Do You Feel Guilty When You Say No?

Do You Feel Guilty When You Say No?

“Have the courage to say no.
Have the courage to face the truth.
Do the right thing because it is right.
These are the magic keys
to living your life with integrity.”
~W. Clement Stone

Have you read that classic work on assertiveness;  When I Say No I Feel Guilty? It was published thirty-six years ago and is still ranked highly in the self-esteem category at amazon.com today.

Two year olds know how to say no, and they say it with alacrity! They are mimicking their parents, who too-liberally use this word at this active phase in their development. So we were OK with saying no at the age of two. What happened?

Social conscience happened, I think. Empathy happened. We don’t like to say no because we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. Funny thing about that – we prefer to be hurt ourselves rather than hurt someone else. When it comes to a choice over their feelings or ours, if not hurting them is our choice, then hurting us is as well.

Take those phone calls you get from telemarketers. I hate those calls, not so much because they are bursting into my life, interrupting arbitrarily what I am doing (and sometimes this interruption is serious - they interrupt my nap!) What bothers me is the scripts given to telemarketers;

1) They never ask “Have I caught you at a bad time,”. If they did that I’m sure I’d be 300% happier to talk to them. They don’t ask. They assume that since I have said “Hello” I’m theirs. Bit I digress.

2) They don’t take no for an answer.

So I have two choices, neither of them comfortable to me. I can listen until they have come to the end of their script and allow them to eat up my precious time, or I can interrupt with my “no”, as politely as possible, and hang up. I’m getting better at the latter, saying, “I’m not going to waste your time, I’m not interested.”

It’s trickier when it’s a person to person “no” to someone you care about. We don’t like to say no. Why is that? Is it just me?

How do you say no? Do you ever say yes when you really want to say no?

photo credit: Helga Weber

About The Author


I love figuring it all out and finding I was wrong, changing my mind, learning that I can get excited again about something I thought I was moving away from; changing life-long habits. Mostly I love my husband and my children; watching us all grow through the changes of life, family reunions and celebrations with a good bottle of port and a shrimp ring.