panic. With practice and this guide you can learn to say 'no' without guilt or unnecessary conflict. You can say 'no' without offending anyone and you'll still have a place to go for the holidays.
So in the next section, let's finish what we started in this one, and root out those last shards of guilt.
Why Guilt Can Go To Hell
The worst guilt is to accept an unearned guilt.
Guilt has whispered some mean, mean nonsense to you, especially in the early hours. It totally lied. But it’s been very convincing. But here’s some more important facts that guilt conveniently left out when it talked you into forever saying ‘yes’.
Your guilt is unearned
First off, guilt is an emotion that should be reserved for when you do something wrong. In fact, unless you have a body and a bag of lime in your trunk of your car your guilt is unearned.
Really, most of the time you're just trying to do your best. Saying 'no' to someone doesn't count as 1st degree anything. It's simply not a crime.
Guilt has told you a pack of lies about how upset the person you say 'no' to is going to be. 9 times out of 10 they'll have forgotten your 'no' before you've left the building.
And it might just be that they were never expecting that 'yes'. They were probably prepared for a 'no'. How ironic would that be?
Guilt has also told you a load of bull about how the other person will react. It's gleefully whispered in your ear that they'll be offended. Maybe they'll be really mad at you. And the fault will be yours and yours alone.
But hang on there. Stop listening to that charlatan. Because the truth almost always is that actually...
Guilt Doesn't Make You Feel Guilty, People Do.
Most guilt is false. In fact it's caused not by any wrong doing on your part, but by manipulation on someone else's.
Here’s the deal, if you have something to feel guilty about, you’ll feel it. Oh boy, will you feel it. If you been out in the dead of night with a body, a spade and a bag of lime your conscience is going to scream about that for, ooh ever.
But some people assault you with an arsenal of guilt every time they want something from you.
And let’s be clear, this is not always done deliberately. It can be, oh sure, it can be very calculated. Often though, it’s simply a case of their brain wanting whatever it is so bad that their subconscious put their desires above yours.
And that can translate into them finding every reason why you should do whatever they’re asking. And in their minds, those reasons can be enough of an excuse to whip out that guilt gun.
Because make no mistake. Guilt is a weapon. And it can take your life as eeffectively as any gun.
So how do you recognize this false guilt? Because if you don't learn to recognize it quickly, it'll bury you and then you're done. Game over.
Let's say you're innocently going about your day and suddenly you're ambushed by a request. At first it seems harmless enough, but then you find it's loaded with consequences if you don't say 'yes'.
- If you don’t give up your Wednesday nights and join the community group, it may have to fold. Just think of all the young people you’ll be letting down.
- If you don't go to your parents again this Christmas, they'll feel rejected.
- If you don't donate that $20 to that worthy cause, all the poor puppies/kittens/penguins will go hungry.
And so it goes on...and on...
And you know it's so. Not because you work out all these terrible consequences of you saying 'no'. But because THEY TELL YOU.
That's manipulation 101. That's false guilt, right there.
So listen out for elaborately detailed explanations of what could happen if you don’t do whatever it is they’ve asked. Use this to add strength to your ‘no’ because...
a reasonable request comes with nothing more than a ‘please’.
Not a barrow load of guilt and bull whether that’s intentionally or innocently wheeled into the conversation.
And if you give in to it, you're in danger of setting yourself up as a willing victim. Because it's very easy to fall into self-matrydom.
The truth is you do have a choice. You see, people consciously or unconsciously tend to sound you out when they ask for a favor first time round. And that makes sense because they don't know how you'll react.
And what happens is that how you react teaches them how much they can ask - and how often.
So you're training them to keep expecting that 'yes'. And being human, they'll want to see just how big- and how many - yeses they can get.
After all, everyone has a long list of crap they'd rather not do. And if someone else is willing to take it off their hands, then why not?
So if you've trained people to ask and assume they'll get those yesses, you're just going to have to un-train them.
And that's just life. It's not something to feel guilty about. You didn't realize that's how it worked. Or if you did, you simply didn't know how to stop it - until now.
So guilt can go to hell.
And if you want to get to that 'no', you need to understand just a little more about some of the other guilt-edged reasons you say 'yes' when you really want to say "get out of here - no way!".
Guilt Doesn't Make You Feel Guilty, People Do.
Why You Say Yes
The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say “no” to almost everything.
You probably think that you’re actually hard wired to say ‘yes’. That the connection between your brain and mouth has been programmed without the ability to say ‘no’, even when you desperately want to stop saying 'yes'.
Well, the good news is that you aren’t innately a ‘yes’ person. You weren’t born with an inability to say ‘no’. But there are some good reasons why you find it so hard to say 'no'.
It all started way back before your first birthday, likely when you first got a glimmer of independence by being able to crawl. Your parents started telling you ‘no’ as a major part of your upbringing. And for the most part, it was well meaning. They taught you to be safe, to respect adults and behave well – and that meant doing what you were told.
So you learned to say 'yes' to those you loved.
And then your school years started and you were instilled with the ‘rule’ that authority has to be obeyed. Teachers spoke and you needed to say ‘yes’. 'No' wasn't tolerated. And again, teachers were just trying to instill values. Values they believed were essential for life. You learned to say yes or suffer the consequences that would follow.
So you learned to say 'yes' to those you feared.
Then came work. And you saw the boss sitting at the top of the pyramid with each layer of people below her respectfully saying 'yes' to the layer above them, right the way to the top. So even though a more senior colleague would ask you if you could complete a task, you realized on day one it wasn’t an optional response. You felt you needed to say ‘yes’ for job security, to be considered a team player, to have a chance of promotion, to stave off being let go.
So you learned to say 'yes' to those who controlled your future.
Is there any wonder that you struggle to say ‘no’ now? You’ve had 20, 30, maybe 50 years of being programmed to say ‘yes’.
And those principles are still being reinforced every day.
- Your parents and other family expect you to do what they say, just as they did when you were still in diapers.
- Anyone in ‘authority, who has a fancy title or a uniform expects you to comply without resistance just as you did in the school system.
- And everyone at work expects you to abide by the code that unless you’re at the top of the pyramid you’ll do what’s asked, whether you like it or not.
And the problem gets worse. Because everyone else you come into contact with falls somewhere between these three. You say 'yes' to your friends and partner because you love them. You say 'yes' to people who intimidate you because they appear as authoritative figures.
And you say 'yes' to complete strangers because you just don't know who they might be or what power they might wield.
Saying ‘yes’ now has associations for you of being loved and thought of as a ‘good’ person. It means being safe and staying out of conflict. And saying ‘yes’ means you have the best chance of getting on, of being a success.
And a lot of this simply comes down to being a decent human being. The kind who wants the world to get on, who likes people and doesn’t unnecessarily want to upset anyone. You say “yes” when you want to say “no” to avoid conflict, to be helpful. There’s the fear of missing out too, the worry of lost opportunities.
'But to feed your 'yes' habit, you've become a serial people-pleaser. And you're ignoring the hidden cost of those constant yeses.
