“Saying Yes to Saying No”

Business woman looking on option and select no decision isolated on white background

I vividly remember looking at my planner one Sunday evening about 10 years ago and seeing a week full of commitments and appointments that I no more wanted to be at than have a double root canal. I felt defeated just looking at the schedule, let alone doing the tasks. I was resentful of my own life!

Now who do you think created that situation?  

“No” is a bad word to many of us. We’d like to think it’s that we care about those we love, and therefore want to accommodate their needs.

But what’s much harder to admit is this – more than anything, we have a tremendous drive to be liked.  

Yep, who can’t relate to making commitments that are ultimately not in our best interest because we wanted to be approved of?

It’s hard to resist this almost automatic reaction when asked to do a favor for someone, take on a responsibility, be a “team player.” But when you look at the commitment later, and feel that depletion, dread, and even resentment, you realize you’ve abandoned yourself completely.

Here are 3 tips that when applied will help you to fight that people-pleasing urge:

  • Buy Time. When asked if you’re available to … (fill-in-the-blank), the best on-the-spot response is “You know, I have to check on a few things to see what’s possible. Let me get back to you.” It’s too tempting, when someone is standing right in front of you, to let “Sure, no problem” slip out. Instead, buy yourself the time to really think it through. Is this a commitment I really want to make? What are the benefits? What are the costs?
  • Counter-Offer. Remember that for any request, there are 3 possible responses: “yes,” “no,” or a counter-offer. If you know in your heart that the answer is no, then you owe it to yourself to gracefully decline. But what if there’s a compromise that feels right? You could say, “I really can’t make the commitment to chair that committee, but I’d be happy to help facilitate on the day of the big event.”
  • Self-Care First. Know that your own self-care is your most important responsibility!       Without taking care of yourself, everything else falls apart. You can’t show up in the way that most supports your highest good and self-expression, nor can you help take care of anyone else! If you sublimate your own needs by empting your gas tank with commitments that don’t serve you, who benefits?

There’s a phrase I love to employ when I’m faced with the opportunity to take care of me (or my priorities) by saying no to something is “What other people think of me is none of my business.”

Sounds a little harsh, but it’s true. What matters is what I think of me, and that means doing what feels good, right, and nourishing, regardless of anyone else’s opinion. 

Barb Wade

Barb is a Speaker, Author, and Coach, who has been on the leading edge of Transformational Coaching for over 15 years. Barb works with high-achievers who, despite external accomplishments, are finding themselves yearning for more freedom, joy, and meaning in their lives. Barb herself knows that “hole” of quiet desperation that can exist even though achievement is high.

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