It’s Okay To Say No Without Feeling Guilty


It’s Okay To Say No Without Feeling Guilty

Nurses and other caring professionals experience a lot of stress in their jobs.

Caring for another person entails patience and empathy. Plus, with the additional stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a rise in stress levels, burnout and anxiety among nurses and caring professionals. Many of the pre-existing problems within these industries are highlighted.

Relationships are stressed, there is hierarchical and horizontal aggression, and blaming is rampant, staff do not feel valued.

But if you think it can’t get any more difficult, wait until one of your superiors or co-workers approaches you to ask for an extra shift, stay back for overtime, cover sick leave, or help with another set of tasks.

But for many caring professionals, we feel the need to help everyone. And, we are pulled between not wanting to disappoint, proving we are good enough, or not wanting to feel judged or rejected for saying no. Thus, saying yes to all these additional requests can come at the cost of our own health and well-being.

But why do we feel guilty in the first place?

Why We Feel Guilty For Saying No

 Before we dive into the ways you can practice saying no without feeling guilty, let’s break down why we do feel guilty in the first place. 

Guilt is an emotion we feel when we do something wrong. So if you’ve truly wronged someone, then it would be understandable why you would feel guilty. However, saying no to tasks or favors that are not in your best interest is not doing anyone wrong. So why do we feel guilty?

There are a lot of reasons for this. Some of which include not wanting to disappoint, wanting to be part of a team, wanting to prove yourself to be good enough, or even wanting to be noticed for future promotions. 


Why We Shouldn’t Say Yes When We Want to Say No

Saying yes when we really want to say no puts both parties at a disadvantage. For one, you are neglecting your own self-care by saying yes when you don’t mean it. Additionally, saying yes to an additional shift at work or task, when you already have too much on your plate means less than quality output. 

Here are five reasons why, caring professionals and entrepreneurs shouldn’t say yes when we want to say no. 

  • You have loved ones who need you; your partner, family, children…
  • Just because workplaces are short-staffed – look at the global shortage of nurses and other healthcare professionals, it does not mean that the responsibility falls on you. 
  • You need to prioritise your own self-care.
  • Saying no is a way to take care of your mental health. 
  • You are not responsible for how others react to you saying no.



How To Stop Saying Yes When You Want to Say No

Now that we’ve discussed the why, let’s delve into HOW to actually say NO.


Stop and breathe.

When we are asked a favour, whether by our superior or colleague, we can sometimes be caught off guard and quickly agree even if we want to do otherwise. In order to say no, remember to first stop and breathe. Feel your breath and take a moment to pause.

This pause is a powerful tool to help you when caught in these types of situations. It gives you space to think.


Don’t answer right away.

Following the first step, the next tip would be not to give an answer straight away. Instead, pause and ask if you can have some time to think about it. Tell them that you need some time to think about it or check your schedule. 

Use this time to check-in with yourself first. A lot of times we end up feeling regretful for agreeing to requests on impulse.


Notice how it feels in your body.

During this time, check in with yourself. Notice what you are feeling. Try imagining what would happen if you said yes, or if you said no. What do you feel during both scenarios?


Practice this exact scenario.

Saying no can take courage. Especially if it’s saying no to someone more senior in position, or to a close friend or even to a family member. So, in order to be able to do so gracefully, practice saying no. Practice this exact scenario. 

Try saying it in your head or try saying it out loud in front of the mirror. By practising the scenario, it will make it easier for you when the time comes to tell them no. Saying no is like a muscle that needs practice to training in order to be strengthened.


Remember that ‘No’ is a complete sentence. 

After practicing saying no, you can get back to the person asking for the favor and give them your answer. If they ask why, remember that “No” is a complete sentence. Your explanation is not required.

If you want to say no, just say it. Avoid offering a lot of reasons or excuses as to why you can’t agree to the request. Your co-workers will appreciate it more if you’ll be honest with them.


Show Empathy When Saying No

While saying no means standing up for yourself, it doesn’t mean you need to be harsh or rude about it. You want to show the person that you truly understand their problem, but it simply isn’t something you can handle right now.

Remember to show empathy. Empathy is what connects us as human beings, so it’s important to convey this on some level.


Remove the Guilt

Saying no takes courage and a lot of guts. But no matter how hard it is, don’t feel sorry for prioritizing yourself and taking care of yourself first. Taking on more shifts and responsibilities is a sure-fire way towards burnout.


Be in Charge of the Situation

When we are new to a job, we may feel intimidated or even scared of our superiors. Because of this, we can have a hard time saying no to requests. 

Follow the steps listed above. Then, take control of the situation. Let the other person know that you are standing your ground. 


Stop Worrying About What Others Think

Saying yes to requests and favours, when we want to say no, stems from the fear of disappointing, being judged, or wanting to be accepted. It is much more important to prioritise your own health and well-being than to compromise just to “fit in” or be accepted. 

Remember, what others think of you is none of your business. Other people’s judgment of you doesn’t reflect you, but them.


Confidence is appealing and charismatic

Saying no takes confidence and confidence is appealing. Being confident not only makes you more charismatic, it also makes other people respect you and your boundaries more. 

Five Ways to Say No

The next time someone asks you to do something, take a moment to pause, reflect, and ask yourself if you are already stretched thin. If so, please say no and don’t feel guilty about it. 

If you are still struggling to say no, here are five alternatives you can use.

  1. I’m not comfortable with that.
  2. I don’t think it’s a right fit for me and my current schedule.
  3. I have another commitment/ I already have plans
  4. I need to focus on myself/my personal life/my career
  5. NO!

In Conclusion

During these times, it is so essential to take care of ourselves. We need more than ever to prioritise our own well-being in order to care for another person. 

By looking after yourself first, you can provide better care for your patients and those who depend on you. 

Download this Free Cheat Sheet and learn more on how to say no without feeling guilty.

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It’s Okay To Say No Without Feeling Guilty