The Hidden Cost Of Saying Yes
When you say yes to others make sure you are not saying no to yourself.
You lose self-respect.
Every time you say "yes, okay" when you mean "no, I don’t want to" your own desires are being steamrollered by what someone else wants. But your desires don’t go away just because you push them to the back of the queue.
They hang around discontentedly, festering in the background. Heck, they burn through your self-respect with ever-present nagging reminders you didn’t get what you wanted. You gave in to someone else's demands… again.
And there's worse...
You likely feel resentful when it feels like someone is taking advantage of you. When they ask too much, too often. It doesn’t feel good to be used, to be taken advantage of, right?
And the real killer of your self-respect is the realization that there is manipulation going on.
But wait, it’s not necessarily them doing the manipulating.
You see by always saying ‘yes’ you inadvertently set the rules for the way you should be treated - simply by the way you treat them. By always meeting their requests, you’ve said “Hey, that’s absolutely okay, go ahead – keep asking!” In fact, you're often the one inadvertently doing the manipulating.
You lose other people’s respect.
It maybe subconscious but over time, others begin to stop thinking about your feelings, wishes, even your rights. Why? Because you’ve never given them any reason to consider these. By saying ‘yes’ repeatedly you’ve created an association with what they want, not with what you want.
And that link grows ever stronger with each ‘yes’ you give them.
You lose trust.
All of those yeses you said, they sounded genuine enough, wouldn’t you say? You certainly tried not to begrudgingly agree. You aimed to smile, not grind your teeth.
But however hard you try, hiding what you think isn’t telling the truth. And as human beings, we hear alarm sirens when we sense that someone is being in any way false.
It’s harsh because you’ve said ‘yes’ to be helpful, to be considerate, maybe even to flatter their ego. However the message they received is something altogether different. They know something doesn’t smell right, and they soon lose trust in you.
And the reality is, it's often well founded.
You see when your a serial people-pleaser, juggling all those yeses in the air, you're bound to drop one...and then another. You’re so overstretched, so overwhelmed that eventually you let them down.
Because you’ve proved you’re so reliable, they’ve learned that they can ask you to do stuff that’s super important to them.
And when you do let them down, any trust left is going to die right there.
You lose time to do the things you love.
Your to-do list is close to impossible, but that’s seriously old news, I know. The things you love to do can take a hike because there are no minutes, let alone hours, left. Your hobbies, your passions, all your just-for-fun activities, they’re never going to feature.
If you're going to keep on saying ‘yes’ the kindest thing is to say goodbye to them on last time and dump them in the trash can.
You become less lovable in your mind.
There are some great people you want to admire and respect you, just as you do them. You see the way they’re making the life they want. How they’re following their dreams and standing up for what’s important to them.
You hear them saying ‘no’ and wish you could too. You ache for them to see how similar you are really, how great you could get on. Yet they seem disinterested in you. You’re just another blip on their radar.
And that totally eats away at how likable and lovable you feel.
But they'll never recognize the wonderful you if you keep hiding under all those ‘yeses’.
You lose self-confidence & others lose confidence in you.
Saying what you think others want to hear seems a nice way to make them feel good. In theory it should also help to eliminate conflict. No one wants to be seen upsetting people and causing conflict, do they? That's just a breeding ground for guilt.
It’s a mean trick of life though that it doesn’t actually work out that way.
The truth is often when people confide in you, they’re silently asking for your advice. If you're just nodding blindly and saying 'yes', most people pick up on that.
The upshot is they don’t really feel that much better. Or that much nearer a solution to their problem. So next time, they avoid you and confide in someone else.
Being confided in shows that someone trusts and respects us. And when they don't, your self-esteem and confidence take a nosedive.
You become more resentful.
Constantly putting other first seems selfless, decent, considerate and oh-so many other things we all want to be. Going out of your way for someone no matter what you had planned, should make you feel great, surely?
Yes, to a point.
But after that point, those feelings can quickly turn to resentment. Especially when we’re disappointed that we didn’t get what we wanted because we’re too busy getting them what they wanted.
Hey, that’s natural and normal. Don’t beat yourself up. However resentment is very corrosive and soon burns a hole in any belief you had that they like you for who you are. You imagine they only like you because you say 'yes' to their every request.
And that’s going to skyrocket your resentment.
You hate the things you used to love.
Remember those things you use to enjoy? Somehow they now seem a chore, a grind. Saying ‘yes’ too often has tarnished the whole experience.
Maybe you used to bake or do graphic design because you have a flair that made it satisfying and fulfilling. But that flair became irresistible to others. They call on you each and every time.
Now you dread being asked. You wished you’d never offered. Ever.
And maybe it’s gone on so long you’re not even sure any more if people actually like what you do. Perhaps your efforts are just seen as something free and easy they don’t need to pay for.
And now you feel like never baking another cake or designing another poster. It's sucked all the fun out of it.
You deny yourself the opportunity to do the right thing.
You’ve had good reason to forever say ‘yes’ so far because it’s been your failsafe against guilt. But when saying ‘yes’ means going against your principles you're caught in the guilt grinder.
You're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't.
Or so guilt tells you. In fact, it's not true. Because the former brings on false guilt and the latter real guilt. And I know which one I'd rather deal with.
Add up all the hidden costs of saying 'yes' and realize - you simply can't afford it.
What You Gain By Saying No
Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying yes too quickly and not saying no soon enough.
But is all the apparent conflict and pain of saying 'no', worth it?
Well, imagine how it would feel. Go on, close your eyes...
Just picture how much more at ease you would be, free of the anxiety that guilt will sneak up on you. To threaten you, bully you into saying 'yes'.
But that’s only half of your incredible saying ‘no’ story.
There’s so much more.
Rather than lose, you gain respect.
In reality, people don’t like you because you agree with them and run around after them. Think about it - the people you truly admire, are they the kind of people who tell you as it is, who aren’t afraid to voice their opinions, to say 'no'?
And those people feel exactly the same. So next time the world tells you to say ‘yes’, ask yourself:
‘Do I like people who flatter and fawn? Or do I admire strong people who aren’t afraid to voice their opinions?’
Stay blissfully calm in the knowledge that if you want to be liked and loved, stand up for yourself and the world will love you for it.
You gain the habit of no.
Like all habits, saying 'no' is like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the more it grows. And the easier it is to do those exercises. In this instance, to say 'no'.
The reason most people never start to exercise their muscles is because they are unwilling to go through that short term pain for that long term gain.
Don't be one of those people. And with this ultimate Guide and bonus resources, you have a blueprint to help you make an effective plan, stick to it and succeed.
You need to say no less often.
As you learn how to say 'no’ effectively, you’ll find that much of the complication that now ties you in anxious knots will evaporate. Your days will be simpler, your to-do list cleared of all the ‘Yes’ jobs that forever piled up. You’ll be able to breathe, to think. And to choose.
