Freedom From Yes

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For some of us, saying yes to commitments, to people, to projects, both at work and in our personal lives is serving like a straightjacket and keeping us from our personal freedom. Throwing off the shroud of yes is extremely difficult and takes practice, patience, and forgiveness, but is worth the treasures that success brings.

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More than once, I have been in a situation in which someone asked me to do something and I immediatly knew that I didn’t want to do it. That I would be miserable if I agreed and I would spend hours, months, or years regretting my decision. But in the moment, I felt like the puffer fish named Bloat in Finding Nemo that puffs up when he’s afraid, you know, this one…

I hesitate, my breath catches in my throat, my eyes morph into saucers, and despite my brain screaming “NO” I push down all these responses and muffle a “Yes” with a strained smile.

Sometimes I do it to please that person in the moment, and sometimes because I don’t know how to say “No” or can’t muster up the courage to do so.

I thought I would share with you some things I’m working on to flex my no muscle.

Stop and Think

When someone asks you to work on a project, before you give them the normal, knee jerk, “Yes” response, take time to think about whether you want to commit your time to this endeavor. It’s never a good idea to make a permanant decision in a temporary situation. In other words, don’t say yes to a commitment that will effect the time you would rather spend on other endeavors for a moment of people pleasing bliss. Ask yourself if this project will help you achieve your short term or long term goals. Does it fit with the desired feelings you want from your life this year? If not, it’s ok to not immediately decline, but rather to say, “Let me get back to you on that” or “Let me check my schedule.” When you answer after you have had time to think, you can better determine if this project is a good fit for you as well as craft an elegant response that suits your needs and those of the requestor.

How Do You Feel

After you have thought about whether you want to participate in the project or not, determine how you feel. If you are having a hard time deciding, ask yourself if this is an opportunity that makes you feel expansive and excited. When you imagine yourself working with the people involved and delivering the product or service, does it bring you joy or fulfillment? Do you feel like your heart is free and soaring when you are doing it? If so, say yes! If you decide it’s a no for you, you can politely decline by thanking them for the opportunity, perhaps saying you would like to help but your plate is just too full at the moment, give a couple names of other people who might be able to take your place, apologize once if you feel it’s necessary, and walk away. It’s okay to disappoint other people. This is a hard one for me, but it is true, and people will criticize you regardless of the decisions you make.

When You Have To Do It Anyway

Sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do. That product launch for work, the bake sale or fundraiser for your organization or school, it’s part of life. Try not to get emotional about it, that will just make the situation ten times worse. Instead, find three things you love about the task every time you have to work on the project. If you are having a hard time with that, just focus on counting your breaths, in and out counts as one breath. If you loose track of your count, just go back to the beginning and start at one again. For example, when you are mixing cupcakes batter for the bake-sale, focus on how strong your arms feel while you mix, or the stretch of your muscles when you are putting the pans into the oven. This won’t make the situation fun and exciting, but it will help the time pass and keep you from stressing out (stressing increases a hormone called cortisol which causes abdominal fat. No one wants to be doing something they hate, stressed, and increasing their abdominal fat. If you’re putting the 6 pack in the cooler it should be from eating cupcakes, not from a crappy job).

Can’t think of how to say no? Here Are Some Scripts I’m Using

Marie Forleo recently did an interview with Dr. Ned Hallowell and he suggested that if the project doesn’t fit with the goals you currently have, you can tell the requestor, “I don’t have time to do your excellent project justice.” That’s really an amazing response, which acknowledges the importance of that person’s project as well as gives you a gracious way to bow out. He goes on to explain that having short, medium, and long term goals forces you to prioritize your time and helps your decision making process. It’s a really good interview if you have a chance to watch it.

Alexandra Franzen also has a nice step-by-step script on how to say no to someone in a gracious way.

For less serious times when someone is just being bossy, noncommittal responses like, “That’s a great idea!” or  “You are so smart. How did you think of that?” tend to distract people and refocus them on something else (mainly how great/smart/brilliant they are).

Saying No - startwithfourwalls.com

How to Deal With The Guilt of Saying No

Many people just say that you have to get used to saying no and then it will get easier. But for me, that isn’t enough. I don’t like feeling horrible about letting people down, and it tends to ruin my day. You can imagine that this stretches into other areas of my life, like asking people to do things for me, or trying to tell someone that they need to do their work in a more complete way. It has just been emotionally easier to do the project myself. But when doing research for this post I ran across this article about letting go of guilt and shame. I am not a Buddhist, but one of the paragraphs in the article seemed to help me release the guilt of disappointing others, “you can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is to be found nowhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.” You have to treat yourself well; even if that means saying no to opportunities that won’t be fulfilling for you.

I’m curious about how you say no to favors or projects? What strategies work for you?

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