Learning How to Say No Without Guilt

    girl with eyes closed, fingers in her ears

    I am a people pleaser by nature. I want to be helpful and feel bad when I can’t do something others want me to do.

    I guess I have rubbed off a little on my oldest son (he’s 17), who had a recent experience with saying no that was kinda comical.

    We just got back from our cruise to Mexico (it was a Christmas present to our family). While on the trip, we did a shore excursion in Progresso, Mexico.

    We saw lots of sites and had a great time. We stopped at a local flea market for shopping on our way back to the boat.

    The boys had some Christmas money to spend, so we let them shop for about an hour.

    When we all got back together, he had 5 necklaces around his neck. 5! I asked him why he got so many. “I couldn’t say no!”

    The vendors would put a necklace on him and then he would bargain with them. He bought a few he really liked. He got a good price and was happy.

    Well, I guess the others saw this and they kept trying to sell him more and more. At one point, he bought a necklace with a cross on it. We don’t even celebrate with crosses in our church (we prefer to celebrate the resurrection of Christ instead of the crucifixion).

    He just couldn’t say no, even when he didn’t want it!

    Now this was a new experience for him, in a different country, and the vendors were being pretty pushy. But it got me thinking; how good am I at saying no? Not very good.

    So I vowed to practice saying no more often this year and simplify my life and schedule. After all, busy isn’t always better.

    worried girl laying by a clock

    Why should I say no?

    1. It helps me prioritize. My to do list is long, so by saying no to the things I don’t really need or want to do, I have more time to do what is most important.
    2. It gives me extra space in my schedule. Not every minute of every day needs to be scheduled. That is cause for burnout. By saying no I am making breathing room for down time.
    3. It makes the things I say yes to more important. I want the things on my schedule to be the most important things I can do today. If I have things on there that I should have said no to, they aren’t as important as the yes things.

    How do I learn to say no?

    Obviously, I am no expert in this. I have done some work on this in the past, but I still have a long way to go. Here are a few ideas I am going to use to start saying no more often.

    1. If you say yes to one thing, you are saying no to something else. Is going to the PTA meeting more important than your child’s basketball game? By saying yes to the PTA, you may have to say no to something more important. So make sure you are saying yes to the right things.
    2. Try different versions. If you don’t want to just say no, you can say “not right now” or “I can’t today”. This blog post has a great list of different ways to say no —> Learn to Say No @ Practigal Blog
    3. Practice. The only way you can get better at something is to do it. Practice in the mirror if you need to, but then try it in person. Start with small things you really don’t want to do and work your way up to the bigger stuff. After all, practice makes perfect.

    How does saying no help me in my life?

    1. It makes me less resentful. When I don’t want to do something, sometimes I don’t have a good attitude about it. It doesn’t matter if it is service, cleaning or going to the grocery store. Sometimes we have to do things we don’t like. But sometimes we do things to please others and then are grumpy about it all day. Don’t do that! Just say no.
    2. It is a form of self care. Protecting your time, energy and values is a form of self care. These things are important and worth protecting.
    3. It gives me more time to spend on what is important in my life. Those tasks on our calendar that keep us busy and occupied might be keeping us away from our family or other priorities. Let’s simplify so we can be present with what matters most.

    What should I say no to?

    This is going to be different for everyone, so you will need to evaluate where your life is out of control. Saying no will help you gain control of your life and schedule. Here’s where I am going to start:

    1. Things that take up too much time.
    2. Things that I don’t like to do.
    3. Things that make my life too busy.
    4. Activities that don’t make my life better.
    5. Activities that don’t uphold my core values and beliefs.

    Now don’t get me wrong, we don’t want to say no to everything in our lives. Just the things that are making us stressed out, resentful or too busy for our other priorities.

    Review your schedule and see what you might be able to take off your plate in order to simplify.

    It doesn’t necessarily mean these are bad things.

    Have you heard of good, better, best? We want to make room for the best things in our lives. Sometimes that means getting rid of the good things to be present for the better or best things.

    We all have to do things we don’t love. That’s part of life. But don’t do things to please other people; especially people you don’t even like.

    Don’t say yes because of pressure or obligation. You are in charge of your schedule, so don’t fill it with things that make you miserable. It’s your choice! Make a good one!

    What things have you said no to that made your life better? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!

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