Colorado therapist and relationship expert, Kara Castells, M.S., MFTC is on the Love, Happiness and Success blog discussing Effective Communication. Learn how to have meaningful conversations, connect on a deeper level, and develop your listening skills through active and mindful listening. Read more here!
How to Say No to Others, and Yes to Yourself
How to Say No to Others… and Yes to Yourself
HOW TO SAY NO – Healthy boundaries are hard to maintain. Too often, particularly for hard working, high achieving types who have an enormous capacity to do many things (and well!) the default answer to personal and professional requests is, “sure.”
But just because you can do so much, doesn't mean that you should. We're used to putting others ahead of ourselves, whether it's going for a night out with friends when you're tired or when you're taking on that big project that you might not be able to handle. But at what cost?
To paraphrase writer Michael Hyatt, “Every ‘yes' to one thing, is a ‘no' to something else,” like, yourself. Think about it: Every commitment you make to someone else whittles away the time, energy, and mental / emotional capacity you have available. If you overload yourself for too long, you can become depleted.
But it's hard to say no without feeling guilty. Particularly if you're a people-person, it feels good to say yes. It's only over time, as you get stretched thinner and thinner, that you feel the consequences. Lack of self-care, lack of down time, spending too much energy on things that are not important to you, and too much time on other people's priorities. At worst, this can lead to burn-out, relationships with selfish people, or even depression.
How to Say No
In this episode of the podcast, I'm speaking with author and coach Becky Morrison about how to reprioritize your time and energy so that it's in alignment with your authentic goals. Becky shared her own story about how, in the thick of a grueling career as a high-powered attorney (and working mom!) she had an “epiphany moment” that resulted in her starting to set healthy boundaries based on her happiness.
She dropped a few strategies that can help you fearlessly look long and hard look at whether your decisions are aligned with your long-term priorities and values, so that you can have the time and space for the things that are genuinely important to you. When you get clear on what matters most and make decisions from that place, it becomes easier to say no to others and yes to yourself.
Tune in to the full episode to learn how to discern when saying no can lead to more love, happiness, and success.
In This Episode You Will…
- Take inventory of your life by clarifying your values and priorities.
- Find out how to tune out worldly noise and get reacquainted with your inner voice.
- Learn how to slow down and overcome perfectionism.
- Recognize your inherent worth as a person deserving of happiness and success.
- Get to know the different ways to say no gracefully.
- Understand how to handle resistance from others who do not respect your boundaries.
- Learn how to manage the outdated guilt that comes with change.
SO much good stuff for you on today's episode. Tune in to “How to Say No To Others, and Yes To Yourself” on Spotify, on Apple Podcasts, or scroll right down to the bottom of this post to listen via the podcast player on this page. (Or wherever else you like to listen).
Thanks for tuning in!
How to Say No To Others, and Yes To Yourself: Episode Highlights
How Becky Broke the Wheel
A high-performing lawyer and working mom, Becky built her life on the outside looking in. For 17 years, she said yes to all people but herself. She was only able to break the pattern after going through two pivotal experiences:
- Becky found herself writing notes on a toilet seat in preparation for an upcoming deposition while looking after her two-year-old in the bath. Only then did it hit her that her life was not sustainable. Something has to give.
- She also went through a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy. When her life flashed before her eyes, she could only recall conference calls and meeting rooms.
After recovering, Becky began to take a hard look at the life she built. She realized that change doesn't have to be dramatic but can start with small adjustments that could balance family and career. In the end, she stayed in big law and moved to litigation.
“I knew I needed to change. But I looked just outside the bounds of my current world, right? I didn't take down the walls and do a wide-ranging exploration of possibility. I just took the next thing that was a little bit outside…But the thing that I've learned over the course of all of these changes is that the gift we give ourselves [is] when we can look beyond the edges of what seems natural and next.“
How to Rediscover Your Inner Voice
If you find it hard to say no to others, Becky outlines two steps to help you tune out external and internal pressures:
- Take inventory of your current life and group your experiences into what's working and what's not. If you feel uncomfortable saying no in your job, what value are you getting from it? What aren't you enjoying?
- Once you identify what works, ask yourself how you can get more of that into your life. Becky emphasizes that you don't have to go all out. Start by exploring possibilities. What did you love to do when you were young, and what gives you joy now?
Take the time to sit down and get reacquainted with yourself, “allowing your authentic self, a voice, a seat at the table, even if it in the past, [it] has been told to sit down and be quiet.”
More on “Being Honest With Yourself,” right here.
Setting Healthy Boundaries
High-achievers usually find it harder to define their boundaries. Too often, they think that doing more is the way to go. Even high-powered executives are not exempt from this feeling.
For Becky, setting healthy boundaries means seeing through the enduring falsehood that we are only worthy when we hit a goal or reach a peak. “How do we let go of this idea that there is some measure that if we hit it, we finally are worthy, we finally deserve to be loved, deserve to be accepted, deserve to be valued, and instead operate from a place of inherent worthiness?”
