You always have the power to say to no any request just as others have the power to say no to your requests. When you say no to a request for money, time, gifts or commitments, you are in essence asserting your power and authenticity.
Guilt is not a part of NO! There is no need to feel guilty when you are setting your own priorities and taking charge of your life.
Have you ever had someone, particularly someone close to you, tell you “no”? What was the feeling it invoked? If you felt hurt, angry, embarrassed, rejected, etc., was it because of the subconscious meaning you attached to their “no”? Maybe it brought up feelings of dismissal, abandonment or trauma. The power you give to the meaning of “no” is yours alone. How you interpret or internalize the “no” is what gives it power. Rather than experience negative feelings, you respond with a hesitant or half-hearted YES and that will cause frustration, anger and overcomittment.
Here are some tips to get you in the habit of saying NO:
1) Don’t over-commit – when you are asked to take charge of the PTA bake sale and you are already organizing the class reunion, tutoring, and going to school at night, saying no will give you more time to focus on the things that matter most. You might say something like, “thanks for thinking of me but I have another commitment”.
2) Don’t feel guilty – if friends ask you to join them for an evening out and you have other plans simply say “no thanks; I already have plans”.
3) Don’t make up excuses – Just say no! And remember, “no” is a complete sentence and does not require elaboration.
4) Don’t over-explain – Saying, “it just doesn’t fit with my schedule” or “I won’t be able to do that” is sufficient. You don’t owe anyone an explanation. When you over explain, others may think that you will eventually say yes.
5) Weigh the stress factor – if the activity is going to add more stress to your life, say no.
If you are in the habit of saying YES, it will not be easy to begin saying NO. But learning to say NO will relieve you from over-commitment, guilt, and frustration and free up time for you to engage in the activities that are meaningful to you. As with most change, start small. Saying no when you mean it will soon replace the reluctant, resentful, pressured yes!