When your neighbor asks you to help with a fund-raiser or an old acquaintance insists you attend her dinner party, declining isn't always easy, even if you have a valid reason. "Women are taught to be nurturing, and they fear that turning down a request will make them seem selfish," says Susan Newman, Ph.D., a social psychologist and author of The Book of No: 250 Ways to Say It—and Mean It. "But most of us overestimate how much a refusal will disappoint someone. In reality, most people won't dwell on your denial—they'll just move on."
The next time you're confronted with anything from a party invite to a request for bake sale goodies, curb that automatic yes response and ask yourself, Will I look forward to this or dread it? If it's the latter, decline. (Try, "I'd love to, but I'm just too busy.") After turning down a few requests and realizing that others aren't put out by your refusals, you'll stop feeling guilty. "Plus, you'll be liberated because you'll recapture time for yourself to do the things you really want," says Newman. A new hobby, a relaxing evening to yourself, and more time with your kids are all yours for the price of just one little word.