Why Sorry is not the hardest word… and which word is

When I sat down to write this, I had an idea in my head about what I was going to share with you. As I reflected and pondered the topic, lyrics from Elton John’s wonderful song ‘Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word’ drifted into my mind. Interesting, I thought… is sorry really the hardest word?

From my own experience and from my personal development work over the last ten years, I’ve found that there’s another, smaller word that’s much, much harder to say. That word is ‘no’.

Why is ‘no’ such a difficult word?

If you are worried about what others think of you, if you want to please and be liked by everyone, if you need to be the ‘good girl’ (or ‘good boy’), saying ‘no’ will be difficult. You see, it means some or all of the following:

Disappointing someoneburned-out
Hurting someone’s feelings
Making someone angry
Creating conflict
Being ridiculed
Not being liked
Being blamed
Feeling guilty

To avoid this, you choose to over-give and over-commit and that means self-sacrifice and deprivation for you.

When I was going through my divorce many years ago, I felt guilty about saying ‘no’ to my children. I had split the family up and it was my ‘fault’ they were suffering. That doesn’t mean the children always got what they wanted, far from it, but every time I had to say ‘no’ to them, I suffered.  I found myself explaining and justifying my behaviour as if I didn’t have the right to refuse.

Knowing what I know now, I recognise that this was stuff I had to work through – it was one of many important life lessons – but I didn’t know it then. It was exhausting and kept me in self-sacrifice and deprivation mode for a long time.

To break your pattern of self-sacrifice, you must overcome your reluctance, fear and discomfort about saying ‘no’.


That means putting in place boundaries and setting limits that respect your energy, your emotional needs and your time.

How many times do you agree to do things you know you shouldn’t because you don’t know how to say ‘no’? Make a list of when that happens, and the next time you find yourself in one of those situations, use this three step process to help you say ‘no’ with grace, ease, honesty and authenticity.

Step One: Take your Time

When someone asks something of you, you don’t need to answer immediately. Take your time to decide whether it is something you want to commit to. Don’t feel pressurized, or put yourself under pressure, to reach a decision straight away.

It’s absolutely fine to say ‘Leave it with me and I’ll get back to you’ or ‘I need to sleep on it and I’ll let you know in the morning’ or ‘I need to check my diary/check in with someone before I make a commitment’.

Step Two: Trust your Intuition

You will usually have a ‘gut feeling’ about whether something is right for you, or not. The problem is, when you make snap decisions that feeling gets ignored. You’ve taken your time and resisted the urge to make a hasty decision, now is the time to check in with your intuition. How do you feel?

Ask yourself: How much do I really want to do this?
Use a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is ‘not at all’ and 10 is ‘absolutely’. If you score a 9 or a 10, you’re on the way to a ‘yes’, anything less than that needs careful consideration

Now, ask yourself: What worries me about saying ‘no’?
Is it because you don’t want to disappoint someone, hurt their feelings, upset them or risk not being liked? If so, then you are heading for a ‘no’.

Step Three: Tell your Truth

When you tell your truth, you express yourself honestly, authentically and with respect for yourself and others. As you have taken your time to come to your decision and you have checked in with your intuition, you now have the time to consider the words you will actually use to say ‘no’.

Use these points to guide you:

Express your feelings
Maybe it was a difficult decision to come to, if it was you could start by saying ‘This has been a really difficult decision, however…’
Stay focused on your message
Be clear about what you are saying and stick to it even when you are challenged. You could say something like ‘Yes, I understand you need someone to help out and it is short notice, however I am not able to commit this time.’
Take responsibility for your message
This means using ‘I’ sentences. So, rather than saying
‘It’s impossible, the kids are home that day and my husband’s really busy at work which means he can’t baby sit, so it will be really difficult for me to help this time…’ Try,
‘I’m sorry, I can’t help this time. I have agreed to look after the kids while my husband’s dealing with an important work project.’
Be firm, and compassionate
Deliver your message resolutely but with understanding and respect.
If you can assist in a different way that is respectful of your time and energy, offer that.

not-my-circus-not-my-monkeysFinally, other people make hasty decisions and don’t take the time to reflect on their message or their language.

People say things in the heat of the moment and through frustration that are unkind and untrue. That is a reflection of their situation and their emotional state, not yours.

Remember, don’t take it personally!

Consciously practice the art of saying ‘no’ to break your pattern of self-sacrifice.

You’ll be surprised how good it feels!



What’s going on? Click here for my latest news & events

Helen Kerrison
Connect with Helen at helen@helenkerrison.com

Categories: Conscious Success.

Leave a Reply

Post Comment


Insight TV

Sidebar HKTV Ipad 195x158

My Latest Book

RAC book

Get a Free Copy of the Ebook Conscious Success: The A - Z Guide



Follow us on Twitter

Copyright © 2013 Insight in Business, Helen Kerrison
Privacy Policy | Terms & Conditions | Disclaimer