Career & Money

How To Say No With Grace and Without Guilt

Elizabeth Lions
By Elizabeth Lions |Dallas, TX

Apparently, I have the opposite problem. I’m the first one to say no and not consider ways of taking on more work, more obligations and more stress. When I am focused, I am very focused and don’t allow distractions. To be honest, I have no idea why I say no so much, but I can say I may have also missed out on opportunities for growth through rejection.

Most of us are not wired in that way.

For many, saying no is downright painful. We don’t want to disappoint, hurt or be perceived as lazy. Saying yes for long periods of time without giving ourselves room to slow down and become still can cause our internal circuits to overload. During period of overload, we may snap at others or feel completely depleted.

My other observations around guilt is really the feeling is coupled closely with fear. We fear if we say no to our children or loved ones, we will not be a part of their lives or they will reject us. No parent can bare that thought and often they form relationships that are bought through money and need, not love. Often, we kid ourselves by thinking if we say yes to our family, we are ‘helping’ them, when the reality is we are enabling them and stopping our loved ones growth. One can be supportive and not write a check.

We all have the same numbers of hours in a day and the same 21,600 breaths (or there about) in the body in any one given day. So why is saying no so difficult?

Here are three ways to say no that are creative and won’t leave you feeling guilty:

1) We can do this strategy

This tactic was taught to me by a Vice President in banking and financial. He said never say no. Instead say, “We can do that, but if we do, we are unable to do these other things. Is that ok with you?” This strategy allows you to paint the whole picture and allow the person asking what their true priority is and how you can best deliver it. The perception left behind is that you did listen, you are willing and want to help out the team.

2) No, but how about this?

Give alternatives instead of saying no. It’s always best that you acknowledged the opportunity to soften the no blow response. For instance, let’s say you are asked to chip in for an office birthday party to someone you don’t know. Your response? “Thanks for including me. I really appreciate that; however, I don’t know Donna that well. Can I help with the party in some other way and still contribute something?”

3) Give them the why

This (typically) never fails and is a fair approach. Often people will ask for your money/time/energy without realizing that you have other things planned and simply cannot. They don’t mean to put pressure on you, but it can be your reaction to one more thing on your already full plate. Try this – when someone asks you to do that thing you will hate doing, be honest. Share with them why you are unable. For example, “I’ve had a good time doing that in the past, but this year I have to pass. This week is very busy for me and I have several other commitments.” Framing it in this way allows you to expand on what you have to do or not share that information, but most importantly it doesn’t leave the person on the other side feeling shut out and rejected.

There is a real art for women to say what they want and not be left feeling guilty because the tendency is to take on as much as humanly possible and never complain. However, if you learn how to politely decline things that arise in life, you may find yourself with more time and energy and less stress.

One more point about guilt: no one can make you feel guilty. Give yourself permission to say no and don’t allow yourself to take the next step into guilt. People are really kind and will understand. Ultimately, you teach people how to treat you.

Be strong, be brave and say no.

Elizabeth Lions
Elizabeth Lions |Dallas, TX
Elizabeth grew up in central New Jersey, about an hour from New York City. She studied psychology at the University of Maine. She is the Author of two books, ‘Recession Proof Yourself’ and “I Quit! Working for You Isn't Working For Me”. Elizabeth is currently crafting her third book on leadership. Elizabeth’s coaching practice is broken into two key areas: career management and leadership. Elizabeth’s credentials are impressive. They include being quoted in U.S. World News Report, AOL Jobs, Australian Finance, Silicon India, CBS Money Watch, Yahoo, The Ladders, and Dice job boards. Her words have reached as far as the front page of the Philadelphia Tribune, PBS, CBS Money Watch, Dale Carnegie and John Tesh’s blog. In 2013, her radio show for women entitled, “Leadership Lessons from the Lioness”, was created through Plaid For Women, along with her articles. A year later, she brought her leadership classes to Dubai. Elizabeth’s client list includes executives from Fiserv, AT&T, Microsoft, Wells Fargo, eBay and Intel to name a few. Today, Elizabeth can be found writing, coaching and collaborating with the who’s who of the Corporate America, as well as abroad. When she isn't working, Elizabeth can be found traveling across state lines with her husband on their Harley Davidson motorcycle or in the yoga studio twisting for hours on end. To contact Elizabeth, please visit www.elizabethlions.com

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