Pro-tip: If you struggle with low-self esteem, here's a jump start. Instead of asking whether you're worthy of love, start reaffirming that you are already good enough. Will it feel true at first? No. But, we are always a product of our own ideas. When you can shift your inner dialogue back towards self-empowerment, your feelings will follow.
The Path to Radical Self-Acceptance
- Start by owning up to the fact that part of the reason you're working so hard is that you bought into the belief that you're not inherently worthy. Determining the cause can set more precise boundaries between your sense of self and how others perceive you.
- Learn to say no to opportunities branded as once-in-a-lifetime if it fails to serve your greater purpose.
Becky emphasizes that introspection is required to reach this level of clarity, which can be hard to achieve in our fast-paced society. When people are used to processing information at the speed of light, it's counterintuitive to slow down. Professional coaching and therapy may help individuals understand the tradeoff of their decisions.
Instead of planning your day based on what you have to do, ask yourself what you should be doing instead. Figure out what's truly important and meaningful over the long run, and the rest can fit around that or maybe not happen at all.
Becky explains that there's a way to communicate your boundaries and preserve the opportunity. The answer isn't always black and white. You have to get people to understand where you're coming from and into “a more collaborative space of saying no as opposed to this idea that we have to be on this island of ‘No.’”
When you learn to say no, you might encounter pushback from people who are used to stepping over your boundaries.
Becky explains that this is a normal reaction and a necessary part of growth. “When you break a pattern, when you challenge a family system, it is going to be uncomfortable and potentially unpleasant. Just because you're uncomfortable doesn't mean you're doing it wrong. It probably just means you're growing.”
When you are met with resistance, hold your ground, and don't give up your space. “You have to get to a place as you grow and as you build that muscle, where you begin to believe so much in your inner authority that that noise from the system doesn't even register. Because I know this is the right healthy choice for me.”
Types of Guilt
In addition to resistance from other people, you might feel guilty for setting this new pattern. Becky identifies two types of guilt that may arise from saying no and defining your boundaries.
- Appropriate or healthy guilt is the guilt you feel in response to having done something that runs contrary to your values. For example, appropriate guilt may develop after you stole or cheated. This form of guilt is constructive since it tells us that we could have done better.
- Outdated guilt is based on a story that is no longer relevant to your present truth. Learn to let go of this disempowering guilt. For instance, Becky initially felt guilty that she wasn't spending as much time with her kids due to work. Later on, she recognized that she doesn't have to be like other moms. As long as she was happy being a career mother and living out her values, she can let the rest go.
She concludes, “Every feeling that comes to us has some wisdom. So what is that guilt trying to tell you? What is the wisdom you can take from it? And what adjustments can you make in your behavior in your life based on that wisdom?“
- The Happiness Recipe – Sign up for the waitlist of Becky's upcoming book that will come out this spring!
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
- Check out all the free articles and advice we have for you on the blog and podcast at GrowingSelf.com, where you can access resources to help you set healthy boundaries. You can also follow Growing Self on Instagram.
- If you could benefit from working one-on-one with a life coach to help you get connected with your authentic truth (and figure out a plan to actualize it) the first step in getting started is to request a free consultation with one of our experts.
I hoped this episode taught you how to say no gracefully so you can have more time for the things that truly matter. What did you connect and relate to the most? Feel free to share your thoughts by leaving a comment down below.
Did you like this interview? Subscribe to the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast to keep actionable, inspiring advice in your feed every week. Thanks for listening!
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How to Say No To Others... and Yes To Yourself
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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She's the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.
How To Say No To Others, and Yes To Yourself: Podcast Transcript
Access Episode Transcript
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, and you're listening to the Love, Happiness, and Success podcast.
That's such a beautiful song. That song is called “Arrow Flies” and the band is Paper Planes. And I thought it was like the perfect song for us today because it's really tying back to that theme of getting clear straight shot, you know where you're going. And I think that's just so in alignment with our theme lately on this podcast about really getting in tune with yourself, and accepting yourself and not just even accepting yourself, but like making your own feelings, and needs, and rights, and growth a priority because it's really easy to get knocked off that path.
And I wanted to speak about this today because what's been coming up a lot lately in therapy sessions, life coaching sessions, in my practice here at Growing Self with my own clients. Also, in some of the supervision groups that I've been a part of, it's like, people are really struggling between what they feel is their own truth and their own path, and all of these pressures that are trying to knock them off that path. Some of those pressures are coming from the outside. It can be tough to say no to others, or set healthy boundaries and relationships.
But also, there's pressure that comes from the inside of us, isn't there? That pressure that tells us that we should be more or do more or have more or be something else that we're not. And that can be the hardest thing of all to set boundaries around. And it's crucial because until you can gain mastery over that voice in your own mind that's trying to derail you from what's true for you. It's really hard to do that in other areas of your life. So that's our topic today on the podcast.