Because as your ‘no’ becomes more of a habit people will ask you less and less. You will have fewer requests to deal with. You’ll no longer be the go-to person for pretty much everything.
Others will see you as someone who has a life of their own. As someone who understands that goodwill is an exchange. That positive relationships are built on respect for each other’s needs and desires.
Heck, they’ll truly appreciate when you do say ‘yes’ because it won’t be automatic.
You gain time and stop being over-commited.
It's ridiculous that you haven’t got time to think, to take a breath, isn't it? It’s not just your ever burgeoning lists of tasks, it’s the pressures of all the responsibilities it brings.
Saying ‘no’ will significantly prune that to-do list. It will ensure that anything to be ticked off is there because you chose for it to be. You thought it through and said okay, yep I have the time and energy for that.
And what of that overly long list of commitments you have. All those obligations and pressures to deliver that keep you awake at night. And have you stressed before you're even out of bed in the morning?
Saying ‘no’ will simplify that list down to a manageable level. That’s right, you can be in charge of how much you’re responsible for, you can totally limit where your accountabilities lie.
Life’s for living and that’s never going to happen while you’re drowning in overcommitment.
Of course if you are looking to say 'no' at work, sometimes this simply isn't going to be possible. Certainly not in the way it can outside of work. But there is still a lot you can do if you read this guide and check out the advice and scripts.
Some of it is work-specific advice and scripts. Nevertheless you'll find that it's not what or who you are saying 'no' to, but how. People are people and once you know how to speak their language, they often surprise you with just how reasonable and flexible they can be.
You gain peace of mind.
Guilt loses its hold when you see the positive results of saying ‘no’.
Less resentment, less lying, less dodging people who want a 'yes' from you.
And you won’t feel guilty because you’ll help when you can, when you want to. That way you’ll be offering effective, genuine help. No more begrudgingly slapping on a smile and just going through the motions.
What a relief!
You gain balance and stop feeling overwhelmed.
Who'd have thought that a two letter word could bring you such delicious, total and lasting relief from overwhelm?
That by saying that one small word you'll feel lighter, brighter, more energized.
You gain boundaries and stop being everything to everyone.
Forever saying ‘yes’ has trampled your boundaries into the dirt. The lines you see as unacceptable for others to cross are so blurred everyone's confused. From where they’re standing it seems as though pretty much everything is okay to ask you to do.
Saying ‘no’ automatically redefines those boundaries. It says:
- I’ve taken on all I want to.
- That’s not something I like to do.
- I have something that’s important to me that needs to come first.
Without needing to give any details at all, you can give others an accurate and honest picture of the real you.
You can let them know that you matter as a person.
That you have a life to live, just as they do.
Just picture how much more at ease you would feel, being yourself. No more needing to pretend, to over-explain. And no more burning with resentment, freed from feeling bitter and hurt that others take you for granted.
You get your life (and self-esteem) back.
What else is there to say? Let's get straight in to How To Say No...
Stop saying yes! - your mouth is making promises your heart can't keep
Haven't got the time to read all of this in one go? Download a PDF of the full post here.
HOW TO SAY NO!
Sometimes "No" is the kindest word.
There is a way to reclaim your life. A way to grab back all that forever saying ‘yes’ has stolen from you. No matter how far down the ‘yes’ rabbit hole you’ve fallen, there is a simple, guilt-free escape ladder. Use it and it will let you scramble out.
1. Be certain of what you’re saying no to.
Be sure of exactly what it is you want to avoid having to do, say, or even be. This will give you the clarity needed to avoid any doubt or confusion in your words.
It will also give you the assurance to be considerate in how you say it. After all, you may not want the opportunity being offered to you, but it may be a genuinely good-hearted offer.
Be sure of what you’re saying ‘no’ to and you’ll communicate a clear, considered message.
2. Remember what you’ll gain by saying no.
The worry of saying ‘no’ has caused you to say ‘yes’ to the detriment of your happiness, hopes and even your health. But anxiety won’t disappear with logical thinking, uhuh! .
The failsafe way is to remind yourself with emotion of all that you'll gain by saying that 'no'. Take a quick refresher look at the ‘What you gain by saying ‘No’ section above. Now pick out the one biggest benefit you'll receive.
And that alone should make your decision to finally say 'no' stickier than chewing gum on a hot sidewalk.
There’s a great tip to help you in these cases. Simply write it down. No elaborate essay needed, just a single statement that you can pull out and look at before you meet that person face to face or pick up the phone to them.
3. Decide you are actually going to say no now.
Pick a time. Usually now is always the best time. But in the real world if you have a specific 'no' to say, you may have to wait. There's little point in tackling your boss or partner if they're in a foul mood if you can catch them at a better time.
However, the one proviso is that you don't use it as an excuse to back out.
The decision you make when you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed or resentful is the correct one. Don’t let a change of mood, a sunny day or a moment of weakness persuade you that suffocating in tasks and responsibilities is not actually so bad.
Strategies For A Guilt-Free & Stress-Free No
Saying ‘no’ becomes instantly easier when you understand one fundamental truth...
You are NOT responsible for other people’s reactions when you say ‘no.’
It’s up to each of us to decide how we respond in any situation. We’re adults. It’s our job to behave in a manner we feel is appropriate. Which is exactly why you’re not responsible for anyone’s reaction, nor for trying to control that reaction.
But if you follow these steps you will have done all you can reasonably be expected to do to say 'no' kindly. To be considerate of others’ feelings. And of behaving in the manner that you feel is appropriate.
1. Be honest.
The number one rule in saying ‘no’ without causing offense is to be as honest as you can be. You don't like being lied to and neither do other people.
Besides, you suck at lying. You suck bad. Most good, honest people do. Lying simply doesn't come naturally. And they'll know, because how many times have you been lied to and cringed at how obvious it was?
That’s not to say that a slight fudging of the facts to spare the other person’s feelings is wrong. Being kind is always the best policy. Honesty needs to take slight second place if telling the whole truth will ruin someone’s day.
But there are ways to be as honest as possible.
For example, starting in with the whole truth like "I’ve had a problem saying ‘no’ in the past and now I’m cautious about taking on new things. I need to make sure I don’t get overwhelmed again". You don’t then need to expand on how busy or not you are.
Find something you can say honestly. It’s absolutely fine to leave the rest unsaid.
Anyone who doesn't respect that, doesn't deserve your time anyway.
Don't lead people on.
What’s going to happen if you don’t start saying ‘no’? How are you going to carry on months, even years down the line? There are only 24 hours in the day and you’re already burning through 18-20 of those doing stuff you feel you have little or no choice over.
And then you try to sleep for the remaining 4-6 hours and sweat that you’re going to let people down.
And let them down you will. No one can keep juggling that number of plates spinning in the air for ever. And when one comes crashing down, the rest soon follow.
And then guilt’s got you either way.
It’s better to let them down gently. To say 'no' on your terms, while you still can. And before the consequences get too messy.
Remember, the long term gain is always worth a little short term pain. And it's usually way less than you think it will be.
