Why Can’t I Just Say No?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

I’ve written a few past blog posts in the past about the importance of creating space in your life to make room for new things, or changes to occur (Create Space In Your Life) and the importance of saying no to the things you don’t want in your life so you have space to say yes to the things you do want (Say No To What You Do Not Want).

So, why oh why can’t I heed my own advice?

Lately, I’ve honed in on ensuring the way I spend my time and resources is fully aligned with the life I want to live – both professionally and personally. Yet, there are certain requests that arise from clients that I know, deep down, do not align with the work I want to be doing or the way I want to be living my life and spending my time and I still struggle with saying no. I know the right answer (for them and me) is no but I wrestle with actually saying no.

I’ll spare all the details but last week I got a request from a client that should have been an instantaneous “I’m so sorry but I can’t do that – can I refer you to someone else?” Based on the request, the time it required, the fullness of my schedule next month, and the fact that the work is something that I’m trying to guide my business away from, I knew it was a no. But I stared at the email and thought, “Oh, well, wait. Can I do it? Maybe if I shifted some things. Maybe if I cut this trip short…” And then I got overwhelmed so closed the email and thought “I’ll deal with it later” but I couldn’t get it off my mind. I called my sister and started to share my dilemma. She cut me off mid-story and said, “Are we really having this conversation again? Why do we keep having the same conversation? Why are you even thinking about this? You know the answer is no.” I knew she was right and wondered if she could call my client and tell them that for me…?

No. It’s such a short word. A complete sentence in one little two-letter word. But it’s so final. I don’t like cutting people off with “no” – especially my clients. I don’t like saying no and it’s because I fear that if I say no, they’ll forget about me. Yep, that’s the reason. I think I carried this with me from my corporate days. When a request was made to take a new assignment and/or relocate (regardless of whether you wanted to do it or not) the general rule of thumb was you can say no once but if you said no twice, it was career derailing. I translated that into my business life as “never say no”. It’s exhausting. And what makes it even more exhausting is that when it’s work I’m trying to steer my business away from so we can focus on other types service offerings, saying no is not only the right answer but the only answer. I’m not serving them or me by taking on work that not only doesn’t fit with my schedule but also no longer aligns with the purpose of my business.

If I continue to say yes to everything that is presented and those things do not align, in some way, to where I and my company are headed, then we will not have the time or space to say yes when the right opportunities are presented to us. And, we will not have the time or space to focus on the perfect opportunities that are already in front of us. We will be so busy and preoccupied doing things we shouldn’t be that we miss the chance to do the things we are meant to be doing.

So how do I get more comfortable saying ‘no’? Practice. Like with anything, the more you do it, the better you get at it. And for me it will never just be a flat out “no”. It will be a no followed by resources and information to help bridge the gap for the client between my no and the services they truly need.

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