People & Inspiration

In Focus: How To Say “No” Without Feeling Guilty

In Focus: How To Say “No” Without Feeling Guilty


by Joan Ko

I've constantly been curious as to why whenever we talk about making resolutions, we always start with the things we have to do and not on the things we actually need to stop doing. Why is this the far less popular side of the conversation?

The reality is that we only have 24 hours a day, and despite the fact that all of us would want to spend it as efficiently as possible, we can only do so much. As a people-pleaser, I never want to disappoint the people around me, so I feel like when I decline and disapprove of doing something, I let other people down.

Of course, we all want to keep saying "yes" because some opportunities may pass us by, but there's also a thing called prioritizing. I hope that by reading this, you'll find solace in surrendering to the art of saying "no," too.

1. Know that it won't make people hate you.

Simply saying "no" to people telling you to take on more work won't make them think that you're rude and selfish. Even as a child, we were taught to agree when older people ask you to do things for them because you should act politely. But I found out that offering an alternative is kind of the safer way to decline without coming off as a brat. You will still be able to help out without the hassle of abiding by their every rule. Offer to give advice, recommendations, or suggestions, but stay away from extra work and make that perfectly clear. 

2. Delegate.

Just admit it. You can't actually do everything yourself! If you're assigned as the team leader, remember that you actually have an entire team with you. So there's no point in wanting stressors breathing down your neck when you can easily delegate the work. 24 hours is just 24 hours. Imagine how much you can accomplish when you let someone else help you maximize the time you are given. You might want to remember the phrase "the more, the merrier" the next time you think of pulling a "LeBron James vs the World" stunt yourself.

3. The waiting game is often needed. 

When you are being summoned by your own Lord Vader, take a beat, step back, and evaluate if what you're being asked to do is worth your time or if it even fits what you signed up for. I think the best thing to do if they expect an answer right away is to say that you have a busy schedule or other duties you have already committed to. I'm not telling you to lie, because, seriously, if you already know that you won't have time for it, you better speak up. Fight the urge to give an answer right away because you can always get back to someone after you've had the chance to really think about it. 


4. Feel sorry now than later.

Convince yourself that it is better to feel sorry and disappointed now than resent everything for a longer period of time after you've rushed into a decision. If you say "no" now, the only downside will be your ego getting in the way. You'll start feeling somebody will think less of you, but guess what–that insecurity you feel today is still better than the regrets X months after. Nothing is ever perfect and you don't need to be an angel 24/7 for the rest of your life because sometimes, getting on the wrong side of people just can't be avoided simply because You. Are. Only. Human. Neither your world nor theirs will stop moving just because you can't do something for them at the moment. 

5. Be firm with your decision. 

Even if they start pestering you and asking you for help every time, don't cave in. It's okay to give them a hug when they share how difficult it is for them, but don't give in. You don't need to apologize because apologies are generally for when you've done something bad (in this case, it doesn't apply.) You can't be everybody's jack-of-all-trades person. I'm sure you wouldn't want to burn bridges so let them know you're declining the task and not them personally. By refusing unnecessary work, you will gain your energy, time, and peace. And if you stick to your firm "No," you'll even gain respect. 

Don't stretch yourself too thin. Know the things that are worth prioritizing so, in return, you can actually make the most out of the best resource you can share with the people around you–your time. Those who matter will always understand and cheer you on in life whether you say "yes" or "no."

ALSO READ: Cheat Sheet: 5 Better Ways to Use Your Time Online




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