How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty

by Amber Rosenberg

Do you find it difficult to say no? Do you have a fear of displeasing others? Do you have trouble expressing your true feelings?

You’re not alone. In my work with successful and motivated women, these are a few of their most common challenges.

If you struggle with some of these issues too, it may be helpful for you to examine your personal boundaries and determine where you can strengthen them. Simply put, personal boundaries are the limits you place between yourself and others. The stronger your boundaries, the more free you feel to express yourself.

We all have certain relationships and situations where our boundaries are stronger and certain relationships and situations where our boundaries need work. Frequently, the closer we are to someone (i.e. – romantic partners, children and parents), the harder it is to maintain strong boundaries.

Below are a few signs of weak boundaries:

- Difficulty in asking for what you want or need

- Allowing others’ opinions to determine your self- worth

- Taking things too personally

- Difficulty in standing up for yourself

- Feeling like a victim

- Feeling obligated or indebted

- Allowing others’ bad moods to rub off on you

I invite you to take a look at your own life and think about where your boundaries are strong and where they need work. You can test the strength of your boundaries in various aspects of your life by asking yourself the following questions:

In this situation/relationship, “How free do I feel to express myself?” “How free do I feel to ask for what I want?”

Once you have an idea of where your boundaries need work, you can start practicing your communication techniques.

Setting boundaries is best done with a graceful or neutral tone. This will feel uncomfortable at first, but as you take care of yourself, the personal power you gain will make it easier. When setting boundaries, there is no need to justify, give excuses or over- explain your feelings. Be firm, gracious and direct. When faced with resistance, repeat your statement or request.

Below are a few neutral responses to common situations:

To set a boundary with an angry person: “You may not yell at me. If you continue, I’ll have to leave the room.”

To set a boundary with someone who is critical: “That is an inappropriate comment. Please stop.”

To buy yourself time when making tough decisions: “I’ll have to sleep on it. I have a policy of not making decisions right away.”

To say no to extra commitments: “Although this organization is important to me, I can’t participate now because my time is already over-committed.”

To back out of a commitment: “After reviewing my schedule, I now realize that I won’t be able to give this project my best attention. I’d like to help find a replacement by the end of next week.

To set a boundary with an adult child who borrows money: “I won’t be lending you money anymore. I love you and you need to take responsibility for yourself.”

Once you’ve tested out these neutral responses, you can craft your own responses to specific situations or relationships in your life.

Strengthening your boundaries is one of the best ways to attract new positive relationships and transform existing relationships, which will have a powerful impact in both your personal and professional life. Strong boundaries will give you the confidence to speak your truth and to choose what you want (and don’t want) in your life. What do you choose?

About the Author:
Amber Rosenberg, owner, Pacific Life Coach, has helped hundreds of women to communicate more effectively and to enjoy greater success in their personal and professional relationships. She is a contributor to the book ‘Inspiration to Realization’, a self-help book for women, a popular speaker, and a writer for Know Yourself Magazine. She also has ten years communications experience for Fortune 500 companies and non-profit organizations. To order a signed copy of her book, to sign-up for the Confident Woman FREE monthly e-zine or a half hour complimentary phone consultation, go to http://www.pacificlifecoach.com

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