Do people know you as a “yes” person? Do you have a hard time telling people no because it makes you feel bad? If so, you’re definitely not alone. With everything you say yes to, you probably feel overwhelmed and tired. You might even start to resent the things you’re agreeing to or the people who are asking you to do things.

Some people simply have a harder time telling people no than others. This is often because some people were raised to think that saying no is selfish or means that you are uncaring. However, this isn’t true. Turning down someone’s request is not inherently selfish or mean.

If you’re someone who has a hard time saying no because of guilt, keep reading for some tips to overcome this feeling. Getting past the guilt can help you find some freedom so you can spend more time taking care of yourself. Keep that in mind as you learn to turn things down in a courteous, firm, and meaningful way. 

Give Yourself Time to Think

Many times, when people say “yes” to something immediately, it’s because they feel pressured into it. We live in a fast-paced society, where it often seems like answers are required right away. That isn’t necessarily true. 

There may occasionally be things that require a fast answer, of course. But, for the most part, if someone asks you to do something, you probably have more time than you realize to think about it. Give yourself that time and space. It will help you decide whether you really want to take on that request or not. 

Asking the requester for a bit of time to think about it lets them know you aren’t just brushing it off if you end up saying no. Think about how saying “yes” would affect you, and what you really want to do. If you realize that it would impact you in a negative way, don’t be afraid to say you gave it some thought and realized that you won’t be able to do it. 

Be Persistent

If people are used to you being agreeable to everything, they might try to take advantage of it. They might do this intentionally, or they might not even realize they’re doing it. Either way, it’s important to practice persistence when you’re saying no. 

A good rule of thumb is to repeat yourself, no matter how much someone tries to negotiate or bargain with you. Stand firm in your original rejection while remaining kind and tactful. You don’t have to go into detail or explain your reasoning. A simple, “I’ve thought about it and I’m not able to,” is good enough, and something that is easy to stick to.

Make a Deal

Learning how to say “no” doesn’t mean you have to completely refuse every request asked of you. There might be some instances where you want to say yes or agree, but you cannot agree to the entire request.

For example, if someone asks you to donate $1,000 to a charity, you might not be able to afford it. But maybe you can afford to donate $100. Or if someone asks you to volunteer at an event all weekend, you might not be able to. However, you could handle volunteering for a few hours. 

Making a counteroffer to a request is a great way to set boundaries. It keeps you in control and makes your well-being a priority. It also gives the person asking something they want, even if you aren’t fulfilling their exact request. If you struggle with guilt, this is one of the best ways to avoid it. Think of it as a compromise that won’t overwhelm you. Everyone ends up satisfied. 

As the old saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup. It’s important to take care of yourself so you have the ability to do the things that really matter. Saying no to certain requests gives you that opportunity, so you can focus on what’s important to you. When you’re able to do that, you can let go of guilt and make the most of every “yes.”

If you find yourself struggling to say no, and would like to work on strengthening this skill in therapy, feel free to contact me. I have worked with many people to help them learn to say no without feeling guilty and learn how to set stronger boundaries with others.