I’ve worked with so many women over the years who struggle with saying no; it’s fair to say assertiveness is a common and recurring theme.
It can come from a fear that we are letting people down; that our ‘no’ may mean people feel rejected by us (and that they may reject us in turn).
Or our people pleaser driver might be jammed on so hard that a ‘no’ simply won’t form in our mouths.
We may have been trained to meet others’ needs before our own and feel an abhorrence at our selfishness in saying no to another’s request, simply because we can’t, or don’t want to or don’t have the capacity or energy to do that thing, too.
Or we might be in love with our own Super Hero persona, taking more and more on to fuel the sense of our own invincibility.
Humans are complex. So there is no one reason that makes ‘no’ hard. It could be any of the above and many more besides.
But if this resonates with you in way, then here’s a simple challenge.
Turn this November into NOvember.
NO is a fantastic resource that contributes to better relationships, clearer boundaries, more effective communication and greater ease, as well as championing our own self-care and nurture. We all need access to NO.
So I invite you to create an experiment that feels right-sized for you and lean into the stretch. Just for this month.
Some examples of experiments could be:
If you NEVER say no, then experiment with finding one opportunity this month to say it. Just one. A teeny tiny one to get you started.
If ‘no’ feels too blunt and tricky, then practice with a ‘not yet’. Use the strategy of, “I’m not sure; I’ll get back to you,” to put a brake on a reflexive ‘yes’.
It might be that you’re good at saying no to colleagues but struggle to say no to friends…or that ONE friend in particular; so make that your experiment.
Maybe family is your Achilles heel.
Or maybe you don’t know what your assertiveness triggers are. In which case, spend NOvember logging all the times that you wanted to say no and actually said yes. Just make a note and then have a look at the end of the month to see if they have anything in common.
If none of those ideas appeal, you could try a ‘noticing without judgement’ experiment.
Carry on exactly as normal. Keep saying YES when you really want to say NO, and simply notice (without judgement) the impact it has on you.
My guess? That when you rob yourself of the right to choose no, it can leave you feeling peevish, passive aggressive, resentful, in martyr mode, sighing, carry the weight of the world on your shoulders.
Awareness of the impact can be an incredible trigger for change. Change that you deserve. After all, carrying the weight of the world is tiring.
Whatever experiment you create for yourself, I salute you! I believe in you. You’ve got this.
Now, go get your NO on!