HOW TO START SAYING NO
So recently Jamey and I did something fun with Rosie that we had not done as a family, all three of us, in a while. It was simple, refreshing, and such a special afternoon, just the three of us. Want to guess what we did? Drumroll please....... We WENT TO THE ZOO! I know! Crazy, right?! Ok so maybe its not all that crazy that we spent the afternoon at the zoo, but I recognized something while we were there. That afternoon was not just a simple YES, but more importantly it was comprised of a lot of NO's in order to achieve the right YES.
Now some people may go to the zoo 4 days a week with their family because they have a schedule that allows them to do so. Mine does not, so this was a meaningful afternoon. Maybe those people are itching to start a small business or serve with an organization, but feel as though they don't have the margin. I would propose that you in fact do have the margin, it is just a matter of figuring out what is essential and where certain trade-offs must occur.
Jamey and I have been in a season of fighting to say no. Fighting sounds dramatic but its actually tough to do. Here's what I have realized about saying no. It is not always because of FOMO (fear of missing out), rather I've found that it is partially due to the fact that not everyone has the same values and not everyone values your time.
1. No one will value your time as much as you do - Subconsciously we are all designed to make sure our personal needs met. We are wired to think about what we would like, what we would need, and what we want, out of career, life or relationships. Myself included. That can often mean we selfishly ask things of other people in order to have that need met. It is well intentioned for the most part, and generally not meant to be selfish in nature. However, when someone asks something of you, they are not usually thinking that their simple coffee to "pick your brain" or short phone call, or one week night is all that much to ask. The point being that no one will value your time as much as you do. No one will protect your time, your family, your marriage, your ministry the way you do. Its not their job, its yours. You are the holder of the keys of your own time. I felt myself waiting for other people to see my time as valuable versus communicating that clearly with some well-thought-out, but gracious no's. Generally people do not mean harm with their requests, but it takes intentionality on our part to decipher each request carefully. If you are like me, your inner people pleaser is starting to feel anxious just reading these words.
"Say no???? But how?! What will people think of me if I tell them 'no' and don't have a good reason?!"
2. Saying no means you might risk being misunderstood - Well here's where things get tricky. I have heard people teach on this topic and they share the benefits of saying no and how it actually can teach other people to do the same, and you can be an example of setting a healthy boundary. They will learn from you, implement the same tactics and respect you all the more for turning them down! They will thank you for saying no. This is good and sometimes true. But I will be brutally honest. I have found a lot of people feel the opposite. They get their feelings hurt, they think you are aloof, don't care, are lazy, less committed, entitled, "too busy" and I could go on and on. I have found that saying no also means risking being misunderstood. This goes to my second point. Not everyone has the same values. If people desire 'unquestioned and unconditional accessibility,' then maybe their expectation of you is that loyalty equals being available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Some people value work and it might translate into workaholism (which I will admit I am recovering from), so they want you to drop everything for a work-related project or meeting. They need you to have a "good reason" to say no. So not everyone will applaud your newfound boundaries, you will risk being misunderstood. However, I say the bigger risk is not protecting self-care, down time, or your most important relationships.
So I am here to tell you that saying no will cost you something. Some will understand and others will not. However, if you just simply say yes to every request, every email, every Facebook message, every text, every invitation that comes your way, the cost will be so much more. Maybe the cost will be quality time with your kids, maybe the cost will be your marriage. It is so easy to put urgent requests over important values if we are not careful about what we say yes and no to.
Here are some goals I have set in place. I say goals because I don't do them all, and I certainly don't do them perfectly, but I at least now have a benchmark of something I am working towards doing vs. just hoping more hours will appear in a day or that I'll have the gumption to say no when the time comes. Every YES means a NO somewhere else. If I say yes to you, then I am saying no to someone or something else. Maybe that someone is me.
Delayed responses. - I have been asked to do things where I did not immediately say yes. I try to put some time between an ask and my response. That way it can be properly evaluated. Even if it just as simple as a coffee date. I have had speaking opportunities I was excited about, but did not give a very immediate yes. Because now I am choosing to look over my calendar, talk to my husband and even pray about if it is the right yes. Sometimes the delay means the opportunity is gone once you decide, which means it becomes a no and guess what....life goes on.
Texts - Simply because my phone notifies me of a text message, does not mean I am obligated to respond. I have the option to set aside a more proper time to respond if I so choose. This is usually because whatever I am doing is getting my full YES in that moment. If I am in a meeting or playing with my daughter I do not feel the need to read and answer any text that comes in. I am not that important and the world will go on without me. Also, if anyone sends me a work-related text I will ask them to email it to me so that I can answer it properly, within working hours, generally while I am sitting in my office in front of my lap top. That way it can be archived and addressed versus it falling to the bottom and being forgotten, or worse it interrupting time with my little one.
My phone - I am trying to have a healthier relationship with my phone. I have removed certain social media apps from my phone so that I can only check them from a computer at assigned times. This one is difficult because my job and brand require an online presence but with every app is also another message, another request, another form of communication that I can't always keep up with. Also I do not give out my number and I ask others to not give out my number. (If you have my number and are reading this please don't give it out without my permission) I want to reserve my phone for family and friends as much as possible. I also do the same courtesy for others. **When someone asks me for another person's phone number, I give a delayed response. I say, "I don't feel comfortable giving their number out without their permission so let me ask them and I will get back to you."
Let someone else decide - When asked to do something my emotions or people-pleasing can get the best of me, so I like to ask my closest people to help me decide if this is a good yes or something I should turn down. They can help me realisticlly break down if I have the capacity to say yes or even remind me of how it does/does not line up with my goals for work and family.
Pre-determine your gracious no's - Don't figure out what to say in the moment. Decide ahead of time what requests you know you will probably need to say no to, write out a loving, gracious and honest response of why you're having to say no. This is a great blog/podcast on how to curate a good "no."
There is a great book out called Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg Mckeown where he goes into detail about this idea. In fact, lots of my virtual mentors have podcasts, written articles, and blogs surrounding this idea that has inspired me to take more steps to do fewer things with more purpose. Mckeown says,
"Essentialism is about finding the right food. More and more is valueless. Staying true to my purpose and being selective in what I take on results in a more meaningful, richer, and sweeter quality of life.”
The result of a couple of simple no's meant I got to take Rosie to the zoo and let her show off her animal sound skills as she chirped at the birds and roared at the lions on a Sunday afternoon. As a working mom who runs a non-profit and co-owns more than one business, it definitely took a few no's for the very best possible YES!
My hope is that you can start pursuing less to have greater purpose! I am just now learning and still have a ways to go, but join me on my journey and if you are like me don't let your inner people pleaser run your life!