Are there times when you say yes, when you really want to say no?  That’s been a common theme in my coaching this week.  Many of my clients have people-pleasing traits and that means it can be difficult not to automatically take things on when asked, fearful of not being liked, of causing disappointment or – a biggie – of encountering conflict.  

And the impact of this can be:

  • feeling tired, stressed, and resentful when you’re juggling too many balls
  • getting bogged down in others’ tasks whilst they have the time to focus on the projects that get them noticed, even promoted
  • having no time or energy left for your own goals or needs after your “yes” list
  • knowing you’re not being true to yourself, that you’re biting your tongue and doing things you just don’t want to do

Learning how to say no (and hold healthy boundaries)

But we can learn how to say no – it’s a skill we can hone with practice.  But how?  Well that’s a biggie, and one that coaching can really help with.  But here’s a few key tips:

1. Work out when you want to say no

This isn’t easy for “no” beginners, so the first thing is to try and tune into when you want to say no, or when you’re not sure if you want to say yes.  Ask yourself the “costs” of this yes – practically, emotionally, energetically.  How does it feel in your body when you think of not having to do this? And of doing it?  A journal can be a great friend here (and a coach!).

2. Hone those regulation skills

You will find saying no anxiety-inducing at first – it gets easier with practice.  So you need to have a toolkit for easing the stress response and feeling calm and competent in tricky situations.  Check out my Mindful First Aid Kit as a starting point.

3. Develop ways to say no that feel good to you

It can be helpful to work out phrases that feel authentic to you. It’s possible to be kind, respectful and appreciative and still say no (a part of you is likely saying that it means you’re horrid so super important to challenge that).  Some key things to remember:

  • Be clear – don’t leave room for negotiation
  • Hold you space: use your body language as well as your words to delineate your boundaries – good eye contact, good posture, tap into your inner warrior.  A lot of this communication is non-verbal.  If your boundaries are flakey, I guarantee you’ll get leant on more than others. 
  • You don’t need to give a reason why you’re saying no – don’t be sheepish; don’t feel the need to explain (you can if you wish but do it honestly and non-apologetically)
  • If you genuinely feel it, show appreciation for the opportunity
  • Again, not necessary but if you want, offer alternatives – would you like to do this but at another time? Is there someone else who might be a better fit? Is there another way they could approach this?

4. Practice, practice – and observe

It only gets easier the more you do it.  Start with the smaller, safer stuff first and build. Oh and observe – find someone who does this well and watch how they do it.  It’ll help teach your non-conscious brain that this is possible to do in a safe way.

Honestly, I love this stuff.  It means that you can ditch the resentment and reclaim your time and energy for what you really care about, and start tuning into the real you.  Oh and do it all whilst still being true to your values (remember, saying no doesn’t make you a bitch!).  And when you do say yes, it’s because you really mean it – great for you, great for the person you’re saying yes to.  

If you’re tired of the people-pleasing and want a helping hand, my Shift It Coaching is ideal for you. Let’s talk.