And before we jump into our topic, I just wanted to say thank you for being here with me. If this is your first time listening to the show, I'm so glad you found this. I am Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby. I'm the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. And I am a licensed psychologist, I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, and I'm a board certified life coach.
And in addition to my work seeing clients and managing Growing Self, I am here every week for you to be offering you hopefully helpful advice and new ideas that help you create the love, happiness, and success that you deserve. So many of my topics, including the one for today, come from listening to you and your questions. I've been hearing from you on Instagram @drlisamariebobby, and also on the blog at growingself.com.
If you have been one of the many people that has jumped into the conversation in the comments section on the blog lately, please know I am working through them I'm I really want to answer every single one of those, not just myself but like thoughtfully and so I am working my way through them. It takes me a while but I get there. And as I'm doing so I'm listening to what's going on in your life and what is important to you. And so if you've chimed in to ask a question and let me know, thank you, I really appreciate it.
And that is again one of the reasons why I wanted to talk about this topic today which is around how to set healthy boundaries so that you can say “no” to things that are not important, to say no to people who are trying to take up precious time and energy that you don't have to spare, and not for the purpose of saying no and being obstructionist. But so that you can say yes to the things in your life that are most important and invest your valuable time and energy.
And let's face it, limited resources in what really matters most to you, be at the relationships that matter most, the friendships that matter most, the personal growth experiences that matter most to you. And it requires a lot of clarity and commitment to figure out what those things are so that you can begin building healthy boundaries around them. Not for the purpose so much of keeping things and stuffing people out, but to like, protect you and protect what is actually meaningful and valuable in your life.
That's what we're doing today on the show. And I'm so pleased to have us be joined today by an expert on this topic, we're gonna be speaking with Becky Morrison. Becky is a former attorney who did this growth process in her own life, she had some moments like I think we can all relate to where she realized that she wasn't really saying “no” to things that didn't feel good for her so that she was able to say yes to the stuff that did. And she has sense really turned this fine art of boundary setting into a career. And she's going to be sharing her wisdom for how to figure out what your boundaries are, and how to set them effectively with us today. So, Becky, thank you so much for joining us.
Becky Morrison: Well, thank you for having me. I'm excited for our chat. And we're talking about one of my clearly one of my favorite topics, so yeah.
Dr. Lisa: Wonderful. Well, we'll just sort of set the stage. Why don't you tell us a little bit about you, and how this became such a passion for you?
Becky: Sure, well, I mean, it really starts, I'll tell you a little bit about my story in my life. So I had about a 20 year career that led me through corporate into law school into practicing as an attorney then into working on the admin side of law firms. And then from there, sort of expanded my world. But during that early part of my career, which lasted about 17 years, it was really a lot about what I thought I should do.
Dr. Lisa: Yeah.
Becky: Right? What was the next logical step for me? What made sense to everybody looking in from the outside? And in that journey, I began, and I can talk about sort of some of the moments that caused me to do this. But I really began to unwind my own happiness and figure out instead of what it was that I thought I should do, what was it that I really felt was right for me? And often that meant saying no to a lot of things that other people might think would traditionally be clear yeses, right? I took a number of pay cuts along my path, I took a number of what might be considered reputational hits, right?
Going from practicing attorney to admin there, but there were people who were like, but you're on a partnership path, why would you not continue? And so really getting comfortable with looking hard at how to have in my life more of what mattered to me? Not just more, not just the undisciplined pursuit of what can I have? What can I get? What can I add to my resume, to my list, to my bank account? But rather, what do I really need? And that required more than anything. What taking a hard look at saying “No,” and taking a hard look at boundaries? And taking a hard look at what I didn't want more than what I did want? So.
Dr. Lisa: Yeah, that is really, I mean, hats off to you because that's difficult.
Becky: It is.
Dr. Lisa: What—no, really, the easy thing is to just sort of do the next thing and be even subconsciously kind of pressured or influenced by societal ideas about who we should be? what we should want, right? And I guess I'm curious to know. Was there an event or sort of a catalyst where in your own life you said, “Wait just a minute.” This is actually because for a lot of people, there's like that; there needs to be a pattern break. Something has to like shake you up a little bit for you to look around and be like, “No, actually, I don't have to do that.” But I'm just curious. This might be overly personal, but I'm curious.
Becky: I'm happy to share. So there's two that I'll talk about. And the first I'll tell you, I mean, I talk—I tell people, I had a bathtub moment. Let me explain what I mean.
Dr. Lisa: I have shower moments. I know what you mean. Yeah.
Becky: Well, just wait. So this was early in my career when I was a practicing attorney. I was in the middle of preparing for a big case. It was my job to prepare our experts for deposition. And at the time, my husband was working in counterterrorism, so had a super intense career, something in the world had blown up and he needed to stay at work. So we have a two year old, I went to pick her up at daycare. And then I found myself at eight o'clock at night sitting on the bathroom floor with my notepad on the toilet seat. That was toilet seat and the cordless phone clip to the back of my pants and the expert on the phone and my two year old in the bath.
