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 🙂