Two letters can seem so innocent, don’t you think? However, saying "no" can be so difficult.
I realized I had a problem saying “no” when I had a mentor point out that I was the source of my stress and anxiety.
“What do you mean - I’m the one causing my stress?” I asked.
Certainly the source of my stress was from working over 50 hours a week, leading two volunteer committees, attending two-three evening events each week, spending time with girlfriends and trying to date. I was also balancing time with my dog, phone calls to my family, exercising regularly, catching up on news, squeezing in fun and doing my best not to disappoint people.
Does my schedule sound familiar?
Our society values and applauds women who strive to do everything, who say “yes” to life and who are available for others all of the time.
Logically, we know that lifestyle isn’t sustainable for very long.
Exhaustion, stress and overwhelm begin to take over.
At some point, you’re likely to feel frustrated when asked to do one more thing, but also feel guilty if you decline the request.
My mentor was right. I had to begin saying “no” on a regular basis and release the guilt when doing so.
3 Steps to Say “No” With Little Guilt
1. Redefine “No”
Saying “no” comes with consequences. A “no” could mean you won’t get promoted when you turn down a project. A “no” may result in missing out on an opportunity to support a charity you admire. A “no” may cause someone else pain when turning down a date or when ending a relationship.
I used to think that most consequences to saying “no” were negative. However, when I looked a bit deeper, I learned saying “no” had positive consequences, too.
When I said “no” to a project or a job, I was saying “yes” to honoring my wants and needs - not to mention I allowed space for other opportunities. When I said “no” to a charity, the charity was able to select a volunteer who was over the moon excited to help them. When I said “no” to a guy or a relationship, I was giving him an opportunity to find a more suited match for him. I was also saying “yes” to finding a more suited match for me.
Saying “no” to a request means saying “yes” to you. And that’s an act of love.
2. Know your “Why”
Do you know why you want to say “no?” If not, take a few minutes and reflect on that question.
Knowing the “why” behind your “no” will allow you to feel more confident when you express yourself to the individual or entity.
If you find yourself questioning the “why” behind your “no,” great. Continue to investigate. If you still want to say “no,” but are concerned your “why” is too small, remember this - your reason for deciding “no” is never inconsequential or too small. Honor your wise self by moving forward.
I’ve found that when I say no with confidence, the other person or entity senses my confidence and is less likely to challenge me.
By the way, you can choose to keep your “why” to yourself. You don’t have to share it with the other person. If you decide to share the reason, be brief in your explanation. I'm reminded of the quote, "No is a complete sentence."
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3. Love and Kindness Saves the Day
Say “no” from a place of love and kindness. This means you may need to calm down, take a break and say “no” at a time when you’ve regained a sense of love and kindness for the other person.
This is especially helpful to remember if you are having a heated exchange with someone.
When I reference “love,” I don’t mean you have to be “in love” with that person. I mean for you to “have love for that person” and want the best for him/her.
The person receiving your “no” is responsible for their feelings - always.
If you said “no” with kindness and from a place of love and the other person reacts poorly, their reaction is their responsibility.
Admittedly, it can be disconcerting to see someone in pain or get upset by your actions. When this happens, check in with yourself to see if you delivered your “no” from a place of love and kindness. If so, remind yourself that this individual is responsible for his/her feelings. Reflect on your “why” and take solace in knowing your “no” may bring positive outcomes to both parties.
One thing is for sure, the more you say “no” the easier it will become.
Now it’s your turn: What have you been wanting to say “no” to this week? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Embracing the “no” with you,
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Let's connect and begin a conversation. My passion is equipping leaders with strategies to accelerate success, develop high performing teams and build cultures where employees are inspired to work their best. - Jennifer Spaulding, Leadership & Executive Coach