I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve realized that sometimes I just can’t trust myself to give the best answer when someone makes a request of me. I can’t trust myself because I’m a yes person.
If you ask me any question on any day about anything, my immediate reaction without thinking is, “YES!”
Yes, I’d love to go to that event!
Yes, I am happy to make six pots of chili for that group.
Yes! I can help you paint and move and organize your pantry and raise your children!
Yes! Yes! Yes!
I end up saying yes to things when there’s really no logical reason for me to say it. I’m the person who always has the time for people when they need me . . . even when the real answer should be, “Not this time.”
Maybe it’s because I don’t think things through or really consider what it will demand of me. Maybe it’s because I really do want to help—or maybe it’s because I want everyone to like me. Whatever the reason, I find myself committing to things that I end up resenting and regretting later.
The Most Successful People Say No
Aiming to please is basic human nature for most of us, but that trait tends to be especially strong in women.(1) Here’s the problem, though: You can’t be a truly effective business owner, leader, friend or mom without disappointing others. Like the old saying goes, you can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.
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Sometimes, you just need to know how to say no.
It’s a tough concept to accept. It’s especially hard where I live in the South, where we’re taught from nearly day one to be over-the-top polite and go out of our way to help others.
The problem with this kind of thinking is, when we get so caught up in trying to please everyone, we end up being doormats:
- We go places we don’t want to go and do things we don’t want to do.
- We are reactive instead of proactive.
- Our commitments manage us instead of us managing them.
- We help out with everyone else’s kids and miss moments with our own.
- We get caught up in tactical things and have no time left for strategy.
In our communities, businesses and relationships, we’re so busy trying to accommodate everyone that we spend all of our time trying to catch a tidal wave in a teacup, and in the process, we lose sight of the vision and passion and purpose for our own lives!
You’ve been there, haven’t you? You’ve had every waking minute scheduled for someone else. You’ve committed to things you weren’t called to and said yes when you wanted to say no.
Or maybe you’ve experienced it in your business. You gave away your secret sauce because you didn’t know how to protect it. You accepted only half of your actual price when someone offered you less because you didn’t know how to stand your ground.
I actually recorded a whole podcast on this topic, because it’s a constant struggle for me:
Whatever the situation looks like, I want to share two techniques with you that have helped me think things through, reduce my stress and guilt, and stand my ground.
Two Guilt-Free Ways to Say No and Feel Good About It
#1: List out your values.
When I get frustrated because I’m not spending time on the things that I care about the most, I take a look at my schedule—and it’s pretty eye-opening to see what gets my time. So I came up with an exercise for myself that I often walk my coaching clients through:
A) Take a piece of paper and draw a pyramid with horizontal lines across it.
B) Write down your values in order of priority from top to bottom. There is no “right” order for them—it doesn’t matter what your mother-in-law, the PTA, HOA or anyone else thinks. Your values are unique to you.
C) Compare your hierarchy of values with your current calendar.
Are you devoting most of your time and energy to those things that are most important to you? If not, you probably feel stressed.
What about when two commitments compete and you feel strained because you don’t know what to do? When you have a clear hierarchy, the stress of that decision is gone!
Having your list of values written out will remind you that everything in your life is not equal. Put your pyramid of values someplace where you’ll see it often, and make your scheduling decisions based on that.
#2: Script your “no”.
It may sound silly, but script out what you will say ahead of time. When you do this, it takes away some of the mental angst you experience when you get requests that you don’t know how to react to.
For example, when I get asked to go to coffee to “pick my brain,” I have a scripted answer. Of course, I can always change my mind and accept that particular invitation. But if not, I don’t have to struggle with how to politely decline every single time, because I already have my answer to those types of requests.
"Every time you say yes to something, you are saying no to something else."
What scripts do you need to write? Script out how you’ll say no to someone asking you to help or volunteer. Or maybe write out your response to someone asking for your product for free or at cost. Think about how you’d respond to a competitor asking for your patterns or secret sauce.
To help you with this, I’ve written out 25 responses—or scripts—you can use in a variety of situations. These responses are ways you can say no without causing any hurt feelings. I’ve broken them up by the type of request:
- Social invitations
- Volunteer work
- Work requests
- Family favors
- Everything else
Remember, every time you say yes to something, you are saying no to something else. The goal for all of us should be to make sure we’re turning down the right people in the right way.
After all, an honest no is always better than a dishonest yes!