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The Art Of Saying No

I went through this phase, I think I was about 13, when I thought it would be really cool to say YES to everything. I was living on the outskirts of a tiny village where the most exciting thing to happen on the regular was a trip to ‘town’ for groceries. Did you say poppy-seed bagels?   The problem was, I wasn’t hungry for bagels, I was hungry for new experiences, new adventures, new sights and sounds, and the supermarket just wasn’t cutting it.  So, in one of my many, many day dreams I envisioned a future scenario, in which the only answer I could give, to any invitation or request, no matter how absurd or scary, was YES.

Want to go on a photography expedition into uncharted Alaskan territory? YES

What about a summer job teaching English in Korea? YES

Want to come to this crazy party, and do outlandish things with eccentric people? YES, YES & YES.

While I never fully embraced the idea that saying yes to everything in reality, it did make for some A-grade day dream material. That initial idea of saying yes however, opened me up to lots of amazing new experiences, and is partially responsible for where I am today – I mean, saying yes really does have its benefits.

In our crazy, fast paced world though, we can get in to trouble by over using the yes word. We can get overcommitment, over busy and overly ‘abundant’ to the point where we just don’t have time to breath.

Fast forward about 15 years, and I am now learning that value of another word – NO. Saying no isn’t easy for most of us; we are afraid that by saying no we will disappoint someone else, or miss out on some awesome opportunity ourselves.  And while saying no to everything might feel like a humdrum closed-off existence, the ability to say no, with a kind but firm intention is one hell of a skill.

Saying no is an act of discernment. Unlike my prepubescent teenage self, I have now come to realise that more than anything, time is our most precious, yet finite resource. We simply can’t do it all in this life time. We have to very carefully choose how we spend our days, our minutes and our years – before they’re gone. The ability to say no to what we don’t want opens up space for what we do want.

By saying yes to one thing, we close the door to something else. And by saying no to something, we open the door to something else. Ya dig? Life is all about choices.

I’ve noticed something though, I see it with myself, my friends, family, students, with bloggers in online communities – we humans seem to do this funny thing of saying yes, when we actually want to say no.  I am totally guilty of this, but I think there is another way, and I think we can all learn how to say no, and create more spacious lives that are centered around what is important to us, rather than racing from one commitment to another. Learning how to say no effectively is the key to shedding overwhelm and staying happy and healthy. Forbes.com writes, a study from

University of California in San Francisco shows that the more difficulty you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout, and even depression”

I thought I had conquered the no gremlin, but it has come up again stronger than ever for me in the last few months. I was saying yes to every request that came my way, and I soon found myself feeling like I was drowning in a never-ending to do list. I felt like crawling back in bed, under my covers, just for some alone-non-doing time. I started working with a coach to developed my no muscle. Honestly, at first, I was scared. I thought the person I was saying no to would turn into a fire breathing dragon and question my worthiness “Who are YOU to say no???!!!” But seriously, once I said no once or twice, it got a whole lot easier, and even enjoyable. It’s is like a little act of goodness for your third chakra.

Getting comfortable with saying no has made my life feel so much more do-able. I have time for my own practices, and for the things that are important to me. By saying no to anything that doesn’t 110% align with my vision, I create space for the things that do. Nothing magical can manifest in your life if it is already jam-packed full of soul-sucking commitments.

“These days my first answer is always a No,  a no-thank you, but still a no.”               -Danielle La Porte

So if you are feeling overwhelmed from all the shit you have to do and the places you have to be,  you best learn how to say no darling.

Here’s what works for me:

+ When you get asked to do something (teach a class, write an article, go to a birthday party) Just pause.  Don’t answer instantaneously – because sometimes in that instant you blurt something out you have to take back. Instead of giving an answer, just say “Thanks for thinking of me, let me get back to you”

+ In that short moment, that teeny, tiny pause – notice how you feel. Do you actually WANT to do said thing or activity? Your body will always tell you this, usually in about 0.5 seconds after the request was made. The trick is to pay attention to it.

+Respond to said request in accordance with what YOU actually want. If the answer is no, from your gut, but you have trouble coming up with the words, use mine. The key is to be firm, but kind. Don’t use phrases like ” I don’t think I can make it” – just say, you can’t.

“Thank you so much for your offer to partake in __________________. I am flattered you thought of me. However, at the moment, I am unable to take on any more commitments.”

“I’m so glad you got in touch, but I won’t be able to help this time.”

“I wont be able to make it to your ________________. I hope you have a fabulous time. xx”

If you can offer them help, or suggest another person that might be interested in working with them, go for it. However, only do this if it feels right. A plain no, is enough.

+ Practice, Practice, Practice – as I mentioned the first time I did this, I was nervous. I ummed, and ahhhed about it for days. I wrote and rewrote my ‘no’ email before I sent it. However, after that – I felt a sense of lightness, of freedom. The next time I did it, it was through a text message – a little easier this time. I was starting to build my no muscle. The third time, it was in person. It felt a bit weird, as I am usually a yes girl, but I said it ‘Nope, sorry I can’t teach your class’.

So you see, each time you say no, it gets a little easier, you just have to go through this little patch of nerves the first few times, and then saying no  to something you don’t want actually feels really, really good.

Side note: Saying no when you have a conflicting commitment vs. saying no when you just don’t want to.

For most of us, if we truly can’t make an event or take on a project at work, because of conflicting external circumstances, it’s fairly easy to say no. Saying yes would lead us to double booking ourselves all the time. It can be more challenging to say no, when we actually COULD make the event, do the project etc, but we just don’t WANT to. I’m gonna challenge you here – you’ve gotta say no to the requests too.

“Your No’s make your Yes’s stronger. “

– Mimi, Lululemon

Be prepared for people to question you, especially if they are used to you saying yes to everything. I got a few responses to my first few no attempts, questioning my reason for saying no. Stick to your guns. It is so much better to say no and mean it, than to say yes and resent your decision. If saying no creates waves for you, look at it as a little test for the universe – are you ready to stand up for yourself?

So, are you a master at saying No? Do you have any tips you want to share? Or are you a perpetual yes girl, to the detriment of your own freedom and space? Tell us in the comments below!

 

 

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2 comments


Samantha

Thanks for this article. Saying no is a weakness of mine but one that I am actively working on fixing, so this couldn’t have come at a better time. Loved the part about pausing and then following your gut and also about cutting the excuses – ‘no’ is enough. Well said.

June 23, 2014 (21:41) - Reply
Cora Geroux

Hi Samantha! you are not alone, so many of us struggle with saying no – but you sound like you are on the right track, awareness is the first step! so glad you found this article at the right time! It’s so true isn’t it, when you listen to your gut, your body will always tell the truth! Best of luck in your adventure with saying no – it feels AMAZING once you get the hang of it 🙂 xoxo

June 24, 2014 (09:10) - Reply

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