And I looked around and I was like, “I'm a rockstar, likem look at me, I'm doing all of it. Who says you can't have it all? Who says you can't be a working mom, lawyer, highpower, all this.” And then just as quickly as that thought came, came the thought, this is not sustainable. I can't, I don't want to do all of this. I don't want to live like this. I don't want to always be pulled in multiple directions, I want to be able to focus and I want to be able to engage with my daughter fully and with my work fully.
And I'd love to say that that was it, that that was the catalyst for big change. But it was the catalyst that got me started thinking. And then probably about 18 months later, maybe slightly less. I had a life threatening ectopic pregnancy. And I tell people that story and what I remember about it is, you know how people talk about when they're, when they think they might die having it having their life flashed before their eyes. And what flashed before my eyes was conference calls, and meetings, and conference rooms. And I, after recovering from that, really took a hard look at, is that what I want to have my life look like?
And then not that there's anything wrong with meetings, and conferences, and conference calls when you're working on something that's meaningful to you, but I was helping large companies merge and get bigger. Again, nothing wrong with that work. It's important work. It's important to our economy, but it was not feeding my soul.
And so, that was really—those two sort of—that beginning of the journey at that bathtub moment. And then that real sort of pivotal, like; is this what I want my life to look like moment, were what drove me to take a good hard look at how to change it, how to get more balance.
Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Thank you for sharing that story.
Becky: Of course, I was just gonna say I love—and again, I loved to, love to say that I; then I quit everything and became a coach. But that's not how it went either. Right? And you said that it's always easier to do what's logical. And so I knew I needed to change, but I looked just outside the bounds of my current world, right? I didn't take down the walls and do a wide ranging exploration of possibility. I just took the next thing that was a little bit outside and ended up still in big law, still working with litigation folks just in a different role, which was an awesome fit for that time in my life. But the thing that I've learned over the course of all of these changes, is that the gift we give ourselves when we can look beyond the edges of what seems natural and next.
Dr. Lisa: Well, and it's, again, it's hard work to do and like so when I've worked with people around this, there can be so many, not even just external pressures to that kind of like, make us feel like we need to do certain things that aren't always congruent.
In my experience, those external factors are actually much easier to deal with, than the voice on the inside that's kind of badgering you into doing things that maybe aren't truly congruent for you. And so, I guess I'm wondering, first of all, for someone listening who's like maybe I'm not living in a way that feels really good for me. But when I think about doing anything else, I start to feel really uncomfortable or anxious, uneasy. Where would you suggest someone even beginning to unwind that; what do you think is the key first step?
Becky: So, with my clients, there's two pieces that I would say that we start with. The first is to really take a true inventory of what's in your life right now. And I don't just mean, I have a job, I have this much in my bank account. Deeper than that, what are you—what's the value you're getting from your job? What's working about it for you? What are you enjoying? What aren't you enjoying? What's feeding your soul? What isn't feeding your soul? And really, it's almost coming up with two columns of what's working, and what's not. That's step one, just to understand where you're starting from.
Dr. Lisa: Right.
Becky: Often when I do that people find that they have pieces in their life that they haven't fully explored or appreciated that don't require them going against any internal programming to get just a little bit more fun, joy, happiness, satisfaction. But the next step is really then to say, “Okay, looking at this, looking at the things that I'm—that are that are working for me, how do I get more of that? And let me give myself permission, even if it feels scary, even if I have a pit in my stomach, even if it's against my patterning and programming, to really spend a little bit of time exploring what's possible.”
Or maybe possible is even the wrong word, frankly, because a lot of people will put their own false limits on possibilities. But just what's out there? What else could I do? What would I—what am I love to do when I was a kid? What do I love to do on the weekend? what do I love to do that I don't get paid for? And trying to find some of the sort of, first of all, getting all of it out of your head and into some tangible, visible, organizable medium. So that then you can try to find some of the commonalities that you can connect the dots and say “When I was a kid, I loved coloring with crayons. And now in my free time, I really enjoy working with color in my house.” Well, there's a—that's a silly small example.
But there's a contrast there that you really are a visual person and you like color. Well, how can we incorporate that into your life? That and it doesn't always have to be a drop everything, change everything kind of thing.
Dr. Lisa: Sure.
Becky: I think it's about getting acquainted with what really drives our happiness and satisfaction. And because we are so attuned to both these external voices, and it's you said “The internal voices in internal patterning, many of us haven't even sat down to have that conversation with ourselves.”
Dr. Lisa: Yeah, so it's getting reacquainted with yourself. Your authentic self is really the—a big first step.
Becky: And allowing your, I mean, I think you—allowing your authentic self, a voice, a seat at the table, even if it in the past, has been told to sit down and be quiet. Right? That's hard. And that's where we start to play with your nervous system being either a partner or a detriment to your progress because of that past programming. So.
