learning how to say NO, it seems like one of the easiest life lessons to learn.
One word two letters what could be simpler than that?
For some, it is the easiest thing- knowing how to say no to things or to people. But for me, it’s not. I often wondered how is it that my six years old daughter can do it very assertively and confidently and I couldn’t.
The truthful answer is that I don’t know. I have no idea why, but ever since I could remember, I hated feeling like I was letting someone down. Avoiding confrontations at all cost became a habit, causing me to choose walking away and to let things cool off over hashing it out in an uncomfortable conversation.
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During my early twenties, I managed to stay out of uncomfortable situations as much as I possibly could. For me, the introduction of text messages into to the dating scene was a blessing! No more post first date awkward “it’s not you, it’s me” phone calls. When I met my forever guy and married him, He realized pretty early on that I got seriously anxious and physically ill when I had to be argumentative or turn down a request from someone I cared about. In the assignments of roles that often happens in a marriage, he became the one who handles the more confrontational situations that occur at times in adult life, and I was content to let him deal with it.
Then I became a mother, and I had to “woman up” and fight my way through at times.
I hadn’t realized it before, but once you have a baby that can’t express his needs and wants, you need to become an advocate for him/her. At times, that includes fighting for them, fighting to get them what you believe they deserve and need. Sometimes you have to stand up to people who try to steer you away from what your instincts tell you is right for your child. My eldest child needed a lot of medical attention, and at times I had to demand it, fight for his rights. That was when I realized I could actually do that. I had an assertive person hiding inside of me.
Now, I have to reiterate, I was not the kind of person people walked over, I just tried not to put myself in situations where I had to be combative. If I had to choose between being a little uncomfortable, and refusing someone something, often I would choose to be uncomfortable. Things really changed when on top of being a mother of 3, I became a business owner.
I just couldn’t do that anymore, I could either twist myself up like a pretzel in order to not let anyone down, or I could be successful in my business. The two could not co-exist. I had to learn how to say NO clearly, to people and to things.
“When you say yes to others, make sure you are not saying no to yourself.” Paulo Coelho
The key turning point was when I focused on my own needs, my immediate family needs, and my business goals. I had to sit myself down and admit that I can not do it all and be everything to everyone.
I had to admit to myself that I only had a certain amount of energy that had to split and prioritized. So if another mom needs me to take her kids for the afternoon and I have a work deadline, I should just say “No” I’m sorry but today I can’t”. I practiced saying “no” clearly and simply and at first, I had to talk myself out of feeling guilty over it. I also had to be ok with saying no to job offers that weren’t advancing my business in any way. If someone offers me a small project that will grant me an immediate pay but is unrelated to my actual business, it’s ok to say no. Sure, it’s money coming in, but in the long term, it wouldn’t further me o in any way and it will take precious time away from the business I was trying to grow.
I also had to learn to say NO to the naysayers. The ones that put doubts and their own fears in my head.
It’s ok to not always be the nice one that patiently listens to people who needed to tell me why their way was right and mine was wrong. I am allowed to pick and choose and to want to spend my precious – and yes it’s PRECIOUS with people who bring positivity into my life. I read once that we become the average of the 5 people we spend our time with, and I wanted to be a brave positive successful person. So I started saying NO to spending my time with people who were dragging me away from that.
I had to break my own patterns and in the process – the people around me also had to get used to the new less compliant me. I started setting boundaries and say NO when people tried to cross them. It was a little like discovering this whole new me that lay dormant all these years. And you know what? it benefited my business but it also benefited my loved ones, who got a much more relaxed version of me, instead of the one running around stressed and passive aggressive all the time.
I managed to do this when I realized I had to simplify my life, clear out the noise and stick to these 4 principles
- Set goals – Know what I was working toward and where I wanted to be, and remember it when I’m asked for something that deters me from those goals.
- Stay focused – figure out what was pushing me forward in life and in business and refuse whatever was not
- Recognize my limits – time and energy limits, and decide on who and on what I want to spend both then prioritize accordingly.
- Be clear and send a un-conflicting message when I had to say no- without squirming, stuttering or sugarcoating, a simple – No will do.
I will end with a quote from a very meaningful book I love, by
Stephanie Lahart (Overcoming Life’s Obstacles: Enlighten-Encourage-Empower ) words:
“Give yourself permission to say NO without feeling guilty, mean, or selfish. Anybody who gets upset and/or expects you to say YES all of the time clearly doesn’t have your best interest at heart. Always remember: You have a right to say NO without having to explain yourself. Be at peace with your decisions.”