Mindfulness, Minimalism

4 Guilt-Free Ways to Say NO (in order to Say Yes to the Life you Want)

Saying no is hard. I’ll say it again. Saying no is hard. Especially for those of you like me who don’t like to let people down. However, by constantly saying ‘yes’ to things you don’t want to do, don’t want to attend, or just don’t have time for is not doing anyone any good.     

Plus, it leaves less time for saying ‘yes’ to things that really mean a lot to you.

Things such as: spending time with family, friends, spending time in nature, spending time on hobbies you love, experiences, and self-care, etc.

Is it going to be easy? No. Is it going to be worth it? Yes.

Think: benefits such as less stress/anxiety, less burnout, better relationships with the people that matter to you most, better self-care, and more.

Since we already established that saying no is hard, I came up with four guilt-free ways to say no, in order to say yes to a life you want.

Schedule time on your calendar

   If you have a hard time saying no to things that come up, whether that be projects or activities, fill your calendar with commitments that mean the most to you such as: me time/self-care, family time, exercise, or time with friends. For example, Mr. Blographer and I schedule certain times each week that is family time. If something comes up at the same time, we know that we are already ‘busy’ and don’t schedule anything else. The key is to treat it like any other commitment on your calendar!

Limit Activities

Commit to a certain number of activities a week, and don’t go over that. My family is an active one, and we like to go out and ‘do stuff’. But we also like to have our time to spend time with each other, relax and unwind. So we started a rule that we only do one ‘activity’ a day, and nothing more. For example, if we have a commitment in the evening, we try our best to lay low at home during the day. If we sign Little E up for swimming lessons, we don’t sign him up for anything else during that period.

Does that mean we’re at home doing nothing? Not always. Sometimes being at home means doing chores, but at least we have the time to do them and not let them get stacked up to a point of being overwhelmed.

Of course, things do come up where this isn’t possible some days, but overall, it has been really beneficial. Find the number of activities that your family enjoys doing and can handle without feeling rushed and stressed out and take a hard look at what you can let go of. That will look different for everyone!

Release guilt

I know this is hard. Trust me, I really do. But here are some things to keep in mind. First, just because you are invited to something doesn’t mean it’s implied that you go. Here is another example. Just because someone asks you to do something doesn’t mean you are obligated to say yes, even if you feel like you are. You are not.

Take the example of being invited to something - let’s say a party. If you go to a party that you are really dreading, what vibe are you putting out to the host that has spent a lot of resources on the occasion? If that were you, would you rather the person just have said no versus going and acting like they are not having a good time because they don't want to be there?

Second, just because you say no does not mean you are selfish. In my opinion, it means the opposite. It goes back to the commonly known example of putting the oxygen mask on yourself first before helping anyone else. Don’t wear yourself out going to things you aren’t excited about, or by doing things you are dreading to do.

Third, people won’t be mad. And if they are, is that someone you want in your life anyway?

“The people who matter won’t mind, and the people that mind don’t matter” -Bernard M. Baruch

I know there may be some exceptions to this in situations such as family gatherings. This is a little harder because with family gatherings there are times when you are expected to go. However, think of ways you can compromise. If you go to Christmas, you can spend Thanksgiving with another group or at home relaxing, for example. Or maybe you stay for Christmas Eve dinner, but skip the after-dinner movie (or caroling - does anyone do this?).

Finally, remember that just because you are saying no to something does not mean you are not grateful or appreciative. It simply means no, thank you, but I just can't. If someone asks you to do something for them and you are too tired, burnt out, etc., be firm and simply respond by thanking them for thinking of you, but you aren’t able to accommodate at this time.

Simply say no

   Yep, easier said than done. But sometimes, it’s best just to say no. You don’t owe anyone any type of excuse or reasoning. I find that I start babbling out my excuses when I feel bad or guilty about saying no to something. But truly, it isn’t needed. It is a waste of everyone’s time to ‘let them down gently’ or to string them along with ‘maybes’ or ‘let me get back to you’ with the full intention of not saying yes. These are stalling tactics. Stop them now.

With practice and time, saying 'no' will start to become easier. And remember to keep in mind that the more you say 'no' to that doesn't serve you, the more time you will have for things that do.