Dr. Lisa: The way I hear that, well, that's great advice. And so now let's, let's apply this to another situation. So I'm sure that many of your clients fit this bill, too, but there are a lot of people in the world who are high-achieving, they're smart, they're competent, and they are capable of doing so many things. And they also have a tendency towards, I hate to say perfectionism, but like, let's just call it extremely high expectations for themselves. Right?
And one of the things that, that I have encountered so many times with my clients, is this like, difficulty in, almost like, saying “no” to themselves, in some ways. So it's not like saying yes to a certain career, or even other people sometimes, but it's like, there's this core belief that, “Yes, I can do all of the things, I can be making gourmet dinners, and being a mom, and being an attorney,” and you know what? They can. They actually can because they're competent, and they're smart, and they're organized, and they can do all this stuff, but should they?
And it can be a lot of personal growth work I think for some people to, like, begin getting acquainted with their own limits, and being able to have this sort of internal dialogue around, “I could do XYZ today and I could. Should I? Do I want to? Like, that piece of saying no to themselves, almost.
Dr. Lisa: Yeah.
Becky: Yeah. No, I wanna, I want to get a T-shirt made that even for myself that says, just because I can doesn't mean I should, right?
Dr. Lisa: Yeah.
Becky: Like, that is the story of the high achiever, right?
Dr. Lisa: Yeah.
Becky: Highly capable. And because and maybe even some history of, if you have the capability, you should, kind of being programmed in there. Especially, when it comes to helping others, right? Like when you combine high achiever with somebody who likes to nurture and care, it's like, a recipe for a whole lot of can with not a lot of boundary. And I do think it's about getting clear on what matters to you. “Yes, you can. You're right, you can do all those things. Why?” What is it about doing those things that ties into the life you're trying to live that ties into your top priorities right now.
For example, if your top priority right now is something professional. Does that mean that you can maybe set aside cooking gourmet dinners for your family and find them another healthy, wholesome way to get fed and tying it back into that anchor of what matters and your priorities can be helpful in starting to draw those boundaries. I think, again, what happens is, we fall into this pattern of believing that to have more, we need to do more.
And so we keep adding and adding and adding without ever stopping to think what did those additions are actually meaningful to our, to our success, and I use happiness and success interchangeably because for me, the way I define success is I am successful when I am happy. But that's how I think about that.
Dr. Lisa: Yeah, got it. Okay, well, I love that takeaway that just because you can doesn't mean that you should, and to do some very thoughtful exploration on what really matters. And another thing that I think we should be talking about, too, is this piece of—when I have kind of, like, drilled down into this with clients, particularly that certain breed of like Superwoman, superstar, successful women. What I have often found, like, at the core of this are very old beliefs around like worthiness and sort of, like, I am worthy of love when I am achieving, when I am doing specifically when I'm doing things for others.
And to—like, to the point where they'll run themselves ragged, like, around these old scripts because there's like this deep, subconscious association between, like, their worth as a person, and all the stuff that they do. have you encountered that with your clients?
Becky: Only all the time. Yeah, yeah, no, I mean, worthiness is a theme that comes up. It comes up in that way, it comes up in so many ways. And when I saw I got my executive coaching certification at UC Berkeley, when I was there, we did an exercise, and there were 33 people in my cohort. And the exercise sort of required us to look at our fears and dig down to the deepest level. And every single one of those 33 people was afraid they weren't good enough. Every single one.
And I sat in that room, and that my takeaway from that was, these people are bomb, like, there are some cool individuals who've done some amazing things, not only that they're good human beings. And they're walking through life feeling not good enough. We all must be wrong, like, we all have to be wrong. And so how do we let go of this idea that there is some measure that if we hit it, we finally are worthy, we finally deserve to be loved, deserve to be accepted, deserve to be valued, and instead operate from a place of inherent worthiness.
And then how does that change your decisions? If you believe—if you can shift your belief or beginning even just to shift your speaking and thinking, even if it's not a deeply held belief yet to “I'm already worthy. Now, what do I want to do?”
Dr. Lisa: Yeah, that's so important that if I, well, and first of all, I just love what you said that that is like a primal fear. I think at the core of—if not actually, everybody, pretty much everybody.
Becky: It's like, 99.85, right?
Dr. Lisa: Right. Am I good enough? Am I worthy of love? Am I okay? And this all the energy that gets expended into trying to prove that to ourselves and to others, right? And you're saying that if you can shift that and just begin to; that's the theme of the season for me, and this show is radical self acceptance. You are actually just fine exactly the way you are. And it is okay to have cheese and crackers for dinner, sometimes. It is okay to say, “You know what, I'm tired. And I think I'm just going to sit down and rest as opposed to doing all the 85 other things that I could do for this day.” If you were actually just fine in doing that. What would it change for you?
Dr. Lisa: That's powerful.