You know, folk aren’t offended by being treated with respect. Funnily enough that makes us all feel great, it’s a basic human trait. By being as straightforward as possible when saying ‘no’, you’re saying "I respect you too much to roll out a load of bull and expect you to swallow it".
What you are saying is ‘I can see why you asked and I know it matters to you but this time I can’t help’.
That way you don’t leave them feeling foolish for having asked or angry that they were fed a line.
Be as fair as possible.
Even for the most demanding of people, every now and then their requests deserve your time and energy. It’s a case by case scenario.
Maybe there’s someone in your life who asks first every time rather than trying themselves first. Maybe they’re capable enough but it’s easier to call you up and get you on the job instead.
Or perhaps you know someone who doesn’t like to be challenged or out of their depth and they figure you can always suck it up and wade in on their behalf.
One day, they may hit a situation they genuinely can't handle themselves. So be fair and consider each request on it's own merits.
And if you do then decide it's a 'no', it'll be a guilt-free 'no'.
Keep it short and sweet.
Know what’s really inconsiderate or rude?
Wasting someone else’s time. And mumbling on without getting to the point is clearly wasting their time. And yours.
Being to the point isn't rude. After all, how would you like to be treated?
Don't take the no back.
You can fall into the trap of over explaining all too easily. And doing so gives the other person ample ammunition to attack and force you to surrender your 'no'.
Say your neighbor wants to use your parking space because it’s actually closer to their front door, or it’s more convenient or they like the shape better. If you feel you want to say ‘yes’, say it.
But that ‘no’ needs to be said without too much explanation. Remember, they want your 'yes'. Over explain and you'll end up talking yourself into a blind alley where saying ‘yes’ is the only way out.
Don't over apologize.
This will lead to the same result as over explaining. Don't say sorry over and over as if you were English.
The more you say sorry, the less definite your ‘no’ sounds. Over-apologizing actually says ‘I’m not confident about the ‘no’ I just said.’ It suggests that you can be swayed with just a little bit more pressure.
It’s fine to include an apology in your ‘no’ IF you really want to. But you have no need to apologize. Guilt can go to hell, remember?
The Feel Good System For Saying 'No'
There’s a very easy 6 point system to ensure you can say ‘no’ without fear of feeling guilty. Sadly, there’s no snazzy but slightly irritating acronym to help you remember. No matter, it’s simple. And luckily you’re smart.
- Thank them (acknowledge their request)
- Compliment them
- Actually say 'no'
- Offer a reason (if it's appropriate)
- Offer an alternative (if it's appropriate)
- Thank them again
1. Thank them.
Ok, it doesn't really matter if you believe the request is self-centered or not. Thanking someone is communication 101. Why? Because if you thank someone (hopefully genuinely but hey neither of us live in fairy town), they listen. And getting them to listen is half way to them hearing your 'no'.
If you can acknowledge their request all the better. Your boss probably is worried about losing those clients if the contract isn't completed on time. Your mother probably does miss you if you aren't there for the holidays. Acknowledging this creates empathy, which is like a spoon full of sugar to help the coming 'no' go down.
2. Compliment them.
Again, a genuine compliment will carry far more weight than a false one. And very often, if you can get beyond your frustration or resentment, you can usually find something to compliment.
3. Actually say no.
The important point is obviously to say 'no' in all of this :-).
4. Offer a reason.
According to Cialdini, author of the famous book Influence, a well-known principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason. People simply like to have reasons for what they do.
Likewise if you're refusing someone a favor, then you will be more successful in not offending that person if you have a reason. Strangely the validity of the reason itself doesn't make that much difference to people. Whatever the reason given, they tend to be equally happy (or sometimes unhappy) about it.
Basically by offering a reason, you’re giving the subconscious message that you care about the other person’s feelings. Otherwise you could just say ‘no’ and walk away.
Don’t feel pressured into going into details if you don’t want to but tell them enough to show you have a legitimate reason for not being free.
Anyone who doesn't respect that, doesn't deserve your time anyway.
Give a reason that you’re comfortable giving – it will come out as genuine and valid even without a book’s worth of details.
5. Offer an alternative.
It's best to also soften the blow of a refusal by offering an alternative. Michael Roberto, a professor at Bryant University and the author of Why Great Leaders Don’t Take Yes for an Answer suggests that if saying 'no', you should always “Extend them an olive branch.”
Your olive branch could be suggesting someone else who might be able to help. Or leaving the door open for them to ask again later. Or even, proposing another way they might like to try doing whatever it is, one that doesn’t need so much assistance from others.
Think of it as an exchange. You aren’t going to do whatever it is you’re saying ‘no’ to but you are offering something in its place. And don’t be concerned that what you’re offering is going to feel like a compromise to them – it may well, but that’s fine.
6. Thank them again.
People remember the last thing you said. So make it a positive one and the memory of your 'no' will be better for it.
Simplified alternative to the Feel Good System for saying 'no'.
It can be stressful saying 'no' and all too easy to get muddled when it comes to the actual event. If you find the 6 Part System a little too involved, you can use the popular 'sandwich technique' - a cut down version. Simply 'sandwich' the 'negative' filling - the 'no', between two positives. So...
1. Say something genuinely complimentary, empathetic or positive.
2. Say 'no'.
3. Say something genuinely complimentary, empathetic or positive.
How to say no without saying the word no
Requests and demands can suddenly appear in your day in a host of different ways.
And your ‘no’s can do just the same.
Not every no needs to include the actual word no. Indeed not every no needs to be spoken or even written. You can just as effectively communicate 'no' by your actions.
Book yourself early.
Let’s be honest.
You feel resentful before you're even asked. Why? Because you know that the request is coming. It always does. Again and again.
You dread it finally landing on your plate. In fact, the longer it goes on, the worse you fear its unwelcome arrival.
You know, like stressing over the December holidays way back in June because it’s automatically expected that you’ll go to family. Yup. That you’ll spend the majority of your precious time off somewhere not of your own choice.
So book yourself early. Stop dreading the ask arriving months ahead by committing yourself to something that you really do want.
Avoid the situation.
It’s not weak or crass to simply avoid a situation. If you know you’ll be cornered by a friend to take part in an event you don’t have the time, energy or inclination for, don’t go near that corner!
That's absolutely fine. Because we’re all allowed to be human. There’s no guilt in being what you are. Which is kind, considerate and helpful. But also exhausted, over-stretched and desperate not to over-commit yourself yet again.
So sometimes you’re better off staying the heck away. And let your absence say 'no' for you.
I know, I know that sounds so rude, doesn’t it? Not even having the courtesy to respond, oh boy. You may think that you'd only use this one in extreme situations.
But there is one critical point to understand here...
Often the ask is huge for you on the receiving end. It’s going to be a massive drain on your time or mental energy. Or maybe it’s a challenge, one that makes an intense demand on your self-confidence or courage.
But the person asking doesn’t necessarily understand that at all.
It’s possible that they’ve asked on a whim. It could be that what they’re asking you to do, they don’t care about that much.
