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If You Struggle With Saying ‘No’, Read This

When I was training and just starting my relationship coaching practice, I was very overwhelmed. Would I actually be able to help people with their dating woes? Could I really help elicit transformation in this vulnerable part of their lives?

I was nervous working with my first few clients. Every week I’d prepare extensively for our calls, decide which exercises to walk them through and what homework to assign. I would anxiously anticipate the updates they would have for me. Did something I advise or recommend go terribly wrong?

The answer, as it turned out, was yes, I could help them; yes, I was more than equipped to be coaching. Yes, the majority of my clients ended up in loving relationships, sometimes within just four or six months of working together.

I’m going on three years in my coaching business now. I’ve worked with hundreds of women in all different capacities, through widely-attended events, 1:1 containers, and now group programming – a true beneath-the-veil of what most women struggle with.

Saying no.

The majority of the growth these women’s experiences occurs when they start saying no to all the things they used to allow in. They start taking their power back in the form of boundaries and doing things they enjoy and spending their time how they want. They are doing these things instead of living out other people’s expectations of them, doing what they “think” they should be doing, and putting others on a pedestal to make their decisions and give them the approval they may be seeking.

I’m giving away all my secrets in this article! Here’s how to properly and powerfully say no so you can get your power back, too.

Start With Gratitude

When someone first approaches you with an offer, a request, or an invitation of any kind and you start to get that gut feeling of dread, trust it.

With a lot of love and compassion, tap into your heart space and say, “Thank you for the offer.” For example, maybe someone invites you to an event, asks you to be their “plus one” at a wedding, invites you to come along for a shopping trip, asks for help moving, invites you to a casual dinner or coffee, offers to bring you on a vacation, asks you to help edit or read through their slide deck presentation, asks to “pick your brain,” invites you to check out this new networking group with them, or offers for you to join them on their Instagram live. You get the idea.

The truth is that most people are pretty well-intentioned and benevolent, with the exception of sociopaths and toxic folk. But most people, I’d argue, are usually trying to be inclusive, create new connections, or just get ahead and enjoy life like you and me.

So, feel into your heart space and give them a genuine, proper “Thank you.”

“Donna, thank you so much for thinking of me. I so appreciate this invite; it sounds like it’s going to be an awesome event.”

“Rachael, thank you for these kind words. It made my day to see your email and know that I’m someone who comes to mind for this.”

“Steve, thanks for reaching out to include me in your plans.”

Give A Clear “No”

This is the most important step. This is where you say NO – clearly, crisply, with no residue, and fully stick the landing.

“I’m not going to be able to make it.”

“I have another commitment and won’t be able to come.”

“I’m not able to add more to my calendar this month.”

“I’m going to pass.”

Here are some things you want to watch out for:

  • Feeling guilty and wanting to jump in and soften your response to shield the other person from your perceived rejection and saying anything like “…but maybe next time,” “I’m a no this time,” “I wish I could,” “I might be able to…” “Let me get back to you,” if you don’t mean it. Doing this is just delaying the “no” you know you need to express.
  • Energetically leaving the door ajar. Stick the landing on your no and energetically close the door completely. We can feel when someone is wishy-washy with their words. Straighten your spine, trust that the other person will be just fine, and commit to your answer fully in your body and in the way you transmit your words.
  • Justifying or over-explaining yourself. No one is entitled to or needs an explanation of why you can’t, why you’re a no, or any personal details of your life. Notice if your go-to move is to fill an uncomfortable silence with talking and trying to get the other person to see that you’re not a bad person for saying no.

Acknowledge Them

After you’ve given your clear no, similar to how you opened the conversation, give another quick acknowledgement to sandwich the no.

“Again, I really appreciate you thinking of me; this was so thoughtful of you.”

“It sounds like it’s going to be an amazing event – I am wishing you guys all the success!”

“Sending you luck to find your perfect speaker.”

Change The Topic And Move On

Don’t leave open space for a rebuttal. Don’t add extra meaning or invite in counteroffers or negotiations. Simply say your no, give another thank you, and change the subject.

“What do you have planned for the weekend?”

“How did last quarter turn out for you guys?”

“How’s Jim doing?”

“Have you tried that new restaurant on Broadway?”

“Any trips coming up this summer?”

Redirect the conversation, engage more if you must, and then move on with your life. Hop on your next call, leave for your workout class, go make lunch, call your Mom, take the dog out.

Just move on. The other person will be fine.

Not only will they be fine, but they may learn to be resourceful and solve their problems in new ways they weren’t expecting. Maybe they’ll find an even better-suited speaker or get the opportunity to invite someone who will get more value from the event than you would. They could even end up gaining more confidence by going at it alone. Your no isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but saying yes when you’re not aligned and don’t want to be there or aren’t able to help doesn’t serve anyone.

Saying no can be uncomfortable. There’s a lot that can come up – especially if you’re a people pleaser or if speaking your truth was never celebrated or allowed.

It certainly wasn’t something I was good at for a long time. Do I still say yes when I mean no? Absolutely, and every time, I am reminded, “Oh, I was a no on this but said yes anyway and now I get to remember what that feels like for next time.”

If saying no is something you historically struggle with, set yourself up for success by prepping ahead of time. Role play with a coach beforehand. Dry run through the conversation. Envision what some potential objections might be and root back in and remember the commitment you’re making to yourself. Be willing and prepared to walk away and take space if needed. Have an exit plan, maybe somewhere you have to be right after so you can easily leave the conversation. Practice saying no in all sorts of contexts so it becomes normalized for you.

The truth is, you can’t fully receive all that you desire and wish for if you’re saying yes to all the things you’re really a no to. There quite literally won’t be space for the good to come in. Choose yourself. Choose your life. Choose and take ownership of both your yes and your no, because no one else is going to do it for you.

Go-to Relationship Coach for High Achieving Women in their 30’s

Keep up with Molly on Instagram, Twitter and mollygodfrey.com