Dear Desi, why does saying “No” feel so bad, why can’t no just be “no” without the guilt ……
So many of us have had this experience. Saying yes when we really mean no.
Let’s be clear that this question/response is about healthy life situations and not violent or inappropriate conduct against one’s will. In everyday living we sometimes say yes without even thinking. Or worse yet, we think no but ignore our natural inclinations. We each have our own unique reasons for saying yes to things we don’t want to do; conflict avoidance, people pleasing, and the like.
While the act of saying no can be relatively simple, the feelings around our true desires are a bit more complex. At the bottom of this blog you can find tips on how to say no, this allows us to stay focused on the emotions rather than the tactics. Specifically let’s talk about guilt as it was the primary emotion referenced in the question.
Guilt is an incredibly useful emotion for keeping us all safe. It prevents us from harming others. According to researchers, guilt prone people are actually better at understanding other’s needs. Still, somehow, over time, this lovely emotion has gotten misplaced and overused.
Guilt was not intended for choosing moments of self-care over a family picnic. Or for attending a work meeting rather than a school event. Or for declining to volunteer for the umpteenth cause of the year. Yet too often, guilt prone people, experience the guilt emotion in exactly those types of circumstances. And it is these situations where saying no feels, well, complicated.
Here’s the funny thing, though. Once you have awareness of the importance distinction between useful guilt (don’t harm people) and overactive guilt (I have to do it all) saying no will actually become easier.
While we may momentarily feel a bit sad that we’ve let one person down, the results of saying no will positively impact MANY others. This is because when we operate on a series of Yes’s, when we really meant no, we reach burnout really fast. We get cranky, difficult to be around, and sensitive to just about everything. When we actually say no, when we really mean no, we get happier, easier to be around and more resilient to changes in plans and outcomes.
So at the core, I think we feel bad because we’re wired that way and we overuse that wiring thinking we’re doing the right thing. When actually the best thing we can do is to redirect the guilt to it’s intended, more infrequent, use and look for opportunities to say no more often to make ourselves and those we love happier and more satisfied. Guilt be gone. Bam!
This is such a great topic, check out the links below on some benefits of guilt, tips for saying no, and understanding your best yes.