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5 Tips for Saying No with Confidence

We did it while I was getting my hair done.

In the winter of 2017, I was so busy that I had to make a double date with my hair stylist and my husband just so that I could see him for long enough to plan our upcoming trip to Japan.

I was so busy that, when cool opportunities came up (like providing massage therapy for actual rockstars), I had to decline because there were literally no empty hours in my weeks. Any of my friends will attest to this.

This may be normal for superwomen like Beyonce and Michelle Obama, but it shouldn’t be normal for you and I.

As it always does, the universe intervened and forced me to pause. We didn’t know it yet, but I was pregnant at that hair appointment. That inevitable event forced me to slow down, and I’m glad it did.

Another event recently forced us to pause and slow down. Now we get to choose what we add back into our lives, into our schedules.

NO sign

I’m a recovering ‘over-doer.’ So I get it. I know it can be hard to say “No” to ‘opportunity,’ say “No,” when you could say “Yes.”

Not leaving space in our lives can lead to burnout and resentment. If there is no space, there is no room for any new, wonderful opportunities that may come along.

Here are my Top Tips for Saying “No” with Confidence:

  1. Get clear on what you do want.

When we begin working together, many of my clients don’t know what they want.

I have been guilty of this, too. It was through working with my coaches (Andrea Ferguson and Bri Morrison to name two) that I learned to adopt this practice. You can figure out what you want by grabbing your journal and using these prompts:

For the short term, ask,

“How do I want to feel today?”

“How do I want to make others feel today?”

“Who do I want to be today?”

For the long-term, ask “What do I want?”

For example, if you want to be fit and strong; How does the fit, strong version of you feel when she sees herself in the mirror? Maybe she feels confident, strong, and worthy. Feel that way now. What actions does the fit, strong version of you take? Maybe she drinks water, eats whole foods, and exercises daily. Take those actions now. What clothes does she wear? Get it?

2. “Choose discomfort over resentment.” – Dr. Brene Brown

Sometimes it’s easier to say yes because it avoids a tougher conversation (“I can’t do this job anymore.” “I don’t have time to volunteer.” “I don’t like to look after your children.” “I have to put myself first in this scenario.” “Teaching that class will put me on a trajectory towards burnout.”).

Practice choosing the discomfort and maybe having the tough conversation, instead of saying “Yes” and resenting the other party (often someone we love) for an undetermined amount of time. When we say “Yes” to something we know (or find out) we should have said “No” to, we end up resenting that person, that situation, or ourselves. When we do this repeatedly, it engrains a subliminal message that we are not as valuable as other people and events.

3. Insert space before you reply. When you are asked to commit to something, it’s OK to say, “I’ll let you know tomorrow,” or “Let me get back to you on Saturday.” This space gives you time to think about what you want before you automatically agree. And then…

4. If it’s not a “Hell yes!” it’s a “No.” This is a great guiding principle and practice to begin listening to your intuition. This applies to big things (buying cars and houses, choosing spouses, starting businesses), medium things (agreeing to watch other people’s children, investing in programs, choosing your child’s daycare), and little things (attending a class, eating a second piece of chocolate cake, taking it to go).

This doesn’t mean you just begin saying “Yes” to things that serve only you. When you begin to listen to your gut, your intuition, you start to know what you do and don’t want to do. Will adding another commitment to your schedule create (real, not perceived) opportunity and valuable networking or will it burn time that could be spent working on the parts of your career that light you up? Will volunteering to pack lunches fill you up or take you away from time you really want to be spending with your family?

Consider the question in front of you. Is it a “Hell yes!” If not, move on, and then…

FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is just that; a fear. The f-word is not a good place from which to make decisions. We want to make commitments and decisions from a place of abundance and joy, not fear.

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