Boundaries. We all need them. In personal and professional life, it’s important to know where to draw the line. Sometimes that can be a hard balance to strike, but ultimately, it all comes back to your Why. Once you’ve got a clear vision of your Why and your priorities, you can use that information to fuel your decisions — knowing when to say Yes, and when to say No.
If you’re pouring your energy, time, and effort into building a business that supports your Why, everything outside of it that you say “Yes” to takes these forces away from your ultimate goal.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t say Yes to important things in your life like family, friends, hobbies, fitness, community engagement, and more. These are all pieces of your Why, so they all deserve your attention. But somewhere, if you’re going to be a boss and drive your business forward, you’ll have to start saying No.
For many people, saying no is difficult. You may fear it will damage a relationship, result in a lost customer or prospect, or limit your earning potential. But the more you can pour your energy into things that scream “Yes” – and away from the half-hearted “Okay” you may give a friend in lieu of a firm but friendly “No” – the more you’ll be unleashed to pursue your Why with new focus.
Need some help learning how to say No? Here are a few tips you can put into place in your own life.
Give It A Beat
Many times, you’re asked for time, energy, or money through a digital format. A text message, an email, a Facebook invitation. These avenues all give you a wonderful gift – you don’t have to reply right away. (Really – even if your contact can tell that you’ve read your message – you really don’t have to respond immediately.)
This means you can take a step back and ask yourself a few questions.
How do I feel about this invitation?
Is it something I’m excited for and feels like a fit with my other priorities?
What is the time actually involved?
Do I need more information before I commit?
How will my involvement impact other people in my life?
Give yourself time to consider the implications of your response – don’t just offer a quick “yes” before thinking it through.
Truth be told, this can be a bit harder when someone asks you face to face, or worse, puts you on the spot in a group. But even in this situation, you can ask for time to consider. Let them know you need to consult with a partner, or review your calendar, and will get back to them in a reasonable period of time. (A day? A few days? A week? This can depend on the timeline and urgency of the task.) Just be sure you respond – nothing’s worse than a deferred answer followed by crickets!
We don’t mean to take it back to Elementary School Rules, but this is a simple one. Don’t give a bogus excuse. Don’t make something up. Just say yes, or no. Remember, “No” is a complete sentence.
Take Ownership Of Your Choices … and Your Language
Think about how you communicate your decisions, your yes and no commitments.
When you give an excuse, or say you can’t do something, you may give the impression that you’re not in full control of your time or you’d say Yes if they asked you again next week. (And let’s be fair here — sometimes we aren’t in control. Life happens!)
By taking ownership of your choices and your language, you can show that you’re a Boss. Here’s what we mean:
Instead of “I don’t have time for that,” try “I’m focused on other priorities right now.”
Replace “I can’t help you out with this fundraiser, I’m sorry.” with “I select specific causes and non-profits each year for my donations; perhaps you can send me more information and I’ll consider your program next year.”
Instead of “My kids keep me so busy, I just can’t add another meeting to my week,” explain that “My schedule during the school year is built around my work and family commitments. I’m sorry I can’t add something new to my list right now.”
Find A Compromise
Sometimes you really want to say Yes to something, but you aren’t quite sure how you’ll make it work. This is the perfect opportunity to put your strong communication and negotiation skills to work! (Not sure you have these skills? We bet you do — but if you’re unsure, this is a great chance to polish them up!)
Your favorite non-profit needs volunteers twice a week? Ask if you can come once a week instead. You’re in the middle of repainting, but your friend wants you to host a party for her new business? Ask her if you can help her find a different venue, or contribute some food or drinks in lieu of offering up the space. If the purpose is important enough to fit into your Why, find a way to help that fits into your schedule and honors your other priorities.
Practice Makes Perfect
If saying “No” is difficult for you, find a way to practice it in easier ways. You can even enlist a close friend or a partner to help you practice.
Start with small asks. If your friend asks you out for coffee, but it conflicts with your regular yoga class, tell her “No, but you may join me for yoga if you’d like.” You can still see your friend, without compromising on your priorities. Find small ways to protect your time and energy, and before long, you’ll find it easier to say No to a harder request.
Understand the True Cost
Remember, every time you say No to something that’s not right for you, you’re really saying Yes to yourself.
What techniques do you use to say No to things that aren’t in line with your Why? How have you overcome difficulties in setting boundaries? Share your stories with your fellow TRAKstars!