Episode Transcript

Hello everybody. And welcome back again to another episode of The GRIT – Give, Recognize, Implement Time® Podcast. I’m your host, Steven Nathenson, CEO, and founder of Strive for More. And today I want to tackle the question of how do I say no? It’s a very good question. And it’s a question on the minds of a lot of individuals, because we are put into situations where we feel forced into saying yeah, because we feel like we can’t say no. So the good news, I’m going to answer this for you. And I’m going to give you tricks and tips so that you can say no, and do it in a way that it’s going to work and resonate with the people that you’re saying no to.

So the first thing I want to ask is what’s going into feeling like you have to say no? A lot of times, there’s actually something much deeper that goes into no. We may have gotten to a point where we’re fed up with something, we feel overworked, we can’t take on anything else, it’s just not possible. And that drives us to say, “No, I can’t do it. Not anymore. No. Not going to happen.” We may create that outburst if you will because there’s actually something much more deeply seated that’s going on than just saying, “No, I’m not going to do that.”

So that’s the very first thing is when we are looking to say, no, it’s worth exploring what is truly leading to that? Are we overworked? Do we have too much on our plates? Do we truly not have the time or the ability, the bandwidth? However you want to characterize it. And has that built up over time? Have I perhaps foregone saying no for months until it comes out in the way that we just described? “No, John, I said, no, it’s not going to happen. I can’t do it. Go talk to somebody else.” It may unfortunately come out in that way, because there’s been months that it’s built up time that has caused this to bubble to the surface.

So what is really going on that makes us feel like we have to say no? And acknowledging that. Is it lack of time? Is it too much? Is it no clear direction? Is it not worth the time that you have? When we understand what leads to saying no, or to wanting to say no, then it’s easier to truly explore the second key, which is what do we truly want? In this business example that we’re talking about, we’ve talked about too much on our plate, not enough time, not enough bandwidth, perhaps not enough individuals on the team to actually accomplish what’s being asked of you. Maybe you’re already working 70 to 80 hours a week and you feel like that’s not being understood, acknowledged, and you already run ragged. What is it that we really want? We may want help, additional people power, someone else to come help offload some of that work.

This is a crucial step in being able to say no, is understanding truly what it is that we want. It’s important because a lot of us feel like we can’t say no. I can’t say no to my boss. They tell me what to do and I have to do it. They’re my boss. I don’t have a choice in it. I can’t possibly say no to them. And that leads us to taking on more than we perhaps should and can. Or maybe we’ve always been a very high achiever and we’ve wanted to take on more. We wanted to build that value, show the world what we are capable of. And we’ve done that now to the point where maybe it’s flipped on us. Instead of really helping us to get to where we want to go. Now it’s causing life to be out of balance. And now I do need to say no to be able to bring that balance back.

And so there may be an element of us internally that we need to understand and come back by accepting it’s part of us, accepting it once served us, and now perhaps it’s not serving us anymore. And that’s okay because things shift and change over to them.

The last thing that we’re going to get to after we talk a little bit more about what it is that we truly want and what perhaps is internal to us, is how we actually convey this. Because there is definitively a way to convey no that’s going to work. So let’s explore a little bit more deeply these two elements of what do we truly want and what’s internal to us. So if I know what I truly want to ask for, then I can actually ask for it versus flat out refusing something. So whether it’s help with the work that’s on our plate, whether it’s clarifying direction and prioritizing, whether it’s tips and tricks to delegate work, whether it’s getting additional personnel for the team. Once I understand what’s underneath wanting me to say no, I can actually talk to these valid points that have a much better chance of giving us what we want versus just saying no and causing the relationship to perhaps break apart, and even send the impression that we don’t want to send is that we’re unwilling.

That’s one of the reasons why we don’t say no. It’s because we don’t want to show that we’re unwilling. We’re not a team player. We’re not cooperative. So if we understand what truly is driving us to feel like we need to say no, and we understand and what that looks like, then it makes it easier to make that ask. So that is truly element number one, to help convey this.

Element number two is also that internal drive that we have. So like I said, some of us are very, very driven. A lot of people are very, very driven, and it causes us to take on work, it causes us to hold ourselves to high standards, it causes us to work very hard and diligently. But as time moves on, we grow, we change, we shift. There really is something to different stages in life and different wants and needs throughout those stages. I may have worked really hard in college and school in the earlier part of my career to really climb that ladder, to show what I’m capable of to get to where I wanted to go. And now maybe I have a family. I’ve got other things outside of work that I want to be able to spend time to do. Like for me, that’s my triathlon and Ironman training.

And now because of who I used to get to where I wanted to go. And what I mean by used is what have I used internally that’s made me, me, to get to where I want to go, I’m seeing a lack of balance. I maybe don’t have as much time to spend towards the family that I want. I don’t have as much time to perhaps dedicate to the Ironman training because of work. And it’s causing things to maybe fall short there. Things do change and switch in our lives and that’s okay because we continue to grow, develop and reorient what balance truly looks like for us. So this is another important piece for us to dig into. What leads me personally to perhaps feel like I’m saying no and need to say no, because if we understand that, just similar to what it is we’re truly looking for, then it makes it easier to overcome as well.

