We’ve all been there. We’re minding our own business when we get a call, an email, or a “whaaaat’s happening?” Office Space-style cubicle visit, and that other f-word gets lobbed at us: favor.
Sometimes, of course, we say yes. We’re delighted to help out—it’s fun, rewarding, or win-win. But sometimes we feel anything but delighted: we feel bad, obligated, resentful, or pressured. And it’s almost guaranteed: we feel guilty.
So today, let’s talk about why not to feel guilty when you say no to coming in on Saturday, coordinating the preschool fun fair for the third year in a row, or loaning your pickup truck to your friend who’s moving this weekend. That, plus seven concrete ways to say no, from beginner to ninja.
Let’s start with why you shouldn’t feel guilty about saying no. First, guilt is an emotion reserved for when you do something wrong. If you hurt someone, it’s appropriate to feel guilty. Now, saying no might create a little extra work for the person you’re declining because now they have to ask someone else or otherwise rethink, but it falls well short of hurtful.