Find a Way to Say No

A number of years ago (a nice way of saying a long, long time ago), I attended a workshop session at one of the organizations I was working for. The topic was “Find a Way to Say Yes”. We spent a few hours learning about and discussing ways to apply this philosophy in the workplace, helping us channel a rules-based culture into a more facilitative, service-based one. At face value, I liked the idea, and we were able to implement a few improvements as a result of the workshop. 

Heck, even the acronym is catchy: FAWTSY. Put an exclamation point with it, and it becomes its own 6-letter motivational speech: FAWTSY! 

However, we seem to be swimming in a culture of saying yes to everything. All the time. With almost no discrimination. I know I personally seem to have internalized the “find a way to say yes” message to a fault – it’s become a boundary issue, a time management issue, a guilt issue. Unwittingly, I seem to have made saying yes a part of my DNA instead of something I consider deeply before doing. 

I’m writing this in November of 2021, and I decided that my theme for this month is to emphasize the NO in November. That means I’m starting with how I can “Find a Way to Say No”. Admittedly, the acronym, FAWTSN, is much less catchy. But as a practice, finding a way to say no has paid more dividends than my indiscriminate distribution of “yes”. 

The biggest challenge with finding a way to say no isn’t usually in the actual wording itself. It’s in giving ourselves permission to say no in the first place. When we attempt to say no, we’ll often bump into all sorts of thought frameworks, limiting beliefs, and “shoulds”. Requests for our time, attention, and energy become obligations rather than considerations. 

The first step to a successful “no” is in NOticing when you want to say it but don’t feel like you can. Question these barriers! Are they true blocks to saying no? Or, with a little questioning and courageous exploration, are they instead thought frameworks that aren’t actually helpful for you? Perhaps outdated expectations that you haven’t revisited in a while to make sure they still fit for you? 

The second step is to get creative and figure out a way to say no. Maybe you write yourself a permission slip to say no to something. Maybe you ask someone else to attend a meeting you *really* don’t need to be at. Maybe you rearrange your schedule to make room for something you actually do want to do. Maybe you say no to setting the alarm earlier (or maybe it’s a no to the snooze button!). Whatever it is for you – remember that not-so-great acronym, and just FAWTSN! 

And finally, once you’ve said your no, STOP. Stop talking. Stop revisiting the decision. Stop second-guessing. Stop letting guilt invade. Stop focusing on what you’ve said no to, and instead turn your attention to what you’ve allowed to become your yes. 

If any of this resonates with you, I invite you to adopt the mindset of asking what you can say NO to instead. And then Find a Way to Say No.

- Nicole



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