But because you’re a decent person and you want to help, you take it on. You stress and fret about it, because being a good friend or family member is essential to you.
So ignoring a request isn’t rude. It can simply give everyone the time and space for it to disappear if it isn’t important. If it is, they'll ask again. Of that, you can be sure.
Emails are a prime example. If I answered every request I get as Assistant Editor of Goodlife ZEN I'd never have time to write articles like this. That's just life. Everyone's busy and doing their best.
If a request sent by email is important, then it'll appear in my inbox again. And then I can respond without spending my whole day on random requests.
Don’t sweat over every ask you get hit with. By overlooking a request, you can relieve yourself of getting caught up in all the nonessential impulses of others.
Delay Your Answer.
Feeling you need to answer 'yes' or 'no' on the spot can be very stressful. It can force a 'yes' out of you in panic or guilt.
So if you ever fear you may say ‘no’ too quickly or too harshly, cut yourself some slack. Delay your answer. “Hey, thanks, let me get back to you on that."
You can add whatever time span you choose, or leave it open. Again, don't lead people on but this is the real world. If someone is putting you on the spot in the hope of forcing a 'yes' out of you, then they know it.
And yes, maybe you never intend to come back to them. Perhaps you're hoping they'll realize this or they'll forget about it.
And if you feel you are genuinely being bullied into a response, then protect yourself by delaying your answer.
However, do make sure that it's not imagined on your side. Sometimes if we're feeling nervous, you can imagine up a scenario that might not exist:)
Talk around the request.
Acknowledging a request but not committing to it is another positive way to say ‘no’. You see, by talking around what’s been asked, you are recognizing that the other person wants something. And that’s fine for them to want it. And it's fine for you not to:).
By not saying ‘yes’ or 'no' you are giving the message that you don’t really want to take it on. Most reasonable people will get the hint and not push you. If they do push you, you can always delay your answer as above.
It may seem that most of these strategies are short term or even a little 'dishonest'. But the reality is people are going to try and make you say 'yes' to stuff you don't want. Whether they do it consciously or not is irrelevant.
And sometimes you are going to be too nervous to stand up to someone directly and say 'no'. And sometimes, that isn't even the best way for the other person. They may have a bad temper and be unable to control themselves when challenged, however politely.
The bottom line is, it's better to find a way to say 'no', spoken or not. The alternative is to carry on doing sh*t for the rest of your life. And no one needs that. Often, not even the people you are doing it for. An unwilling helper is often worse than none.
So use the strategies in this section if, and only if, you really need them. But if you do need them, then don't feel guilty. You're one of the good guys, remember :-).
Haven't got time to read all of this now? Do you want to be able to refer to it later so you can say no when and where you want?
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HOW TO SAY 'NO' WORD FOR WORD
When you say no to the wrong people, it opens up the space for the right people to come in.
Requests you'd rather say 'no' to can come from partner, family, friends, work colleagues and anyone else you bump into on this planet.
You may be able to use these scripts word for word. However, it's always best to say 'no' in your own words. And with so many possible scenarios you’ll likely need to do a little adapting.
The scripts are mostly structured using the long and short Feel Good System for saying 'no' above. This will allow your ‘no’ to be clearly understood and received with all your positive, good intentions.
Scripts - How to say no to your family
Family requests can seem the hardest to say ‘no’ to. They know you best and consciously or subconsciously can really push your guilt buttons. And guilt particularly exaggerates the consequences of saying 'no' to family. After all, you don’t want to be responsible for starting a family feud, do you?
The good news is, people rarely react the way you think they will. And using these strategies and scripts in The Ultimate Guilt-Free Guide To Saying NO! will help you minimize any possible conflict.
And remember, if you expect people to react well to your 'no', they often will. People can sense when your resolve is strong, so be decisive!
Your mother asks you to go to them for Christmas, but you want a quiet Christmas in your house.
"That's so wonderful you've invited us again. I really appreciate how much time and effort you and dad put in to make it such a great family occasion. However, Mark & I have been talking about this Christmas. Mark's really exhausted - he's been working so hard on his business at the moment and he can really only take a few days off over Christmas.
So we thought just for this year, we'd have a quiet Christmas at home, just the two of us. We could have some quality family time just after Christmas, when we’ll be much better company. It wont be the same and we'll really miss coming over but it's only for this year. I'm sure you understand."
Your sister asks you to babysit.
"Hey sis, Lori's a lovely baby and I really appreciate you trust me to look after her but I'd rather not. Honestly, I wouldn't be comfortable with that kind of responsibility. I'll help you find a qualified babysitter though."
Your 13 year old son asks you for extra pocket money.
"Hey son, I'd love just to give you the money. But if I did, I'd be a bad father. You see, a lot of people have money problems later in life and it makes them really unhappy. The only way to avoid it, is to learn how money works when you're young.
If I just give it to you, you won't be any smarter, and you'd like to be smarter, wouldn't you? Instead why don't you earn the money? I'll help you."
Your grandmother offers to look after your young daughter but you are unhappy with how she and your grandfather spoil her and ignore your pleas not to.
"That's such a kind offer. Rosie really loves the time she spends with you. I'm really sorry, though, I'm going to have to say no this time.
You see, I know how much you love to give Rosie the best time when she's with you and to show you how much you love her. And she really sees that. But the way you do it by spoiling her makes it really difficult for Pete and me to say no to her when she comes back.
I have asked you before not to let her have everything she wants and I completely understand that you want her to have everything that you never had, but then expects to get that from everyone. And when she doesn't, she gets upset.
So this time I'll have to pass on your offer. Maybe if you could find other ways to show how much you love her, she could stay again. I'd really love that."
You can adapt these scripts for any kind invitation you don’t want to accept. The reason you give may need to change depending on what you’re declining but these are a good blueprint to work from.
They work particularly well because they acknowledge the other person’s desire behind their request - wanting to create a memorable family get together for instance. By recognizing their perspective you’re ensuring your ‘no’ doesn’t sound flippant or ill-considered.
And guilt will have no way of turning up the heat just because they’re family. You’ll have given your ‘no’ too much thought and consideration for it to accuse you of being selfish, mean or disloyal.
Good family relationships are built on love and appreciation of each other, just like any other. They’re only a valid connection if they’re two-sided. So the same rules apply. Any family who don't respect your decision should feel guilty, not you.
Scripts - How to say no to your partner
Saying ‘no’ to your partner can feel extra stressful because you spend the majority of your time together. And you fear creating a strained atmosphere because that’s horrible to live with.
Most of all, you don't want to upset the person you love. So use and adapt these scripts to ensure your 'no' comes across with love and respect.
1. Your partner wants to go to the in-laws for the holidays again.
"Hey honey. We've had a really great time with them before and I realize how much seeing your parents means to you at this time of year. Perhaps I could suggest something a little different this year.
We have been going over there for 10 years and we've never had the holidays here, just you and me. How about just this year, we go see them just before the holidays and take them presents, treat it like a regular festive occasion.