Becky: It's a big thing. And as I sit here, thinking about it too, there's an element of this that—and you said it, and you alluded to it because you say you get to that place with your clients. But I think we often don't recognize that that's what's underlying our behavior and our choices.
And so, first step, right? is being able to name it. Being able to own the fact that I'm trying to do X, Y, or Z because, in part, at least I have this fear about being loved, about being worthy, or I won't be worthy if I don't or whatever, however you phrase it, identifying it's critical because if you don't identify it, you can't shift it. And then there's something else in there about—I know want to what, but I'm sorry, I lost my train.
I know what I wanted to say; what you were saying about being willing to have cheese and crackers and being willing to to sit down and rest. And it goes beyond that it's being willing to say no to the opportunity, for example, that everyone else says once in a lifetime, if it's not the right one for you. Like being willing to say no to the raise, to the promotion, to the—and I'm not that I'm encouraging that is the only answer. But we just get in this, drive up the ladder, up the ladder, up the ladder, up the ladder in so many ways, and I'm just not convinced that up is the only direction.
Dr. Lisa: Yeah, no, definitely, definitely. And I think there's also this, like, humility that comes after you've done a few of those is just this understanding of like, the enormous amount of time and energy it takes to say yes to certain things, specifically career oriented things sometimes.
And that there's always this, like an algebra, the equation is balanced on both sides. And if you say yes, to the investment of this time and energy and doing all the things, you are saying no to something else. And like I think with some people, they don't really fully understand what they're saying no to, when they say yes to some of those opportunities, like with your story saying “No, in some ways to being fully present with a child, or saying no to their own self care, or mental or emotional well being” and it's like, being —get starting to get clear as to what the the price of admission really is for the yes, choices that we can make.
Becky: That I think that's it and then when you add—when you layer on the fact that we live in a society that moves at the speed of light, literally, right?
Dr. Lisa: Yeah.
Becky: We're operating in 160 characters for the majority of what we do. We are not in a place where we're slowing down to actually evaluate what we're saying no to. So not only meet women, may we not be able to appreciate the full scope of it, we're not even having that reflection.
Dr. Lisa: Yeah.
Becky: We're not even able to take that inventory. And so to me, that's a place where and maybe you feel the same way where things like support, like coaching, like therapy can create this opportunity to begin to explore this stuff that we just aren't even listening to, right now, given the pace that we're moving, and it can help clarify those no’s, I mean, if sometimes I'll sit with a client and I'll and we'll have exactly this conversation, “Well, okay, you want to say yes to this? Well, what are you saying no to?”
Dr. Lisa: Yeah.
Becky: And when you force somebody to articulate it, I mean, oftentimes, we'll get three things in and they're like, “Yeah, no, can't do it. I'm not gonna say yes.” Like, I'm not willing, this is not something I'm willing to give up. And I'm like, “Well, what, what was it that was stopping you from seeing it?” And it's like, again, all that noise, all that messages, and then the speed at which we're operating?
Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Well, that's wonderful. I mean, and I think that you bring up a such a good point is that time and sort of space and spaciousness for that personal reflection, isn't itself such a luxury to be able to see things so, so clearly, for what those choices really are. Because when we're going so fast, I've done that in my life, and just sort of like doing whatever is in front of you, and this and this, and this and this and not really like thinking that much about it.
And over the years, that's something that I've had to work really hard at, is almost like becoming more fully aware of what those trade offs are like. So for example, if I don't say no, to being constantly present with things like email, social media stuff, phones, like, it's hard for me to do, like really deeper, more creative work. So I have a couple days of the week where I say no to answering email. You know what I mean?
Dr. Lisa: Like, no, and I'm not gonna respond to texts,…
Dr. Lisa: …and I'm not gonna do any meetings and it's like because I need to have boundaries around that, that deep time. And, yeah, I'm sure that everybody has their own sorts of things like that. But…
Becky: That’s right.
Dr. Lisa: …you know as I said…
Becky: And I think, I'm sorry I interrupted you,
Dr. Lisa: Oh, no, no. Go ahead.
Becky: All I have to say is, I think about—so I'm kind of a productivity system junkie, right? Like going back way to The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Dr. Lisa: I was there.
Becky: And, like, then getting things done. And then, you know I mean, there's all these different systems…
Dr. Lisa: Right.
Becky: …and my challenge with them has been, and continues to be that they are focused on processing what is in front of you as it comes…
Dr. Lisa: Right.
Becky: …without any consideration of whether that is the thing that you should be processing.
Dr. Lisa: Right.
Becky: Seven Habits tries to tie it back to your values and all that stuff. But I mean, most of them are about moving through the process of processing information, kind of, like you said, with the email and all this stuff that's coming at us. And even as I think about one of the techniques I adopted early in my career was on Sunday nights, I'd sit down and plan my week.
