Musings and Amusings

It was Damyanti’s “feeling guilty” comment in her post about supporting indie authors that got me musing how to decline invitations or requests and not burden ourselves with guilty feelings.

We’ve all been there or will be there tomorrow.


Wanting a guilt-free way to say “no” to something someone wants us to do, buy, participate in or support.

  • sign a petition
  •  lend some money
  • serve on a non-profit board
  • critique a paper or review a book
  • help someone move their household
  • attend a family holiday, birthday, graduation, wedding
  • buy a subscription from someone’s kid
  • attend a co-worker’s shower
  • join a club, church or organization

Many times our answer is “Yes” because we genuinely want to.

What about the times a genuine “Yes” can’t be the answer because we don’t have the emotional fortitude, the time, the money, the desire or we’ve said “Yes”  too many times already?

Quite often – in these situations – our answer is one of two unsatisfactory responses:

The insincere “Yes” (meaning, “I SO don’t want to do this, but I’ll feel guilty if I say no.”) Use this response often enough and you will resent being asked; chide yourself for lacking the willpower to say no; and sometimes resent the relationship itself.

No I can’t because  …”  followed by a list of reasons which, while true, do nothing to assuage our nagging guilt because everyone has the same excuses, right?

I don’t know why we trap ourselves with these two responses. I’ve finally identified –  and started using – two healthier responses. I hope they help you!

“No, now isn’t a good time, but please ask me again in the future” (or a date specific). Use this only if you mean it; otherwise you’re just creating anxiety over a future stressful interaction.

The final response – the Guilt-Free No – takes forethought and practice.

Remember how we teach kids about Stranger Danger? We talk to them about possible situations; we stand in front of them role playing a stranger; and we have them shout “NO“. Being able to say “No” out loud – not just think it – is the key.  We have them practice repeating it out loud.

Learning a Guilt-Free No response is similar. I imagine situations that might arise when I’ll be asked to participate and have a strong desire to decline. I stand in front of my mirror; I visualize the person asking me; I look myself in the eye and say, “I appreciate you asking, but I can’t.” or “No, I’m sorry I can’t.”

By practicing succinct, polite, out-loud No’s – and by refraining from justifying the reasons I’m declining – I feel a sense of control and finality without guilt or negative emotion.

I think role playing a scenario in the mirror will work even in a situation  like Damyanti’s where no one specifically asked her to do something, but she’s feeling guilty. Stand in front of the mirror; imagine being directly asked; respond, “No, I won’t be able to” out loud and voila! Guilt-free No!

Most of the time 🙂

Comments on: "Getting to Guilt-Free No" (13)

  1. Here’s a great way to practice “No.” I bet you will get your first opportunity sometime today! Next time a telemarketer calls, interrupt the spiel with a cordial but firm, “Thanks for your call, but I’m not interested.” (Unless, of course, you ARE interested!)

    And then hang up. The act of disconnecting the call will be the hardest.

  2. I’ll have to practice that. There are some times when you’re just stretched too thin and one more thing is one too many, but you feel guilty about saying no so you say yes and wish you hadn’t. You feel bad either way. Maybe getting used to saying no out loud like that will help. Thanks!

    • Hi Lori – that’s really not good, is it – saying yes when stretched so thin. Honestly the mirror practice, and just saying no without giving excuses has really made a difference for me.

  3. I’ve gotten better at saying ‘no’ over the years. In terms of blogging, whenever I receive requests for guest posts on other people’s blogs, I tend to decline. I have trouble enough keeping up with a weekly post on my own blog. At first I felt bad saying no, but I think people understand, and if I’m declining everyone, it shows it’s nothing personal. I’m just lazy. 😉 So I feel your angst.

    • You’re not lazy; you’re prioritizing and doing what’s important to you. I just wish I hadn’t put guilt on myself or said Yes when I didn’t want to. Now I handle it much better!

  4. I’ve tried the “Sorry, I can’t make it” version of no without giving out loads of excuses and I agree, it feels less guilty than the list of excuses I normally spew forth. Still hard to do though.

    • Oh good, Celine, I’m glad to get some validation on my theory. I’m not sure why it makes a difference to politely decline without the list of excuses, but it does! I used it three times last week at various committee meetings and went home each time feely no guilt!

      • Oh well done you! I still struggle with it even though I agree it’s better. It just takes that much more confidence doesn’t it, to look someone in the eye and just say no.

      • Hi Celine 🙂 for me, it was something about not adding excuses to my “no”. Once i just said a polite “no” without excuses, my guilt went away. Weird, huh? Maybe because I knew the oersin coukdn’t judge whether my excuse was a good enough reason!

  5. I just had the opportunity for a preemptive “no” the other day, and took it. We get a fair number of door-to-door visits from people trying to pitch something and they have become increasingly aggressive and annoying, and sometimes downright rude. Newspaper sales, yard-care people, security systems, Internet providers…and they are all sneaky “no, we’re not trying to sell anything, but…” or pretending to come from some community or news-related organization, but then you ask them specifics and you find out who they really are. I finally got fed up the other day and put a NO SOLICITING sign under the doorbell! It’s not very friendly-looking but I hope it is effective! I will probably add a PS – “Girl Scouts and trick-or-treaters welcome”. 😀

    Oh – and specific to the blogging community – what about AWARDS? We’ve had this discussion before so you know my thoughts on it, but it’s so hard to say no (for me, at least). 😉

    • I’ve resisted the “no soliciting sign” only because I hate having something like that on my entrance. It feels so “un-feng-sui-ish” to me. On the other hand, our friends nearby have one and they say it works. We’re lucky we don’t have a slew of door-to-door sales people.

      You go ahead and accept any l’il ole award you want to, darlin’. 💋👏😍

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