Guilt-Free Refusals As a Key to Financial Success

Success depends on getting good at saying no without feeling guilty.     ~Jack Canfield

Think about that statement for a minute.

How many of us have trouble saying no period — let alone saying no without feeling guilty? We want to say yes. And when we have to say no, we feel badly about it. Why do you suppose that is?

Here’s my theory.

What was your reaction to being told no as a young child or teenager? Mine was usually first to think of a way to change the person’s mind and then to bug the heck out of them. If that failed, I would leave either feeling disappointed or angrily thinking that “they’re mean!”. (Sometimes accompanied by stomping or door slamming.)

Is it any wonder that we don’t want to produce those kinds of feelings or reactions in others?

As an adult we know that people often have good reasons for saying no: they’re stretched too thin already, the thing we want to do is unhealthy or dangerous, they’ve already committed to something else, it’s not in the plan, etc. So we understand, intellectually.

In fact we usually understand emotionally as well when someone says no to us. We’re not usually upset, and we certainly don’t go around muttering “you’re mean” or slamming doors. But I suspect we still need to quell our inner child when it comes to saying no ourselves.

And the only way to do that is to practice.

Start by saying no to yourself once a day for a week. Tell yourself that no, you’re not going to stop for fast food. Instead, you’re going to send $5 to your savings account or debt and make a meal at home instead. (Even if that meal is just a sandwich or a can of soup.)

Notice that the world does not end, and that you don’t think badly of yourself. In fact, you probably feel pretty good. You’ve done something that moves you toward your goal, instead of something that sends you in the opposite direction. Build upon those good feelings by saying no in other areas of your life as well.

If you’re over committed, choose one item to scale back on. You don’t have to give a reason for the change. In fact it’s often easiest if you don’t give a reason in the beginning. Just stick with “I’m sorry, that doesn’t work for me any longer.” (Because who can argue with that?) This lets you get a little more comfortable with your no-saying powers.

And remember that every no is also a yes: a yes to the things you want to accomplish. No to buying a new gadget equals yes to $100 less in debt or $100 more to invest.