No. Two letters, one syllable, a complete sentence. Should be simple shouldn’t it? So what is it that gets in the way and makes us involuntarily say yes when we really (really) want to say no? It can quickly become a fast track to exhaustion and burnout because all the things we say yes to rob us of time and energy for other things we want to do. Self care goes by the wayside, relationships get neglected and fun gets sucked out of the business we used to love. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Learning to say no can quite literally be life changing.
I remember vividly my first coaching session with a client I’m going to call Kelly. Mainly because that isn’t her real name. She was running a dog grooming business and a cleaning businesses, and was busy with a consistent set of customers. Lovely. The problem was, she was cleaning for people who looked down their noses at her, grooming appointments were given out at the beck and call of the dog owners and she was getting it in the neck for never having any social time to spend with her long suffering husband.
What she really wanted to be doing was building her design business for bespoke accessories but that felt a long way off. If she was going to make that dream a reality she was going to have to make some changes – a big one being that she would need to say no.
As we worked together a number of reasons surfaced that had kept her saying yes. Some of them might be familiar… There was the involuntary yes (the habit of saying yes before thinking through what she was actually agreeing to). There was the fear driven yes (who wants to say no to paying work and run the risk of not being able to pay the bills?). There was the guilt driven yes (because it would feel mean saying that she couldn’t fit the grooming appointment in…). And not forgetting the path of least resistance yes, where she was too tired to figure out how to say no.
Once we’d figured out all the times and ways she was saying yes to things, she started to tackle them one by one. Focusing on one specific thing you want to say no to that will give you the biggest payoff is a great place to start. You can prepare for it and work out a plan for how to do it. In Kelly’s case it was dropping one of her cleaning customers. By saying a polite but firm no to the cleaning job, she created half a day per week she could spend on her design business.
Next came the weekend grooming appointments – for those, she planned activities in her diary in advance so that she gave herself no choice but to say no when people asked to book in at short notice.
She also worked on creating a pause rather than saying an automatic yes to requests for appointments. Having a phrase you can use to buy time makes it much easier to consider what you really want to say instead of falling into the trap of saying yes now and regretting it later!
Over time the things Kelly said no to created a huge shift and the opportunity to say yes to things that would grow her fledgling business. In a few short months she ditched the cleaning entirely, created the time to get her Etsy shop up and running, sold her designs into local independent boutiques and remembered what a weekend off felt like. Rather than feeling guilty for saying no, she embraced it and flourished both personally and professionally.
If you know that saying no isn’t your forte, why not book to join me for Socially Shared’s Online Zoom workshop on 3rd June? I’ll be delving deeper into what gets in the way and more importantly sharing five practical strategies you can use to say no to what isn’t serving you.