And then we can spend the actual holiday here in our home as if we we'd just got married. Wanting to spend quality dedicated time with just you is really important to me this year."
2. Your partner wants you to help your grown son financially who's always throwing his money away.
"I know how much Johnnie means to you, and me. he's such a wonderful son but I really think we are doing him a disservice. If we constantly bail him out when he gets into financial difficulties of his own doing, he'll never learn how to manage his money.
And one day we might not be able to help him, or he'll have a family of his own, and then what? I feel very strongly that we can only help him by steering him to becoming more financially-minded.
Let's invite him over this weekend and see if we can help him sort this out without just throwing money at him."
3. Your partner wants you to go with him to something that bores you to death.
"You know Sweetie, spending time with you is so precious. I love that you asked me to come along but I think I'd ruin it for you. Film Noir just isn't my thing. I'd have to get you to explain the plot all the way through which would be really annoying for you.
I want you to be able to really enjoy yourself. Why don't you ask Mary instead? Maybe we could plan a movie date when the new romantic comedy comes out?"
4. Your partner wants you to join in with a dispute they are having with a neighbor.
“Darling, I know this has really rattled you. And I can see that’s important to you that you see it through. It’s a case of standing your ground and rightly so if that’s how you feel.
It’s very difficult for me though because I can honestly see both sides, which isn't in anyway saying I don’t support your view. It’s just that I can see why Janie is also so adamant that she is right. I'm sorry but I don’t feel at all comfortable joining in.
I want you to know that I love and support you and please talk to me about it as much as will help you. But I’m going to stand to one side on this and be the neutral one.”
These scripts can be adapted for many kinds of request your partner might make that you wish to say ‘no’ to. Remember to be as honest as possible with the reason you give, particularly as your partner knows you too well to be lied to.
It's essential to acknowledge what your partner is expecting and to gently show them why you don’t feel that is appropriate for you in this situation. That way you can be certain you've covered your partner's needs and feelings.
Even if you feel their request is unfairly demanding, make sure you say 'no' lovingly and respectfully. Then you should feel no guilt.
You need to be yourself in your relationship. Saying 'no' doesn't mean 'I don't love you'. Loving relationships are strong enough to accept that you’re different people, with your own individual ideas, needs and wants.
Scripts - How to say no to your friends
Saying ‘no’ to friends, even good friends, can seem less painful than saying it to your partner or family. But you still feel anxious that you’re letting them down – and that’s because you’re a good friend yourself. You don’t ever want to hurt their feelings.
The good news is with friends, saying ‘no’ can be more straightforward because your relationship is actually a little less complicated. Even though you care hugely for each other, there’s usually slightly less emotion involved. There’s no DNA or lifelong commitment worries to trip you up along the way.
1. A friend asks you to do them a favor like look after their dog.
"Hey Mark, it's really great that you thought of me to look after your dog, Lester. I know how precious he is to you and he's a really special fellow. I'm really honored.
Unfortunately I'll have to pass this time. Thanks again for asking. I'm sure you'll find someone easily to look after such a great dog as Lester."
If you wanted to soften the 'no', as always you could add a genuine reason such as "I've got a prior commitment". And of course you could offer an alternative "Have you asked Sandy? I know she loves Lester and is always glad to see him".
2. A friend asks you to lend them something precious or expensive.
"Hey Jon, you're a really good friend, but I just don't lend out my jet ski. It's nothing personal, I just don't feel comfortable lending it out. I appreciate that might sound a bit odd, but it’s just the way I feel. I’m sure you understand.
But hey, if I can lend you anything else, just shout. I know you'll always take good care of it and return it."
3. A Friend assumes you're in on the annual fishing trip.
"Hey Pete. I know I'm going to disappoint you, but I'm gonna have to pass this year. I've had a hell of a lot of fun in past years. And I really appreciate you arranging it every year, but I've got so much on I just can't do it. But I do hope you'll ask me again next year."
4. Asks you to lie for them.
"Hey John, I really appreciate your friendship, but I don't lie on principle. Besides, even if I did, I'd be a terrible liar and only make it worse for you. If I can help you out in any other way, just say."
Depending on how much you do with your friends, their requests can cover a great many different areas. Each of these scripts can be adapted if you keep the key elements. Acknowledge not only the importance of their request but also that their friendship is important to you.
However, being their friend doesn’t mean you’re obliged to put their desires above yours. You don't always need to drop everything for a friend just because they called your name.
Unless it's an emergency of course and then that's what friends are for. But any friendship that can't take the occasional 'no'. doesn't deserve the name.
Scripts - How to say no at work - Employed
Saying ‘no’ to work colleagues or your boss can feel difficult for an entirely different set of reasons. You work hard, you want to get on with others and in your career. And to do that you want to be seen of as a supportive team player.
Follow these scripts and tailor them to your specific situation. That way you can be certain that you can say 'no' and still be seen to have the right attitude.
1. A coworker asks you to help out with a project.
"Hey thanks for coming to me with this. I'm gonna have to say no this time though. I've got a ton of work on at the moment and my supervisor is already breathing down my neck for these figures.
I really do take you asking me as a vote of confidence in my abilities, so thanks for running it past me."
2. Your supervisor asks you to add another task to your list.
"Of course, no problem. I'm in the middle of this other projects at the moment that you originally wanted by next week. I'm happy to fit this new one in, but I'll have to move the deadlines for the existing one forward a week if that's ok with you?"
3. Your supervisor asks you to do something outside of your skill set.
“Thanks for thinking of me, I really appreciate it but I'm not the right person for this project. Maybe Allan would be perfect?”
Again, this is a definite 'no', but you are extending them an 'olive branch' and offering some constructive help.
4. Your boss asks you to work evenings and weekends - again.
"I really appreciate you believing in me enough to give me this responsibility. Honestly though, I've worked evenings and weekends twice times this month and it's starting to affect my home life and sleep.
I'm sure you appreciate that to do my best work I need a stable home life and sufficient sleep. What could I reschedule, so I could make this my top priority when I come in on Monday? I'll be twice as effective for some down time over the weekend."
You’ll likely need to give work requests more leeway than those in your personal relationships. This is the real world and you need to pay bills and be in the best place for promotion or a reference. And that is exactly why these scripts are structured to communicate that you absolutely respect your colleagues and any hierarchy that might be in place.
Each of these scripts can be adapted to meet your specific workplace needs but remember to be mindful of maintaining your professionalism. What you say will more readily be accepted if it’s delivered in absolutely the right manner.
Saying ‘no’ doesn’t mean you don’t care about your job or colleagues. Being an employee doesn’t mean you’re obliged to leave your rights outside in the car park. Saying ‘no’ the right way will earn you the respect needed to be treated seriously.
Scripts - Freelancer/Work At Home
In many ways, saying ‘no’ as a Freelancer can feel as tricky as saying it as an employee. The reasons however are very different. Being your own boss brings benefits but you still rely on clients to pay your costs and to keep your business afloat. Turning away business can bring on huge guilt pangs.
