How To Say ‘No’ Without the Guilt or Feeling Selfish

One of the most common problems in relationships is something so simple, yet can be so difficult at the same time.

It’s the ability to say “no” without feeling like you are “hurting” the other person–and being okay with it.

Now we realize that for some people, (maybe you’re one of them) this is a non-issue. You might say no easily and are just fine with it.

But we’re willing to bet that if you don’t have this problem (of not being able to say no), your partner may–then it does become a problem for you.

Whether you have trouble getting “no” out of your mouth or you’re with someone who blindsides you because he or she can’t say “no” and says “yes” instead (or nothing at all), our “Stop Talking on Eggshells” gives very practical ways to start
communicating openly and honestly even in very difficult situations.

Why do so many people have trouble saying “no”?

The long and the short of it is simple–Some of us were taught that it’s unselfish and “nice” to say “yes” no matter what.

We’ve adopted beliefs that to say “no” to someone means you don’t love the other person (“If you loved me, you’d agree with me”) or you’re being selfish when you say “no” and that’s bad.

We’ve learned that agreeing even when we don’t mean it or want to means that we’ll get love from the other person.

We lie to ourselves and we lie to others just to keep the peace.

Saying “yes” when we mean “no” might even be a tactic we learned that says “I’ll delay disappointing you and it won’t hurt so bad.”

Maybe we were even punished when we did say “no” or watched other people get punished for saying it–and decided we’d try another way to get our needs met.

Much of this is unconscious and is done from habit.

Most of the time we don’t even realize that we’re doing it!

A step toward really happy, fulfilling relationships is to make our words and actions come from a conscious place from inside us. And learning how to say “no” in a loving, heart-felt way that keeps a connection with the other person is a step toward that.

Whenever we come across a relationship challenge, the two of us find it helpful to slow it down so we can untangle it and see what’s there.

So how about if we start untangling your or your partner’s hesitancy (or complete inability) to say “no” when that’s really what you or they feel?

Here are 3 ways you or your partner can begin finding an honest “no” inside, say it without feeling unkind or guilty, and keep your connection…

1. Find your inner “yes” and your inner “no”

For many of us who’ve had a hard time saying “no,” even being aware of what we’re feeling may be difficult.

So start there.

Start identifying the feeling inside your body that is a “yes” and the feeling that is a “no.”

For Susie, a “yes” is a tingly, excitement she feels in her belly. A “no” for her is a heavy, nervous, uncertain feeling in the same area and also in her heart area.

What about you?

Think about something that is a definite “yes” for you. Where in your body do you feel that “yes” and what do you feel?

Now think about something that is a definite “no” for you. Where and what is that feeling?

Your body can give you loads of feedback if you learn to pay attention. Of course, when you’ve got this information, you can choose to act on it or not.

2. Separate out the stories from the “yes” or “no”

The other day, two young women came to the door and Otto talked with them. They were selling magazine subscriptions and part of their sales pitch was to tell Otto that if he didn’t want the magazines for himself, he could buy and donate them to the troops in Afghanistan.

When Otto gave them a “no,” they asked, “Don’t you care about the troops in Afghanistan?”

Otto thought for a moment, considering their question and very clearly told them that yes he cared about the troops and the answer was still no to the magazines.

What he did was separate out the “story” and the meaning from the question or questions…

–The story–If he says no to buying the magazines, he doesn’t care about the troops.

–The questions–Did he want the magazines for himself? Did he want to donate to the troops in this way?

Since there were a lot of unknowns in this situation–he didn’t know if this was a reputable company and if the magazines would actually make it to Afghanistan–it was an over-whelming “no” for him.

We love the phrase “This means that…” In fact, we like using it so much, we included in our “Magic Relationship Words” program.

This issue of having difficulty saying a heartfelt, genuine “no” is a great example of this.

It might go something like this–“If I say no, then she/he won’t love me and I will be alone.”

To some, the story is that saying “yes” means I’m going to get love–which most of us discover usually doesn’t work in the long run to create the kind of love we really want.

So our advice–start separating out what you are being asked from the story you might be telling yourself to more easily find what’s the honest answer for you.

3. Stay in the truth of your “no” when you speak it without apologizing. Have it as your intention to keep your connection.

For many of us, it certainly is tempting to put an apology after the “no.” We’d like to please the other person by doing what they want so we apologize.

We say something like–“I’m sorry but the answer is “no.”

Somewhere inside us, there’s the belief that the “I’m sorry” will soften the “no” and everything will be okay anyway.

But this may not truly be honest.

Here’s a switch you can make…

When you’re called from an authentic place inside you to say “no,” say it with love instead of apology.

You could say this or something like it…

“Thanks for your offer and right now it’s a no for me.”

Make it your intention that even though this is a “no” for you, you want to stay connected to this person.

You can do that by making eye contact and having an open heart while knowing deep inside what is true for you.

The truth is that being in your truth and speaking lovingly from that truth is one of the best ways to create love that lasts and grows stronger over the years.

If you or someone you love has this problem with “no,” we invite you to experiment with making some positive, conscious choices that will bring more love and peace into your life.


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