Learn to say “no” to family without feeling guilty and set yourself free.
There’s something about family that makes it hard to say “no” to requests, favors, and pressures of various kinds. Somewhere along the line we’ve all been programmed with rules around family loyalty, obligations and duty.
Yet saying “yes” to something that doesn’t feel right, good, or truly helpful can’t be appropriate. So why do we feel guilty? What stops us from honoring ourselves, our higher truth, and our gut feeling about situations when it involves family? It’s the old “blood is thicker than water” slogan we’ve been fed all these years.
Centuries ago when tribes and families needed to stick together in order to survive it made sense to put family above all else. Nowadays with the level of family dysfunction, creating healthy boundaries is more supportive to all involved.
It isn’t always in the best interest to attend family gatherings, support struggling family members, or put family needs ahead of your own. Taking a break from family events creates an opportunity for roles and family dynamics to shift. Allowing a sibling to learn from their mistakes supports their long term growth rather than a quick bailout. And honoring your needs and values sets an example for everyone else to learn from.
How to Say “No” to Family Without Feeling Guilty
Here is a four-step process to try the next time you are asked for a favor or request by a family member.
1. Ask yourself what you want. Many people jump in to say “yes” without first asking themselves if they want to say “yes” or “no”. Pause for a moment and center within yourself to access your higher truth. If you need more time, tell the family member you’ll think about it and get back to them later. Then ask yourself, “Do I really want to do this?” Your mind may rattle off with a list of family obligations, so thank it and then listen to your body. What does your gut tell you? What does your intuition say? Put a hand over your heart and ask for its guidance.
2. Honor your values and principles. If guilt starts to creep in, persuading you to say “yes” when you really want to say “no”, stay true to your values and principles. If honesty is one of your principles, be honest. If you value peace and harmony, and attending a family gathering will be chaotic and stressful, honor your values. If self-responsibility is important to you, then doing ongoing favors or bailouts is a disservice to you and others. Let your values and principles guide your decisions.
3. Allow family members to grow and evolve. Playing the same family role in a dysfunctional family only perpetuates dysfunction, but breaking tradition wakes people up and creates space for change. If not attending a gathering is going to upset others, perhaps it’s in their best interest. If saying “no” to a struggling family member provides an opportunity for them to learn from their own mistakes, then that supports healing and growth. Do what is in the highest and best interest of all involved (especially you).
4. Communicate from the heart and soul. Sometimes when people want to say “no” they feel they have to be hard and firm about it, but this can come across as cold and uncaring. Own your power to stand your ground, but communicate from a place of love and compassion. This will help others hear you without resistance.
Play with this four-step process as a way to help you say “no” to family without feeling guilty.