What tips do you use for saying 'no'? What do you have trouble saying 'no' to?

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Kelly | With the Specs

This is the post I’ve been needing! I always want to try new things, but know I don’t have the time. It’s hard to say “no” to new experiences, and I always feel so guilty when I do.

Angela @Paleomomoftwo
5 years ago

This article could not have come at a better time for me to read! Thanks for putting things into prospective. I constantly struggle with the guilt of saying no and I hate being selfish! Next years resolution; say no more. ☺️❤️😉

Zahra Biabani
5 years ago

You have no idea how much this resonates with me, Laura!!! I am a chronic offender of acting against my own interests in order to protect others feelings (which usually wouldn’t even be affected). I’ve been telling my friends that 2018 is going to be my year of NOs, lol (you don’t hear that as a resolution very often). I really love the idea of scheduling out concrete time for things you want and treating them as immovable appointments.

5 years ago

It can be hard to say no! But as you mentioned when you say no to something you don’t truly want it allows you to say yes to those things you want to do. I like your idea of treating family time as a “scheduled event!”

5 years ago

I have become a master at saying “no” and I more relaxed than the times that I have to say “yes”. Thanks for the reinforcement!

Carolin @ A Spoonful Of Carolin

Thank you for that post. I think that it is not only important to be able to say no but to know how to say it. Like you said the people who care about you won’t be mad.

Lynn Woods
Lynn Woods
5 years ago

I used to struggle with this, but as I’ve gotten older, saying No is so helpful!

5 years ago

Such a good read, and much needed, especially this time of year where it seems like everyone I know is having get togethers and such. I’m a people pleaser and find myself getting burnt out from time to time and REALLY need to implement this practice of saying No a bit more. Thanks for the nudge.

5 years ago

I think limiting activities is the key. I have a hard time doing that, but I’m working on it!

Brandee Miller
5 years ago

I love the idea of scheduling time in the calendar for the important stuff like family time. Also letting go of guilt. You’re right, it’s hard but worth it.

Devin Williams
5 years ago

I love this post! As a father I also struggle with this alot. I struggle saying no to my 7 5 and 4 year old lol. Thanks

5 years ago

Great post! Most people are always trying to make others happy and sadly we need permission, or to be reminded that we don’t have to do it all.

Stacey Leber
5 years ago

I love the idea of writing down the really important things in your calendar–schedule what/who is getting your time. It’ll make it easier to say, “No.” You are booked!

5 years ago

I agree 100% I used to have a hard time saying no until I spent so much time and energy of people and events that were not truly worth my time! I have started being selective and who I let in my life and what gets my attention and time. With two littles and two full time jobs (not including blogging) I am pretty bogged down. Which means if it’s not important then it doesn’t get any of my precious time. Love this and accepting that saying no is okay!

5 years ago

This is awesome!

5 years ago

I really struggle with saying no. To my kids, my husband, and my boss. Somewhere along the way I have convinced myself that “this is what a good wife, mother, employee does”. I find that I say yes to so many things, I forget what I want out of life. Thank you for this.

5 years ago

This post is very helpful and something I needed to hear. I always feel obligated to go to parties or other gatherings even though I don’t want to just. I feel guilty and afraid that my friends will be mad if I don’t show up. I need to learn it’s ok to say no once in a while. Thanks for sharing!

5 years ago

Definitely working on the “releasing the guilt” stage. I am such a people pleaser that I feel so bad if I say ‘no’, for whatever reason. I hated having to tell my niece I couldn’t go home for Christmas (they’re in IL, I’m in AZ) because my husband and I just can’t afford it. It was so hard for me even though I can’t help it. But you’re totally right–when you say ‘yes’ when you need to say ‘no’, it gives less time and space to things you need to say ‘yes’ to and you have to say ‘no’ because… Read more »

5 years ago

In the past, it was hard for me to say no, but now I can do it.

5 years ago

I am recently learning to say no and it’s incredible how it hurts to see how people whom I thought cared for me get so upset and so inconsiderate of my health it really puts friendships in perspective and I enjoy reading this so it keeps me motivated to sticking to my no without feeling guilty.