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How to Say NO Without Feeling Guilty

In my ventures and meetings in life, I’ve met many people who do not say no because… they are too embarrassed to say no. Even if it’s detrimental to them, they won’t say no because they worry what the other person will think.

Let’s put this another way, sometimes when we say YES to others, in reality, we are saying NO to ourselves, or our family, or the things that matter most to us. That’s when it becomes painful.

Of course, there is a time when you need to push yourself and say YES, but for now, let’s focus on the gentle art of saying NO without feeling guilty.

Here are a few power techniques on how to say NO without feeling guilty:

1. Say No … and don’t try to justify why

Justifying is when you say NO to someone, but then proceed to explain and justify why. ‘Sorry, I can’t because I’m busy that weekend.”

When you make an excuse, all that does is make the other party think, if they only tweaked their request with a different day, you’d be fine — which is not the case.

So, when you justify, you’re opening yourself up to a response like: “OK, then how about the following weekend?” Then you’re going to have to lie and make up some other excuse, and on and on.

You think you’re polite, but it’s actually, sorry to say, kind of untruthful and misleading.

Learn to say, “Sorry, I apologize I can’t make it. But I pray it works out.” And done. Notice there’s no justification and no invitation for the other person to challenge your excuse — because you haven’t made any excuse.

2. Schedule yourself before you are scheduled

Back in day, when I launched AlMaghrib Institute, one of the motivations was that I was tired of saying no, or having my schedule designed by random people around the country. I wanted to be able to say ‘no’ to all these invites because I had something more beneficial planned for my time and others.

Prepare your days and weekends with events you want to attend, hobbies you want to pursue, people you want to spend time with, and classes you want to take. So the next time a request comes that you want to say no to, it’ll be easy because you are legitimately already booked.

3. Be sincere and ask them to forgive you for saying no

We always think our only two options, when it comes to saying no: a. Lie and make up an excuse; or b. Hurtfully say no.

How about saying no, but asking them to forgive you. “I need to ask your forgiveness — I can’t help.” “Even though I’ve said I’d come every week, but things are piling up on me, and I need to ask your forgiveness. I can’t come weekly anymore.”

When you come from a position of humility, saying no is so much easier. I’ve tried this, and it is so liberating to truthfully just ask people’s forgiveness for saying no. You don’t have to play this silly game of making up bogus and mentally exhausting excuses.

Bottom line: don’t just say YES because you don’t know how to say NO.


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