THE BLOG
01/27/2015 08:13 am ET Updated Mar 29, 2015

4 Tips to Help You Say No With Love

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We say yes for many reasons. We seek validation, to be needed, or relied upon. We are good people. We care and so we give of ourselves to our families, friends, and organizations.

But if we're in the habit of saying yes too often, we may find ourselves depleted, overwhelmed, depressed, or angry. I know because I've been there.

Learning to say no protects our energy, time, and priorities. But we often say yes out of guilt.

"Well I could do it..."
"What will they think if I say no?"
"I don't want to disappoint them or hurt their feelings..."

When we say yes out of obligation, we're not taking care of ourselves and end up disappointing and hurting ourselves. Follow these simple tips to help you say no with love:

1) Say thanks and think it over.
I had the bad habit of saying yes to things right away and then feeling crappy later. When Jane asks if you can watch her dog this weekend, tell her you're honored that she thought of you and that you'd be happy to let her know at the end of the day or the next morning.

Don't allow people to bully you into making snap decisions. You may feel uncomfortable, resent the other person, and fester some anger towards yourself. Avoid this by saying you'll check your schedule. Give them a time or date that you'll follow up with them. Follow up when you say, obviously.

2) Three breaths. Two questions.
If we are in the habit of saying yes out of obligation, every question can cause stress. Take three deep breaths before you answer which will ground you. Then ask yourself these questions.

Ask Yourself: Am I able to? Do I want to?

Just because we're able to do something it doesn't mean we should or that we need to. When we do things out of obligation it feels like a chore. When we do things out of love, they feel like a joy. So are you able to? Do you want to?

3) Turn them down with class and offer alternatives.
The actual saying No part can be the hardest step because this is where all our triggers come up and lie to us. Your mind's program may tell you that you're selfish or you're a bad person for saying no. This is not true. You are saying no because you value yourself, your time, and your energy.

Saying no can look something like this:

• "I appreciate you thinking of me to watch your dog but unfortunately I'm not able to this weekend."

Notice how there was no long explanation or apology.

• If you would be willing to at a different time you could add, "Unfortunately I'm not able to this weekend, but I'd be open to watching Grover on one of your future trips."

• Or "Unfortunately I'm not able to this weekend, but my friend Sally loves dogs and said she'd be around this weekend. Let me know if you'd like her number."

There are various ways you can respond. Be loving, but firm. You don't need to explain anything.

• Offer alternate dates that might work. I'm not able to make Thursday or Friday for dinner but I could do next Wednesday. Would that work for you?"

• Offer something that you would be comfortable with. "I'm not able to come early and decorate a table for the Christmas party but I'd be happy to pick up a pie at Jonah's bakery on my way."

4) Simply say no, with a smile.
• "Thanks for thinking of me, but I'm not able to do that." Then smile.

By being able to say no in a loving way, it shows self-respect. When you're able to say no easily and without guilt, you might even find that you are more willing to volunteer and/or participate because when you do, it will be out of joy, not obligation.

Here's to a life of saying yes and no with love.

With Love,
Z