Have you ever wondered how to say “no” without feeling guilty or like you’re letting others down?
If so, I hope this post empowers you to advocate for yourself and your choices!
For the last 3 years, I volunteered for a committee and performed a key weekly task (I’m intentionally being fairly vague here!)
I’ve always enjoyed being part of this group and volunteering my time. However, that one specific weekly task was starting to feel like “too much” for me and my current stage of life.
It wasn’t difficult, but it required a fair amount of time, and I could feel the burnout creeping up this past summer already.
Once the school year started and I suddenly had FOUR different school schedules to keep track of, I realized I could no longer devote the time required to this weekly volunteer task.
I emailed everyone in the group and explained that I would continue doing this weekly task through the end of the calendar year, but then I would be finished.
I felt good giving them almost 4 months’ notice, and I made it very clear that I still planned to be part of the group and volunteer in other areas. I just couldn’t devote the time necessary for the additional weekly tasks.
Of course, everyone was very quick to thank me for the 3 years of weekly volunteer work I had already done and they said they “understood” but in the same breath, many of them suggested I should “reconsider”.
I did not reconsider.
I had already “considered” so many different options in the weeks before I actually sent the email.
My mind was made up.
After several more weeks went by, I sent a reminder email to the group at the beginning of December. I listed the weekly tasks I had done and reiterated that I would no longer do any of those tasks after the New Year.
That email was met with more “but you are so good at it”, and “I don’t know who else will do it” responses.
Now, almost 7 weeks into the New Year, no one else has stepped up to take my place.
I should clarify that these weekly tasks are NOT difficult.
They required NO physical activity, NO computer knowledge, NO organizational skills, NO special training, NO dedicated “work hours” (Nora and Simon even helped me at times!)
The tasks simply require a bit of time and consistency.
Any other person in the group (many of whom are retired individuals) COULD easily do it.
In recent one-on-one conversations with 3 different individuals from that group, I casually asked if they would be interested in doing these tasks for 6-12 months… but of course, they were all “too busy”.
That’s fine — I know we all have different thresholds and tolerances when it comes to “being busy” and I don’t ever want to be THAT person who pressures people into doing something they feel too busy for.
What I wasn’t prepared for, though, was the guilt they tried to put on me!
One individual even came right out and asked, “Don’t you feel guilty since no one is doing those tasks anymore?”
Why would I feel guilty?
I’m the one who freely VOLUNTEERED my time for over 3 years, doing something no one else was willing to do. I gave 4 months’ notice. I tried to find someone to take my place!
I (calmly) explained that while it’s sad no one else is willing to step up, I don’t feel guilty as I know there are many others who could take over (the person seemed visibly shocked).
Later that day, I found myself wondering why anyone thought I would feel guilty… and I realized so many others actually might feel guilty in this situation.
In fact, guilt is one of the main reasons many of us shy away from saying “no”.
We feel guilty that if WE don’t do a particular task, there might not be anyone else who will do it either.
Am I right?
It’s normal to feel a little sad or bummed when you can’t help out, or when part of a ministry or volunteer organization falls by the wayside.
But I want to let you in on a little secret…
It’s not YOUR fault!
A vast majority of the time, there are plenty of others who could take your place, fill your shoes, pick up the slack, and take their turn saying “yes”.
You already said your “yes” and now it’s time to move on.
Please don’t let guilt stifle your “no”!
Don’t let yourself feel guilty for saying no and doing what’s best for your own life.
Don’t compromise your health, your family, your sanity, or your joy because you’re worried what others will think if you say “no”.
It’s not worth it!
Yes, of course, there are seasons of life that are much busier than others.
Sometimes we absolutely must say “yes” and figure out a way to squeeze everything in.
But there are other seasons of life when “no” should be our answer.
Letting guilt stifle and silence our “no” will only create more issues, more stress, more chaos, and probably even more guilt.
If you’re in a season of life with more breathing room and the ability to dole out your “yeses” a little more freely — I highly encourage you to do so.
However, if you’re struggling to make time for everything that’s already on your ever-growing to-do list, you should probably refresh your memory on how to say NO!
How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty:
There are so many ways to say no — and still be helpful (which will help to alleviate any guilt you might feel over the situation).
Here are a few ideas:
- Offer A Helpful Alternative: “I can’t, BUT here is a resource or person who might help.”
- Turn it Into a Compliment: “You’ve done a fantastic job planning this. I wish I could be part of it.”
- Be Casual but Unapologetic: “That sounds like a great idea. I’m not your gal, but I know you’ll find the right person.”
- Keep It Short and Sweet: “Not This Time”
- Delay The Response Until You Can Write It: “Let me check my calendar when I get home and I’ll email you”
If you need a little more help, motivation, and encouragement to get that little 2-letter word out of your mouth, here are 99 effective ways to say “no”.
A few of them are bound to work for you — plus, several are just really fun!
I shared MY story today – I know you have a similar story as well.
A time when you felt guilty for saying “no” because the job or task would be left undone.
I know it’s frustrating.
I know it’s aggravating.
I know it can cause guilt.
But it’s NOT your fault, and it’s not your problem!
This might come across as selfish, but that’s not my intention.
I simply want to empower you to advocate for yourself, to stick up for yourself, to make the best decision you can make, and to make it without factoring in other’s opinions or comments.
I loved listening to this podcast on “How To Say No Without Feeling Guilty”. It’s from a psychologist, and I love her no-nonsense approach to this topic!
Don’t let guilt stifle your no.
Saying “no” to one thing always means saying “yes” to something else (like another opportunity, your family, your health, or even your sanity!)
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