I think we’re all familiar with struggling to say no to things that are fun or decadent, but aren’t good for us. But what about the things that don’t sound tempting at all, and still, we can’t say no?
In this fourth installment of my series about learning how to say no, (click here to read earlier posts), I’m sharing some insights from a client.
A Vicious Cycle
Susan (not her real name) was paralyzed by competing demands for her time. She was overwhelmed with doubt and indecision, which led to procrastination. Instead of working on important tasks, she escaped to meaningless busy work, falling more and more behind.
Susan’s To Do list was not reasonable for one person, and yet she often accepted even more work. She explained that she believed she should have time to do everything, if only she could manage her time better. She was guilt-ridden, and felt she didn’t have the right to say no. Her expectations of herself grew, as she took on more. It was a vicious cycle.
A Critical Factor
With coaching, Susan gained insights about the overwhelm at the heart of her procrastination, and she discovered that self-care is critical. The more Susan took good care of herself, the less she felt overwhelmed. She was able to make decisions more easily, and her confidence grew. She stopped expecting so much of herself, and actually started accomplishing more!
Reframing the Option to Say No
This understanding helped Susan reframe her options. Instead of feeling that she hadn’t earned the right to say no, she focused on the ways she was actually saying yes. She wrote me recently, and shared the following:
In my experience, I often struggle to say no to other people’s requests for my time, expertise, etc. One thing that helps me is to think of it as saying “yes” to myself. Like “no” to my friend even though I like them and want to go out for coffee/dinner/whatever, right now I’m overextended and exhausted and I am worthy of having downtime to rest. “yes” to myself and to rest and relaxation. If they’re really my friend, they’ll understand. Or “no” to my boss’s latest request and “yes” to my sanity at work. Often, “no” can be shifted to “not right now” or a re-negotiation of the deadline, or a re-negotiation of priorities. Which helps me kind of put the choice back to them (ok, do you want me to work on your expense report, or the newsletter to our teams?, etc).
Susan also shared an important point that we don’t consider often enough:
… other people’s needs are their own responsibility, and just because I *can* help someone fulfill a need (for companionship, or work) usually I am not the only possible person who can fulfill that need for them. I can trust them to be creative and resourceful, and not assume that they will be lost without me.
I really like Susan’s positive approach. She reframed saying no into creating opportunities for both herself and others. Since she started saying no to unrealistic requests for her time, and yes to nurturing her best self, she has gotten a promotion at work and achieved important personal goals. I appreciate that she allowed me to share what she learned, and I hope her words of wisdom can help us all remember that it’s okay to say no!
Image courtesy of jk1991 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net