How I say no without feeling guilty

I’m about 80% done reading a book called Essentialism by Greg McKeown. If you play around on the internet a lot, you’ll have seen a lot of people talk positively about this book.

I’m glad I’m reading it because it turns out I’ve been an Essentialist all along ๐Ÿ™‚

I say yes to the things that matter, and no to the things that don’t.

I do make mistakes, especially when I’m caught in the moment but I realise I should only be saying yes when I genuinely want to do something (hello – word of the year JOY), I feel excitement at the thought of doing it or it ties in with my life goals or definition of success.

Here are 7 things that help me to say no, mostly without guilt:


1. I don’t have to have another appointment first in order to say no
If I’ve planned to have an evening in (reading, blogging, whateverโ€ฆ) and I get invited out, this does not automatically mean I have to accept. An appointment with myself is just as important as one with other people.

2. Realise that when I say yes to one thing, I’m always saying no to something else
When I do say yes without thinking, I usually say no to the more important parts of my life – God, family, yourself.

An example is saying yes to everybody at work collecting money for birthdays, leaving presents, etc, and no to your own financial future ๐Ÿ™‚

3. I don’t instinctively say yes. I try to think about it first.
I usually offer to send out an invite so I can check my diary/ bullet journal first before committing to plans.ย  The three-month calendar also helps. A practical suggestion is to take a deep breath first before saying yes or no. Otherwise you end up saying yes to everything and at the end of a hectic period, you’re virtually burnt out.

4. It becomes easier to say yes the more you practise
At first when you have to say no to something or someone, it feels terrible. But it is incredibly empowering when you realise that you made the correct decision in saying no. It is an acquired skill and the more you use your “no” muscle, the stronger it’ll get. I promise.


5. When I say yes and feel resentment/ frustration/ anger, it usually means I should have said no
Learn to listen to your heart. I’m learning more about this every single day. The Bible says that we mustn’t give grudgingly or under compulsion, and yet, so many of us do. We say yes, and then harbour deep feelings of resentment and bitterness. Nothing good comes from a resentful attitude.

6. I realise that there are many ways to say no
No may be “I can’t help you this time”, “I can only do it next month”, “that’s not my strong suit” or simply “no, thanks”.

No is a complete sentence – Anne Lamott

7. Recognise your personal physical symptoms of an incorrect yes

Over the past year I’ve noticed that when I say yes to too many things that are wrong for me, I get terrible headaches and feel physically ill (nauseated). I’m starting to recognise those things quicker so that I can stop them in their tracks ๐Ÿ™‚

Make a decision for the next month to look over your schedule and see where you’re saying yes to activities or commitments that don’t support your goals. Then, work at saying no to them so you can say yes to more important things.

Do you find it easy to say no?

Why or why not?

Do you know how your tendency ties into it? I think of all the types, Obligers have the hardest time saying no but feel free to correct me.

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  1. I actually don’t have problems saying no… I have a lot on my plate and saying mindlessly just stresses me out.. So I think before I respond and i have to, I ask for time to see if I really want to say yes or no…

    • Marcia Francois says

      my favourite part of your response…. “saying yes mindlessly just stresses me out” – EXACTLY ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I am actually quite good at saying NO! I don’t like my life to be too full. I enjoy a lot of “down time” and “me time” and “doing nothing” time. Actually, I need it in order to function and I just remind myself of the potential anxiety and overwhelm waiting around the corner for me if I don’t have it.
    It’s not always easy though. I do give in occasionally. ALWAYS against my better judgement. Depending on how much the person involved is tugging at my heartstrings.

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