Do you feel guilty saying no?

A defining moment for me was when I learned the secret. I overheard a woman I admired, a former boss, responding to a request for her time  with the phrase “that’s not gonna work for me”.  She didn’t make up a million excuses for giving her time.   She didn’t recite a list of activities that would prevent her from doing what someone had asked.  What a beautifully honest response. Maybe it wasn’t gonna work because she’d planned to spend her time staying in with a good book that night.   Think about how important your time is. Your sands in your hourglass. 

It was a defining moment for me because until then I didn’t know how to say no.  I didn’t know how to set a boundary between my needs and wants and those of others.  It was a big moment on my journey to define myself.

I know we hear the phrase a lot. Its no longer original.  (Though in my opinion whoever first said it and set it in motion deserves an award of some kind.)  But its usually used when two people in the business or professional world have their schedules in front of them and are trying to arrive at a mutually agreeable appointment.  In the personal realm its a different story. At least, according to what I hear in my office. I hear way too many people telling me they went somewhere they didn’t want to go ,with someone they didn’t want to go with.  When asked why, they will sheepishly tell me they feel guilty to say no to just about any request.  

The guilt thing is something else again. Another post for another day.  All I can tell you is when I coach people to begin to use this simple  phrase in their personal lives, they see it really works for them. Because usually there is some family member who is accustomed to arguing or debating or insisting that they do something according to their agenda.  This phrase stops them dead in their tracks. How can any reasonable person argue it? Ah, but so and so is beyond, beyond  unreasonable, you think? All you have to do is never veer off the “that’s not gonna work for me” path. Don’t explain or make excuses because then they’ve engaged you into your former pattern and before you know it you’ve given up more precious sands from your hourglass.  Once my clients learn to use this phrase  they feel happier, less stressed, and are on their way to defining themselves.

So now I’ve shared another defining moment. Please think about it and tell me, if you will, what was yours?


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2 Responses to “Do you feel guilty saying no?”

  1. exactscience Says:

    August last year I realised I could no longer keep making myself available to my friends 24/7.

    I had no problem and have no problem with them calling or texting when they need or want, but I recognised that getting distressing texts or calls at anytime wasn’t helping me at all.

    So I turn my phone off between 12 and 7. I have reconciled that sometimes I wish I had taken a call by remembering how bad a state I was in when all my worth and health was tied up in caring for friends.

  2. springshiny Says:

    I learnt two imp things from ur article.1 – the use of the phrase” I dont think it will work for me” as a very polite and effective way of saying no. 2 – the concept of “defining moments”. I always wondered how does one recognise significantly the moments in ones lives where one learnt something of profound imp to oneself, something which might not be earth shattering for others but which is very relevant for me. This term describes it beautifully.

    I am a person who loves to be “an agonies aunt” [ description given by my ex-boyfriend!]. I feel very fulfilled if I am able to help somebody come out of their private hells, out of pain and agony and move towards a fulfilling life. Sometimes in that process, I end up listening to more than what I am comfortable with or give time when I really dont have any… I tend to feel guilty in saying no to the person who is in trouble.

    Its difficult to say no but now I realise sometimes its best to say no and avoid a lot of heartache than saying yes to regret it later!!

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