Only recently, have I made the shift to making that focus on planning, not just what do I have to do? How am I going to get it done? But what should I be doing? What is the thing that needs to get done? What is going to feed my priorities, feed my progress, feed my happiness? Let's schedule that. And then let's figure out what we're gonna do about whatever, whatever's left because there's always stuff left, right? There's so much to do. And so am I going to delegate it? Am I going to postpone it? Am I going to take it off altogether? But it's that shift in what that activity is even about that's meaningful?
Dr. Lisa: Right.
Becky: And that might sound subtle, but it's big.
Dr. Lisa: Oh, no, no, that you figuring out what is actually important? How am I going to prioritize that? And then everything else can either fit around it or not happen at all?
Dr. Lisa: And maybe that's okay. Yeah.
Becky: Yeah. And giving yourself I mean, look, I work with a lot of clients who work in organizations where they initially come to me and say, “Why don't we have the freedom to say no.” That is true, to some extent, but it is always true to a lesser extent than people realize.
Dr. Lisa: that you have more agency than you think you do.
Dr. Lisa: So I think what you're saying is, and I think I've heard this with my clients, too, is that there's a bit of a catastrophic narrative. And if I say no, then some terrible thing will happen. What if you found when you start spelunking around in there, what are some of the catastrophic ideas that people need to realistically assess?
Becky: First I've—I offer you this thought. So I recently did like an informal poll on “Why don't you say no?” And the number one reason that people didn't say no, is they were afraid of missing out on a professional opportunity, like fundamental FOMO, but in the workplace, right? Just if I say, “No, they won't come back to me.” I think there's a couple things I found, as I've dug in, right? Some of it does come down to worrying about “Am I good enough? Will I get recognized? Will I succeed?” And then we have to dive into all kinds of work—productive work around what does success actually mean to you versus what you think it should mean? Blah, blah, blah.
But also, there's a little bit of digging into people get confused, like, they think somehow, when you're asking them to say no, and and they haven't been saying no, that what you're saying is, you know that your boss has given you this project, and you just walk back into their office and handed them and say no, right? That is not how we say no, right? There's much more that goes into communicating the “no”, in a way that can preserve opportunity, right?
Dr. Lisa: Say a little more about that. Because I think that that's important.
Becky: It is important. I mean, when you think about if the primary motivator of not saying no in the workplace is I'm afraid that I will miss out on an opportunity. You can go to your mentors. You can go to your supervisor. You can go to the people on your team and say, “This is how I see the world. This is how I see the prioritization, this is why I think I'm going to say no to this.
Do you see as it—are you seeing something I don't see? Do I need to think about the answer further? Or maybe they just look at that and say, “You're absolutely right.” The best thing for you, for your career, for our team, for the situation, for the project is to say no to this. And so to get people in a more collaborative space of saying no, as opposed to this idea that we have to be on this island of “no”.
Dr. Lisa: Right. Right. And sort of shifting the conversation into what is actually the most valuable use of my time. Like, these are the things that I could be doing in this finite amount of time and energy that I have, which of these is actually most important? And if it is this thing fine, but just know that not all of these things can all be happening simultaneously. So we have to make some choices. That's a good, good, yeah.
Becky: And again, it comes to slowing down. I'm sorry, it mean…
Dr. Lisa: Oh yeah, oh yeah.
Becky: …it comes to slowing down. It comes to giving yourself the time to not be stuck and aren't getting the answer right now. And I have to say yes or no. And so I just need to pick one and I'm going to pick yes because no it's too scary, right?
Dr. Lisa: So this is an important conversation around I mean, we've been talking about how to kind of like, almost manage your energy, right? Both at work, and also in terms of how you're managing yourself, and like how you spend your time and energy in your life.
But let's talk just a little bit about the reality of having to set boundaries or saying no, in personal relationships because I think that this is not just difficult for sort of internal reasons. But this is why it can get actually hard for external reasons because what I've seen with clients, particularly adult children having to set boundaries in their families, particularly their families of origin, there is a system that expects us to sort of be a certain way, right? And every time we as individuals start doing things a little bit differently, setting boundaries, saying no, there is actual pushback from that system.
I mean, I had a meeting with a client earlier this week, and won't go into detail. But this person very appropriately set a boundary with a parent and this parent started berating them, calling them names, “You're a bad kid, how dare you, this is hurting my feelings.” And it was an extremely reasonable and appropriate boundary in the context of what this person was going through. But, what we talked in that session a lot about was, here's an example of you being healthy and appropriate and setting a boundary and having actual systemic pressure now trying to make you give that up and be more gratifying and accommodating for others because you other wanted you to say yes, in that moment. And you said, “No,” this is real.
Dr. Lisa: This is real. What would you and your clients talk about when it comes to this situation? Because it's common.
Becky: It's so common.
Dr. Lisa: Yeah.
Becky: And I think the first thing that I like to get people to really accept and almost like, I'm trying to think of the word but like, put into their cells, is this idea that when you change and grow, which means like, when you break a pattern, when you challenge a family system, it is going to be uncomfortable, and potentially unpleasant. Just because you're uncomfortable, doesn't mean you're doing it wrong. It probably just means you're growing.
