Owning Your No

Learn how to say no, when you’re a yes person.

 minute read

Liz Hammond

Learn how to say no, when you’re a yes person 

While the narrative is shifting, we very much exist in a culture where over working, over committing and over achieving are normalized, if not celebrated. I am of the belief that the pain and burnout that
so many of us are feeling could be eased with two little letters—n-o. 

I’ve never been good at no. I am a type A, sensitive people-pleaser who struggles (on the daily) to stand confidently in my no. This fear of expressing what I cannot commit to comes up with family, friendships, my relationship with my husband and my work. It’s a big thing! In repeatedly opting for yes when I really meant no, I have burned myself out, let people down and been down more than a few anxious rabbit holes. 

Through conversation, experience and learning, I am slowly coming around to the fact that life simply gets better when you own your no. There’s a quote I heard in a yoga class that I always come back to when I am struggling with setting boundaries: “When I say no to someone else, I am saying yes to myself.” That could be yes to more rest, space for projects that excite you, or time to grow and heal. Whatever it is, I’ve learned that there are always good things to be discovered on the other side of the word no. 

So, let’s start tossing out some more no’s, shall we? Read on for a few learnings that have helped me come off yes autopilot once and for all. 

You don’t have to answer right away

This is such a simple behavioural shift that can save you SO much headache and regret. Maybe you’re like me and often find yourself immediately responding “of course!!” to a friend or client who needs something before really thinking through if you have the space for it. There’s nothing worse than regretfully scrambling to finish a project you never wanted to do, or getting out of your sweatpants to get to a dinner you didn’t actually want to go to. Here’s the thing—there is no prize for being quick to the draw with your yes. If you are truly not sure, respond and say “can I let you know by x date and time?”. You can then have some time to consider if you have the energy to do what is being asked of you. If it’s a no, don’t worry, we’ll get into how to make that happen…

Clear is kind 

Brene Brown said this in a podcast I listened to recently and I am obsessed with it. What she means by it is this: while it may feel easier for you in the moment to offer a “maybe” or an “I can probably do that,” you are doing a disservice to yourself and to whomever is asking something of you. So, as uncomfortable as it can feel, ditch the wishy washy next time you need to say no and give them your straight answer. It might not feel like it, but you’re actually doing something mindful, professional and kind. 

No is a complete answer 

It may seem like a revolutionary thought, but no is enough when it comes to a question of giving your time and energy to anything. There is a great deal of research around the notion that women in particular feel the need to concoct a long-winded excuse when saying no, when in fact, your truth will always suffice.  You don’t need to be cold or robotic, but when asked if you can take on something you a) aren’t interested in or b) don’t have the capacity for, a simple— “I don’t have the space to take this on at the moment” is more than enough. No need to go into detail. Keep it short and sweet and you’re golden. 

Your intuition knows what’s up 

When I’m waffling between a yes or a no, I always try to listen to what my body is telling me. Whether it’s a gut feeling (which for me is sometimes literally felt in my gut—TMI? whatever) or a cue from your intuition, you must listen. Whenever I have said yes to something when my initial inkling was to say no, it has always, always been a mistake. You’ll feel uncomfortable for a moment, but you will be grateful for that second of bravery in the long run. 

 A massive epiphany I have had as of late is that saying no does not make me selfish, rude or a bitch. In fact, the people I love and respect the most are those with strong boundaries. Why? Because I know what I can expect of them and I always feel clear on where we stand. In the next day or so, I urge you to practice your no. It will be a simple, yet radically effective act of self care. Trust. 

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