Many of my clients express this same concern to me. They find it so difficult to feel good about saying ‘No’ to things. This is equally as true in their work lives as it is in their personal lives.
I explained to Rick that when people tell me that they have trouble saying ‘No’, one thing I help them to see is that they are actually very, very good at saying ‘No’. At first they do not agree with me. But I have a little trick that helps them adopt a new perspective.
Picture a little stick (like one that you would pick up outside), that has ‘Yes’ carved in one end and ‘No’ carved in the other end. When we try to pick up this stick, it is impossible to pick up only one end of the stick. When you pick up one end, you also pick up the other.
To put it another way, when we say ‘Yes’ to something, we are simultaneously saying ‘No’ so some other things. Every time. This is why I maintain that we are excellent at saying ‘No”. We simply disguise it as a ‘Yes’ because for some reason that seems more palatable.
For example, when we say ‘Yes’ to taking on a project, we concurrently say ‘No’ to the other things we might do during the time the project will take. Ironically, the things we often say ‘No’ to involve our families, our personal health and our mental health. It could be that we say ‘Yes’ to staying late at work. If we do this (which is not necessarily a wrong thing to do) it means that we are saying ‘No’ to some other things in our life – perhaps time with our family, time to exercise, time to call or connect with a friend, time to work on a hobby, time to make a healthy meal etc. The bottom line is that we are very good at saying ‘No’. We have simply forgotten, or never realized that by saying ‘Yes’, we are making a bargain. Part of that bargain is that we are clearly saying a very firm ‘No’ to something.
So, what is the solution? Well, as I explained to Rick during our mini coaching conversation, part of the solution is simply becoming aware that by saying ‘Yes’ we are also saying ‘No’. Sometimes just realizing this is enough to make us pause before we quickly answer ‘Yes’. The other part of the solution is learning to re-frame our responses. Once we recognize that we are carefully negotiating things into our lives by saying ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ we can frame our answers in a new way. One effective response can be “Oh, I’d love to, but I’ve already said ‘Yes’ to something else”.
This gives us the feeling of saying ‘Yes’ while we remain very conscious of what we are negotiating into our lives. It allows us to operate from a position of power, rather than feeling like a victim.
My challenge for you this week is to simply notice what you are saying ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ to. It can be life-changing!
If you find the tools you learn in these blogs to be helpful, it could mean that you would love some coaching from Elizabeth. If an airplane is off course by one degree, the result to its destination is huge. Most flights are only hours long. Imagine what a 1 degree correction in a life could do.