Dr. Lisa: Yeah.
Becky: So just the mere fact of expecting some discomfort when you say no, tends to make it less uncomfortable.
Dr. Lisa: That's a good point. That's a good—and so yeah, that when you almost, like, grow and become healthier in the context of maybe a less healthy system, that system is going to have a negative reaction sort of in response to your health. And that's normal and expected.
Dr. Lisa: Continue on.
Dr. Lisa: Yeah.
Becky: And it's about reconnecting with your inner authority, right? I mean, you give the example of this conversation you had with your client, which is just beautiful, right? Here's somebody who is really listening to what they need, and putting a boundary in place. That is something to be celebrated, even if the system doesn't like it. Right? And so you have to get to a place as you grow. And as you build that muscle, where you begin to believe so much in your inner authority, that that noise from the system doesn't even register.
Dr. Lisa: Yeah.
Becky: Because I know, this is the right healthy choice for me for my happiness for my success for my family, for myself, for my health, whatever it is. I hear what you're saying, but this is still the right boundary for me and I get it so change.
Dr. Lisa: Yeah, definitely. Good. Well, so, so much more we could talk about, like relationships and all of this, but, I think that this is important. And so then one one last thing, another sort of inner obstacle that can certainly be supported by relationships when people do say no, is that they can feel guilty. I think sometimes, and certainly some of these relationships can contribute to that feeling of guilt if we're being displeasing to people who would like us to be saying, yes. Do you have any last thoughts on how we can manage those feelings of guilt that might pop up?
Becky: Yeah. Of course, I do. So the way I think about guilt is this. There's two forms of guilt, probably more but I like to put them initially in two buckets, there's guilt that's appropriate guilt where we have done something that is contrary to values that matter to us. I'm guilty because I've lied, I'm guilty because I've—I lashed out at somebody. I'm guilty because I stole something. That's all stuff that those are values that I hold that I went against, and I feel guilty.
Dr. Lisa: Healthy, appropriate, constructive guilt.
Dr. Lisa: It's informing us that maybe we could have done better. Yeah.
Becky: Absolutely. The other bucket I call outdated guilt. Guilt, that is about a story that is no longer relevant to our current facts. And the way that I talk, like the example that I like to use for my own life is mom guilt, right? I, as a mom, who has chosen to have a full time job outside of the home, my whole momming career, there are times where I look around, and I feel guilty, right? I'm not measuring up to other moms, I'm not around as much as they are, I'm not able to do the fun things that they do, but then I stop.
And I recognize that for me, it is a fact that I am a better, happier person, when I am working outside the home. And that's my fact. So why am I feeling guilty about something that is a fact for me, but not a fact for somebody else? Right? And so it's not those, like there's some community values there that I no longer share. And the only communities values that I care about are my families when it comes to that issue, and we have an agreement that this is what works for us. And that's enough to let that guilt go. So I think it comes down to first bucketing your guilt into old guilt versus guilt that's still true and then you figure out what to do with that guilt…
Dr. Lisa: Yeah.
Becky: …based on where it lands.
Dr. Lisa: That's a great point. So first of all, like, am I actually doing something wrong? If
yes act accordingly.
Dr. Lisa: But the other piece is like, Who's whose ideas about right and wrong am I listening to right now? Are those true for me? Are they true for my family? And to be able to, to push it back and saying, “you know what, we're all right. And I'm not doing anything wrong right now.”
Becky: And at the end of the day, if you do that inquiry and find that “No, actually, these are values, and I am feeling truly guilty.” That's okay, too.
Dr. Lisa: Yeah.
Becky: Every feeling that comes to us has some wisdom. So what does that guilt trying to tell you? What is the wisdom you can take from it? And what adjustments can you make in your behavior in your life based on that wisdom?
Dr. Lisa: What a beautiful takeaway, and that sounds like really, the theme of our conversation today is, is listening to yourself, trusting yourself taking guidance from it and acting accordingly. And when you do that, it becomes much easier to figure out what to say “no” to that you can say “yes” to the things that are truly important.
Becky: Yeah, absolutely.
Dr. Lisa: Great. Beautiful message. Well, Becky, it's been such a pleasure to speak with you today. This has been a fun conversation. Thank you so much. And if my listeners wanted to learn a little bit more about you or your work, where would they go?
Becky: So the best place to go is to my website, which is grantleycoaching.com. And then if you go to backslash podcasts, or just the podcast tab, you can find out a whole bunch of information about the coaching work that I do, as well as I have a book coming out in the spring, called The Happiness Recipe: A Powerful Guide to Living What Matters and it's really a action based guide to exactly this issue, figuring out what's important to you, and then how to have more of it in your life right now.
Dr. Lisa: Well, congratulations. I'll have to keep an eye out for that. Thank you so much.
Becky: Thank you so much.
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