And if you work from home, you can also be hit with the double whammy of others seeing you as being readily accessible during your working day. It’s very tempting for people to interrupt and assume you can drop everything and go run an errand or chat anytime.
1. A client wants free advice outside of your office hours.
"Hey John, you know for my clients sake I try and keep work and social separate. I'm sure you understand. I don't like to give advice outside the office. I'm in home mode and might misquote.
Why not drop by or give me a ring during office hours tomorrow. Then I can give your idea the time and concentration it deserves. That way I can give you a much better service and quote."
2. A client asks you to do some work that's not your field.
"I think it's a great idea to revamp you site. It's really important to keep relevant. To be honest, it's not one of my core skills. I always recommend the Johnson Agency for that.
However as I'm sure you're aware, one of the most important elements to web design is visuals and I can create stunning graphics for your new site, including a killer logo."
3. A client asks you to undertake a project you just haven't time for.
"I'm honored you thought of me for such a great project. Normally, this would be something I'd jump on. However, unfortunately the timings just not right. I've just taken on another large project and if I was to take on another I wouldn't be able to give it my customary 110%. But next time I'd love to take on a project like this."
This is a effective way to say 'no', but still soften the blow so you can always get back to them at a later date if your circumstances change. Or you can add...
“Hey, thanks for thinking of me! Unfortunately I’m booked up for several months. Feel free to reach out again after this if you’re still interested and I’ll see about fitting it in. Cheers!”
This puts the onus on them to come back to you. This allows you to filter out those who may not be so serious about wanting your time.
4. You work at home and your partner wants you to pick up the dry cleaning or kids.
"Hey honey, I'd love to, you know how much I appreciate everything you do around here. It's just that I am officially at work at the moment.
I know it's hard for you as well with me working from home and using the front room as an office. But if I don't treat it like a proper job with proper office hours, it'll never pay like a proper job. And I know that's not what you or I want. "
5. You work at home and a friend wants you to chat on phone.
"Hey Mike, it's great to talk to you, but it's a really bad time right now. I'm up to my neck in deadlines. I really need to knuckle down and get this report to my client. I'm sure you understand.
Maybe you could give me a ring later tonight when I'm in home mode and finished working. Say after 8?"
Working for yourself carries the double demands of meeting all your targets and bearing the responsibility of ensuring you’re still in business tomorrow. That needs skill in knowing how to operate and how much you can take on.
Not every opportunity arrives at the right time. Some you simply need to pass on. Saying ‘no’ to a low-priced or high-risk contract simply frees you up for one that’s a better use of your skill and time.
In some ways, working for yourself means your 'no' carries more weight. In many people’s estimation they already see you as someone who knows what they want and has the drive to go after it. Each of these scripts can be adapted to ensure you hit the right friendly but firm tone.
Still, when it comes to your clients, you obviously want to offer them the best possible service and keep the door open for future opportunities. But that doesn’t mean accepting every request that arrives on your desk or through your inbox.
Being self-employed doesn’t mean you’re obliged to be accessible without limits.
Scripts - How to say no to everyone else
Saying ‘no’ to a stranger can sometimes seem as hard as saying it to someone you genuinely care about. Basically it can feel like you need to say 'yes' for much the same reasons. The first section of this post covered why.
No worries. Just follow the same guidelines and your 'no' will be as effective as ever.
1. You're asked to run your local scout group, church committee or school parent association.
“Thanks for thinking of me, I'm honored. I don't want to let you down, so I'm going to have to say no. If I said yes, I know that I wouldn't be able to devote enough time and energy to it given my other commitments. And it deserves better than that. But I'm sure you'll find the right woman/man for the job.”
If you just can't bring yourself to say 'no' there and then, delay your 'no'...
“Thanks for thinking of me, I'm honored. I don't want to let you down, so let me think about it and I'll get back to you as soon as possible.”
This 'no' allows to come back to them later. You don't even need to specify a time frame. But remember don't use it unless you really do intend to get back to them, even if it is to say 'no'. Don't keep them hanging on.
2. You're asked for a donation.
“You’re doing a great job. I can see the charity is really going to benefit from your efforts and passion. It’s not something I want to contribute to right now however. So thank you for asking. I wish you a very successful fundraising day.”
3. You're asked to join a local campaign.
“You guys are doing tremendous work, I really appreciate it thank you. I’m not in a position to take on anything extra so this time I’ll have to pass. But I can spread the word and help raise the campaign’s profile wherever I can. If I meet anyone who would love to join, I’ll direct them straight to you.”
4. You're invited to a local event.
“Thanks for the invite. I'm honored! One favor though : can we check in again next week? I'm deep in the middle of several projects at the moment and they're really taking up all my spare time. But if you don't mind waiting, I'll get back to you. "
This allows you to stay in charge and get back to them when it suits you.
Scripts - How to say no when they just won't accept your no.
Sometimes, despite your carefully considered choice of words or actions, your ‘no’ won’t be taken on board first time round. Yep, it’s going to happen. There is an important rule to remember here however - the number of times someone asks isn’t necessarily indicative of how important their request is to them.
- Some people just ask and ask, no matter if it's a big, or small, favor.
- Some people just assume you haven't understood their request.
- Some people see nothing wrong with asking until they get. They figure they'll just keep going until they wear you down.
You see, just like water consistently dripping on a stone for years, a request consistently repeated will wear down a ‘no’. Unless that is, you resolve to stand by it. And it's not as hard as it may sound. You simply use the same technique, they are using.
It's called the 'broken record' technique, which may not make that much sense to anyone born after the 80's. You see, when an old vinyl record got scratched enough, it would get stuck in the groove and just keep repeating the same few seconds of music or speech.
And you can do the same. Just repeat your 'no' every time it is challenged until you wear them down. Just keep in mind...
- Vary your 'no' as little as possible.
- Keep smiling - this isn't a war of attrition.
- Remember, guilt can go to hell! You have every right to say 'no' and not be challenged.
I've highlighted the important phrase that you need to keep saying in each script. You can see that you genuinely respond to them, but stay consistent with your 'no'.
1. Your mother asks you to go to them for Christmas, but you want a quiet Christmas in your house.
YOU: "That's so wonderful you've invited us again. I really appreciate how much time and effort you and dad put in to make it such a great family occasion.
However, Mark & I have been talking about this Christmas. Mark's really exhausted - he's been working so hard on his business at the moment and he can really only take a few days off over Christmas. So we thought just for this year, we'd have a quiet Christmas at home, just the two of us.
It won’t be the same and we'll really miss coming over but it's only for this year. We could have some quality family time just after Christmas, when we’ll be much better company. I'm sure you understand."
YOUR MOM: “But you always come, it won’t be the same. It won’t be like Christmas.”
YOU: “I know we’ve shared such a great time every Christmas. They really have been wonderful. But this year we wouldn’t be good company, we’re exhausted and need to quietly recharge. So we thought just for this year, we'd have a quiet Christmas at home.
