How to Say No and Not Feel Guilty

How to Say No and Not Feel Guilty

If you’ve ever spent any significant time around a 2 year old, you know that one of the first words we master in the human language is “No!”.  But somewhere between our terrible twos and the terrific thirties (and forties, and fifties), some of us forget how and when to use that simple two letter response.

So before you go spouting any more “Yes’s” take a look at the TPG Quick and Dirty 4 Question Test when deciding whether to say “yes” or “no” to the next random request.

The TPG Quick and Dirty 4 Question Yes or No Test
1.  Do I have the time and the capacity?
2.  Do I have the desire?
3.  Is the payoff worth my time?
4.  What is the “yes” to “stress” ratio?

Of course there are some things where “Yes” is the only alternative, but for many requests, we hold the power of a “yes” or “no”.  It’s all in stopping yourself from living on automatic yes.

The second skill to master once you get used to using the Quick and Dirty test is to have several go to “no” responses.  Here are a few to get you started.

“I’m sorry.  I can’t right now.” (straight forward)
“This doesn’t fit into my schedule, but I’d be happy to help you find someone else.” (helpful)
“I can’t do ___________, but I can ____________.” (keeps your time managed)
“Thanks, but I’ll have to pass.” (simple, no explanation needed)
“I like the idea, but I can’t put one more thing on my plate.” (honest)
“That sounds fun, but if I say ‘yes’ my family will string me by the toes.” (humor)
“No, but thanks for asking.” (using ‘No’ in front of this or any of the above adds emphasis)

Once you see that the earth doesn’t quake when you say no, it will get easier to put boundaries on your time so that you can choose your activities instead of them choosing you.  And finally remember these simple tips as you learn to LOVE “no”.

Use the word “no” before your response for emphasis and clarity.
Be brief. State your reason, but don’t go on and on.
Be honest. Nothing will ruin your brand faster than getting caught in a lie.
Be respectful. Many requests you get will be valid, so politeness goes a long way.
Be ready to repeat. Calmly repeat your “no”. Long explanations aren’t mandatory.

Remember that when you say “Yes” to everything, you say “No” to something really important … YOU!


About the Author

Monica Scalf is the founder of The Playground Group, LLC, a company that helps organizations increase bottom line results by investing in the development of their people. Since 2009, she has been teaching workshops on teamwork, productivity, and personal effectiveness in places such as P&G, Lexis Nexis, and Xavier University. Her mission is to help create positive and productive workplaces where employees thrive without sacrificing personal happiness.