What is really truly acceptable for me at this point? Yeah. I like to work hard. I like to have a high level of excellence. I want to get things done, but what is the true necessity? What does that actually really have to look like? Can I reorient that and does that shift this conversation? Because if I understand what pressure I’m putting on myself to perhaps achieve a certain level of excellence and achieve it as quickly as possible. And I look at part at the deadlines, and I break it apart, excuse me, and look at those deadlines. Does something really have to happen now? Have I put a lot of pressure on myself because I am truly true? Does that alleviate this conversation? If I back off on that, can I still meet my level of excellence, but also give me more time back to have that balance, to achieve that level of excellence that I’m looking for in that other area of life? Triathlon, family. Those are some important questions that introspection can help.

So when we understand on the work front, what we’re truly looking for, that’s driving us to feel like we have to say no to something. And when we truly explore what is internal to us, that also feeds into this thing, it makes it easier for us to tailor back on us internally, to understand what is truly acceptable. And then also understand what the ask really looks. And here’s how that leads into the last piece we’re talking about today, which is how do I actually convey them?

When I understand what I’m truly looking for, I no longer actually have to use the word, no. I’ve completely removed it from the equation. And the beauty in that is now we’re going to get over what we were worried about. Not looking like a team player, not looking like we’re collaborative, looking insubordinate. We are worried about those when we say no, but when we understand everything we’ve talked about, we remove that from the equation because we’re no longer actually going to say no. We’re going to have a different type of conversation. And it could be something of this nature. If you’re being asked to say, take on and lead a new project, you may naturally want to say no to that because of everything we’ve talked about.

Instead, if you don’t have the manpower, the person power, to be able to do that, and we need resources on the team, the conversation can look this way. “I’m really intrigued by that project. I think that can be a really cool thing to work on. One of the things I’m really curious about and would love to run this by you is I feel like we’re already really tapped out as a team. And to make this happen, I think we’re missing perhaps some resources. So can we have a conversation if you’re open to it about how do we maybe shift things, what’s going to get deprioritized? What additional help we can have to make sure that we are able to say, take on that project, but also meet it in a way that we are going to actually deliver versus letting it slide?” It’s a lot different of a conversation than saying “No, I can’t take that on, it’s too much. You’ve got to give it to somebody else.”

We may be more naturally inclined to say that because of everything that goes underneath us wanting to say no, but which of the two as you’re listening, actually resonate more with you? What’s less defensive? What’s more collaborative? Saying “No, I can’t do that. Give it to somebody else you. I can’t do it. It’s not possible” versus “Yeah, that’s definitely a great project. To do it, I feel because we’re already kind of short staffed, we may have to rearrange things. Here’s maybe one way, I’m thinking about how to do that. What are your thoughts? Do you mind if we actually talk about that briefly, just see how we can really make this happen?” That can open up the conversation so much more fruitfully because it may actually give you that opportunity to express everything that perhaps you think is clear and understood, but isn’t.

Your leader, especially in the remote world, they may not see you working 80 hours a week, they may not see you stressed out and unresponsive to everything else that has to get done in life because they don’t see that angle. They don’t see that from you. They may not know that your team is absolutely tapped out. Maybe you’ve told them, but maybe it perhaps really hasn’t registered with them.

So having this “no” conversation this way actually gives you an opportunity to more clearly express things that are underneath the no for you, to open up that conversation, to share it and to have a better chance of somebody really going, oh yeah, yeah. This definitely is a tough spot. All right, let’s see what we can do here. It’s easier to get that kind of response when we say “no” in this way and actually open up that conversation and give us this opportunity to more clearly express everything that’s going into it.

So these are just a couple of different ways to help us be able to “say no” understanding what really is going into that for us. What’s leading us to feel like I have to say no? What is it that I’m truly actually looking for versus no? What internally perhaps is already playing a role for me, that’s leading into the situation as well? So not just work and my boss, but also me specifically. And then how does that allow us to shift away from actually using the word no and expressing clearly what it is that we want and setting us up in a better chance to actually have that happen, and to have a more collaborative, engaging conversation that can ultimately lead to “Yeah, you know what? I’m going to give this to Sharon’s team or I’m going to get you another resource. Or in the meantime, yeah, our head count, unfortunately it’s not changing, but let’s shift these things around. Let’s deprioritize this, let’s get [McKayla 00:15:18] on to this project and then maybe working part-time on this. And then John can fill in the gap there.”

There’s a much better chance of actually getting to what you want, having a “no” conversation in this way than flat out saying no. And the beauty in that again, I’ll highlight is it actually overcomes all the things that makes us anxious about saying no, showing that we’re not a team player, showing that we’re not com collaborative, perhaps portraying that we’re insubordinate and we’re not willing to do what our boss asks of us. Those things naturally disappear when we shift the focus and say no in this way.

So I hope you have enjoyed today. Saying no is possible. And the beauty is we don’t even have to say no. We can do it in a way that’s engaging, collaborative and gets us to where we want, and alleviate some of the natural things that we are fearful of that lead us to take on more because we don’t think we can say no. But I’m here to tell you, you absolutely can. So until the next time, be the movement in your life and know that no is possible.


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