The Art of Saying NO to Friends … Without Feeling Guilty

Saying no to your friends can be a difficult and awkward situation that most of us tend to avoid. For many people, saying no brings a sense of guilt. We may feel we are disappointing our friends or anxious to turn down going out.

Despite the reasons, it is important to recognise your own needs first, and learn to say no for your personal health and wellbeing.

What stops us from saying NO

There are multiple reasons that can stop us from saying no to others. These include:

  • Self-defeating beliefs. The belief that it is uncaring, rude, and selfish to say what you want; if I assert myself, I will upset the other person and ruin our relationship
  • Lack of assertive communication skills
  • Anxiety and stress
  • Situation evaluation. We can’t tell which behaviours to use in which situations
  • We don’t have established boundaries
  • Our boundaries are not being respected by others
  • Cultural and generational influences
  • We lack confidence, self-worth or tend to people please due to past experiences and/or societal expectations

How to say NO without feeling guilty

Recognise why you feel bad

We may not be able to control the automatic feeling that occurs when we say no, but we can control how we perceive the feeling and what we do next with it. Think to yourself… If I feel bad, what was the point of having said no in the first place? By recognising why you are feeling bad for saying no, you can work to reinforce your personal boundaries and challenge the cognitive distortions that may have arose from this act. Consider what is within and what is outside your control.

Be Assertive

The effect of not being assertive, setting boundaries and saying no can lead to a low self-esteem. If we communicate in a passive manner, we are not saying what we really think or feel. This means we can end up agreeing with and fulfilling other people’s needs or wants rather than our own. This can result in a lack of purpose and a feeling of not being in control of our own lives. To learn how to be assertive, listen to our podcast

Open Communication

If we never express ourselves openly and choose to conceal our thoughts and feelings then we can start to feel tense, stressed, anxious or resentful. It can also lead to unhealthy and uncomfortable relationships. Share why you are saying no. This can help ease any tension or conflict predicted to occur and help foster healthy relationships.

Remember, sometimes you need to say yes to yourself by saying no to others. Whilst saying no to friends without feeling guilty is no easy task, once mastered it can be a vital step to setting healthy boundaries and preserving your mental health.

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