How To Say ‘No’ Without Feeling Guilty

Your Time Is Sacred

“There are only two words that will always lead you to success. Those words are yes and no. Undoubtedly, you’ve mastered saying yes. So start practising saying no. Your goals depend on it!” — Jack Canfield


A pile of documents lands on Eva’s desk while she’s busy answering a backlog of emails.

Hours ago, she was lamenting how the pressure at work has been mounting up.

“I can’t keep this up,” she thinks to herself.

“Something has to give.”

“Why do I have more work than I can handle?” she wonders, slipping between daydreaming and the reams of stacked documents that drown out her field of vision.

“Why can’t I say no?”

“Because you want others to like you,” a familiar voice echoes back.

Eva’s predicament is one we all identify with because it happens to us often.

The common thread in this narrative is knowing when to say ‘no’ instead of giving in to others people’s demands.

A life without complications arises when we say no to distractions.

Many struggle to say no because of an inherent need to be liked. However, this comes at a risk of being taken advantage of.

It’s easy to say ‘yes,’ but when was the last time you said ‘no’ to a request from a friend or colleague?

We are terrified to come across as rude, so we skirt around the issue and delay our response.

Yet, this only makes matters worse.

Do you know people who are comfortable saying no to demands?

Consider how they take command of the situation and don’t allow others to impose upon their time which they treat as sacred.

A place where our time is often disrupted is the work environment, through emails, colleagues and our bosses’ requests.

I often hear people discuss how exhausted they are at the end of a working day, having said yes to many requests.

They put their own work on hold to satisfy other people’s needs.

I appreciate the message by author Greg McKeown who writes in Essentialism: “Every time we check email, we’re checking somebody else’s agenda.”

Consider the strength of that statement.

McKeown reminds us to be mindful of our time and not to take on more than we can manage, otherwise we risk being dictated by other people’s agendas.

“two person handshaking in front of MacBook Pro” by rawpixel on Unsplash

The Need for Acceptance

“When you say ‘yes’ to others, make sure you are not saying ‘no’ to yourself.” — Paulo Coelho

Saying no is a war shield to fend off distractions, so you can focus on what is important.

Our time is precious and should be guarded so others don’t encroach upon our freedom.

You’ve probably noticed that every time you agree to something against your wishes, you feel bad about it later.

You run through a mental dialogue about how you might have dealt with the situation.

Yet, it’s too late by then.

I assure you, saying no has a nobler intent than you might think.

It conveys the strength of your vision or goals and you refuse to be distracted.

It signifies commitment, passion and purpose and mustn’t be misinterpreted as avoidance.

However, beneath our inability to say no lies a strong need for acceptance that dominates our interactions with others.

People will not misinterpret no as selfishness, as long as we communicate our intentions.

We might acknowledge their request, yet convey we have something important to attend to and do not wish to be sidetracked.

We may reconsider their request at a later stage once our work is completed.

The benefit of saying no is to filter out those who infringe upon our time.

For want of a better description, I call them gravediggers because they draw the life out of us.

“person holding Android smartphone leaning on table” by rawpixel on Unsplash

Saying No Without Regret

“It comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much.” — Steve Jobs

Saying no relieves us of unwanted stress.

We don’t have to contend with conflicts where we have undertaken a project or invitation against our wishes.

It affords us the time to attend to important life areas.

Ultimately, we want to engage in more of these pursuits, instead of being obligated to please others.

In some cultures, saying no is frowned upon.

There is repressed anger amongst people and family members who are obliged to say yes.

Let’s not mix our words — saying no is not disrespectful.

We must convey our intentions in an assertive, yet respectful manner to balance harmony and diplomacy.

Remember: Whenever we say yes to something, we’re saying no to something else.

We’re putting others first before our own needs, which can cause stress.

The key to saying no without regret is to recognise the feelings that arise in our interactions with others.


We become familiar where our body holds tension and are more likely to notice it the next time it arises.

We are being dictated by negative reactions and so we avoid them by saying yes to appease others.

In Eva’s case, she taught her work colleagues how to treat her, even if she is unaware of it.

She undermined her self-worth by choosing to be liked in place of preserving her time.

It boils down to knowing our true worth and standing in our true power.

As we do, others recognise our genuineness and will treat us accordingly.

By honouring our authenticity, we move from being powerless to empowered and take command of our life by adhering to our highest values.

Call To Action

Do you want to lead a remarkable life? Are you committed to taking action despite your fears and doubts? Have you had enough of not achieving the success you seek? If so, download your FREE copy of my e-Book NAVIGATE LIFE right now, and start your amazing journey of greatness today!

Self-empowerment Author, Expert Speaker and Coach. Your Journey Towards Greatness Starts Here:

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