Last week, in You Have to Say No to Say Yes, I shared my Continuum of Wholeheartedness, a filter that I use to figure out whether or not I should yes or no to an opportunity. The Continuum has been revolutionary for me in deciding whether or not something is a fit for me, and I hope it will be useful to you, too. But that said, even getting to the place where I knew I needed to say no didn’t automatically make it easier for me to say no. Then these five realities about saying no slowly began to dawn on me. If the Continuum of Wholeheartedness made it clear to me whether or not I wanted to say yes then these Realities about No made me understand even more clearly why it was necessary to say no. Hopefully, they’ll provide valuable insight to you, too in your journey to get more intentional about living authentically, passionately, and purposefully.
THE REALITIES OF NO
1. People are so much more ready for your no than you realize.
A couple years ago, I received a lovely emailing inviting me to be a board member for a local non-profit. It was a non-profit that I feel does REALLY important work in our community, I really admired the people that were on the board, and, yet, Circle de Luz was just a few years old and we were still completely volunteer-run and I just could not add one more thing to my volunteer plate. And so I wrote this very thoughtful, tortured response email that was about three paragraphs long that basically, if I were to paraphrase, said “I LOVE Y’ALL! I THINK Y’ALL ARE AMAZING! I AM DROWNING HERE AND MY NO HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH HOW AMAZING I THINK Y’ALL ARE! I AM JUST DROWNING! I AM SO SORRY! I AM SO SO SORRY! Y’ALL ARE AMAZING! I AM SO SO SO SORRY!”
Totally cool, I know.
And then, I kid you not, NOT ONE MINUTE after I hit send, I received a response that basically amounted to this:
No problem. We figured you were too busy. Do you know any other Latinas who might be interested?
I read that and had the biggest guffaw. Here, I had been tortured about what to say in response and what I realized is that they really wanted a Latina on their board, I was the only Latina they happened to know, so they asked me even though they knew I was busy (I bet there was even a conversation along the lines of “well, let’s ask Rosie to do it. If she can do it, great. If she can’t, maybe she can recommend someone”). Their Plan B was to ask me for someone, but they probably thought asking me to do it first was more polite than asking me if I knew someone who could do it.
That is when this dawned on me: people are ready for your no.
People usually have run the thought through their head that you might say no and they have a back up plan. When I thought more about it, I realized that I always have a back up plan, and I am not all that special. So, it stands to reason that when someone says, “oh, I’ll ask Rosie,” she also thinks, “and if she can’ t do it, I’ll ask Sue.”
So, it is not your job to worry about what people will do if you say no. Chances are they have thought about that themselves.
2. Your No is Someone Else’s Yes.
When I say no to something that I was only half-heartedly interested in, then what I do is open up the possibility that the person whose whole-heart would be in it will find that opportunity. And that’s what we want, right? We want people to be able to do things that whole-heartedly light them on fire. If I am going through the motions of something, I am taking up space that could be whole-hearted for someone else. When you say no, you allow that situation to get closer to the person whose yes is more like YES!!! than yes?. So you aren’t just doing yourself a favor when you say no. You are doing the situation a favor and someone else a favor.
3. Saying No is an Act of Faith.
When I say no, it is an act of faith; it is a belief in the expansiveness of the universe. It’s a turned nose to the idea of scarcity. When I say no, it says that I believe in the proposition enough to know that the person that needs to be doing it is out there (and, heck, sometimes I might even have an idea of who that person might be and I can recommend him or her which is always awesome) and it also says that I know that my time is needed for something else because I intend to live in full-fledged purpose. Saying no, then, is an act of faith in the circumstances, my fellow man/woman, and myself.
4. My Yes Has Meaning.
Before when I said yes, all it really said was that my calendar was open at that time and that I was technically capable of doing what was being asked. Now, when I say yes, it means that there is nothing I would rather be doing. Showing up some place with my energy in the place of “this is where I most want to be” is really, really powerful. To live in a way that allows my yes to really mean something more than my calendar was open is pretty inspirational for me.
5. Saying No at the Right Time Allows You To Be Pure, Powerful, Passionate, and Purposeful.
I believe we are all here on purpose. I believe that when we align our time and energy in a way that allows us to be pure (meaning that what we are doing is really what we want to be doing) pushes us into a passionate and powerful place while living purposefully. And in what may feel like an ironic twist, I think that the closer we get to saying no to the stuff that doesn’t grab us by the heart and/or throat, the closer we get to healing the world– because we are allowing someone else to live their purpose by getting out of the way and we are allowing ourselves to live more purposefully because we are putting our finite amount of resources (time and energy) towards the solution we are most meant to be offering right now.
What have you learned from and about saying no in your life?
Also, next Monday, we’ll look at strategies around actually saying no so that you feel more comfortable saying (or typing) that response when you need to do so.