Right after though, we’ll be back on form and would love to spend a special time with you both. This year, we need to do it a little differently.”
YOUR MOM: “But what about your dad and I? We look forward to this every year, it’s our family highlight.”
YOU: “Ours too mom, honestly. Christmas with you and dad is precious, sometimes though timing is just off track and that’s exactly what’s happened here. Christmas has hit just as the all the hours of hard work and stress have too.
It’s the first time it’s ever happened and you know we wouldn’t make that decision without thinking of your feelings. So we thought just for this year, we'd have a quiet Christmas at home. This year, it’s going to have to be a little different.
We should be right back on track next year. We can still have a magical family time. We’ll concentrate on recharging first. Then we can all truly enjoy being together.”
2. Your partner wants you to join in with a dispute they are having with a friend.
YOU: “Darling, I know this has really rattled you. And I can see that’s important to you that you see it through, it’s a case of standing your ground and rightly so if that’s how you feel.
It’s very difficult for me though because I can honestly see both sides, which is in anyway saying I don’t support your view. It’s just that I can see why Janie is also so adamant that she is right. I don’t feel at all comfortable joining in, and it wasn’t anything I was part of at the beginning.
I want you to know that I love and support you and please talk to me about it as much as will help you. But I’m going to stand to one side on this and be the neutral one.”
YOUR PARTNER: “But Janie’s your friend as well. You’re in this too.”
YOU: “You’re right, she's my friend as well. And hey, it’s not always easy being friends, I understand how this has come about between the two of you. And I’m certain you can resolve it between you too.
I see my part in all of this is to be totally supportive but not take sides. The disagreement isn’t between me and either of you. Like I said, I’m going to stand to one side on this and be the neutral one.
I’m here for you and want to help you resolve the situation by listening whenever you want to talk about it.”
YOUR PARTNER: “But I thought you’d agree with me on this one.”
YOU: “Sweetie, I totally support you on this one. I’m here to chat anything through if you want to. It’s not for me to agree or disagree, it isn’t a disagreement I was part of.
I do love you and want to see you feeling better about the situation with Janie. But I’m going to stand to one side on this and be the neutral one. You and Janie can come to an agreement between the two of you, I’m sure of it. Let’s talk, I’ll listen and I can suggest ideas if it helps.”
3. A friend asks you to lie for them.
YOU: "Hey John, I really appreciate your friendship, but I don't lie on principle. Besides, even if I did, I'd be a terrible liar and only make it worse for you. If I can help you out in any other way, just say."
YOUR FRIEND: “But we’re friends and I need help here.”
YOU: “I totally see that John. You’re in a difficult situation. And we are good friends but I’m not the one to call on in this case. It’s not a judgment, it’s simply that I don't lie on principle.
Perhaps you have another friend who is happy to do so? Or maybe there is another way out of the situation. I’d be very happy to explore that with you. Together we might have a good chance of coming up with an alternative solution.”
YOUR FRIEND: “No, I’m in too deep for that. Saying what I’ve asked you to say is the only way out. You’re my friend, I need you to do this for me.”
YOU: “Hey, I honestly see how important this feels to you. And our friendship is worth a lot. We’ve helped each other out wherever possible. On this one, I need you to understand however I don't lie on principle. Not for anyone.
And that’s no slight on how much I value you as a friend John. After all, how would you feel if you found out I'd been lying to you? If you can think of any other way I can help you here, I’ll be right on it.
Why don’t you take a little time to see what you can think of. We should leave it until you come back with an alternative way I can help.”
4. Your boss asks you to work evenings and weekends - again.
YOU: "I really appreciate you believing in me enough to give me this responsibility. Honestly though I've worked evenings and weekends twice this month. And I have to say 'no' this time because it's starting to affect my home life and productivity.
I'm sure you appreciate that to do my best work I need a stable home life and sufficient sleep. What could I reschedule, so I could make this my top priority when I come in on Monday? I'll be twice as effective for some down time over the weekend."
YOUR BOSS: “But this is really important to the company. I thought you’d recognize that.”
YOU: “Thank you for appreciating that I care about this company. I absolutely see that this is important. And just like the situations that came up over the previous weekends, I’ll always give my best beyond the working week wherever I can.
I just don't feel I can keep doing this. I have to say 'no' this time because it's starting to affect my home life and productivity. As I said, I'm thinking of the company. A report on Huffington Post last week made the point that an exhausted employee is at least 50% less effective.
So if I can just recharge this weekend, I'll actually be able to produce better, and more, quality output. This working every weekend is actually counterproductive.
Ok, ok, I can hear you saying this is great if your boss is Mr Nice Guy. Or at least Mr Reasonable. The reality is, most bosses are reasonable. They have deadlines and targets to meet just like you do and these can cause them to push a little too hard. But most of them, if you call them on it, the right way, will hold their hands up.
Life is sometimes pretty tough. In the end if you really are struggling badly enough to read this post, it's at least worth a try.
And if your boss really is a tyrant, you may have to think about moving on. Which can be hard, given your commitments. It's also beyond the scope of this guide. However, if you are in this situation, then maybe this article will help.
5. A campaigner tries to get you to sign a petition on a local issue you disagree with after you've declined.
"Look, I know you really want me to sign this petition and I appreciate it means a lot to you. However, this is a free country and I have made it clear that I am not going to sign it. I said no and I meant it. Please don't ask me again."
Then walk away.
6. A sales representative tries to get you to move up to the next utility or entertainment package after you've said no.
"I know you're only doing your job, but I'm happy with my existing package and am not willing to commit to another. Please don't ring again, I won't change my mind."
Then put the phone down.
With these last two examples, the best approach is simply to end the conversation. There is really no need to go back and forth. If they still push you, just repeat the key phrases...
- I am not going to sign.
- I wont change my mind.
without any additional explanations.
A reasonable request comes with nothing more than a ‘please’.
Dealing with people who simply won't take 'no' for an answer can be very stressful. You may have morals and sensibilities, but some people don't. Or to be fair, theirs are very different to yours.
Whatever the case, the result is the same. Just keep calm, keep smiling and keep that NO!
Build The Habit Of NO!
Trying to be please everyone is a disease.
Learning to be the real you, to stand up for yourself, to say 'no', is the only cure.
Make a promise to yourself to start today.
It's time you said 'no'!
- To all those kind, but tedious social requests.
- To all those dead end tasks offloaded on you.
- To all those guilt-pushers you don't want or need in your life.
Gently and with kindness, tell just one person 'no'.
For your sake and everyone else's.
The world doesn’t need another guilt-ridden 'yes' junkie.
And reclaim your life today.
Grab The PDF Of This Post Along With Bonus Resources To Make Your No Even More Guilt Free And Effective
- PDF of the full post to refer to when you need it.
- The best medium to use to make your no as effective and painless as possible
- When (& How) To Take Your No Back
Resources - other great places to find info on saying NO!
How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty - Michael Hyatt
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