For every “yes” you give to someone that you don’t want to, means you give yourself a “no”.

I did economics at school. It introduced me to the concept of “opportunity cost”. That is the loss or the benefit that could have been enjoyed if the alternative choice was chosen.

Let’s think about that for a minute. For every “yes, I’ll take that off your hands” or “yes, I can provide a cake” or “ yes, I’ve love to watch this”, we give up the benefit of something better, something more aligned. It costs us deeply. 

And like money, it is accumulative. Each one adds up, shaping our behaviours, our reactions and our relationships, at home and at work. Until we burn out, break out or get brave and say “no”. You’ve read my story and the impact of my “yes” answers, 10 weeks off work recovering for a large tumour being taken out of the pelvis.

I gave those “yes” replies to be a good girl, to avoid being told off or disliked, to be generous, to avoid a difficult conversation or to avoid something I didn’t know how to do. Because I didn’t know I could say no and things would be alright.

Let’s be honest, saying “no” can feel super awkward. We’re taught to say “yes” and accept that feeling as children. We’re told to hug people goodbye, to finish our plates or play with kids who were mean to us.

We tell ourselves we have to say “yes”. We trap ourselves in inauthenticity, in this looped pattern. 

Sometimes the opportunity cost might be worth it, in the short or possibly the longer term. A “yes” for an easy time, to accommodate someone important’s feelings or to doing what’s required by law, like paying taxes. Most times, it probably isn’t.

Saying “yes” means prioritising you. Your needs. Your values. Your preferences. Your boundaries. Your alignment. Without guilt. Without shame. Without fear.

Woman frowning at her laptop

I’d love to share the perfect, simple solution with you. I’d love to be a shining light of inspiration to you. I’d love to say this doesn’t take much effort to unlearn.

Let me share some thoughts and approaches that help me find “no” when I can feel an unaligned “yes” desperate to pop out.

  1. Saying “no” to others can be saying “yes” to you and that is completely alright. If you’re exhausted, if you’re the wrong person, if it will cause you to dip below ok, or if it crosses your values, boundaries, you’re right to decline.
  2. You deserve to live in alignment, with you values, needs and boundaries upheld.
  3. Declining doesn’t have to be harsh or rude. Nice people say “no” without apologies or excuses and they do it with grace and hold their line calmly.
  4. Declining doesn’t have to mean “no forever”. It can mean just not right now, life is busy and I can’t fit anything else in this moment.

Here are my tactics. I start noticing the physical sensation (our bodies are our compass to the truth) by pausing to consider what it is telling me – usually that this request is out of my alignment. 

Then the opportunity cost of a “yes”. What am I giving up the benefit of?

For me, if it is a small ask, which I can easily fulfil and I’ve been good at meeting my needs, I can offer my time and energy to others or their priorities. For example, for the last few weeks, I’ve been supporting a peer, who has run a 21-day challenge for people affected by furlough or redundancy due to COVID – I know career coaching well (7 years of practice), I’ve got content already, it matches my work values of connection, insight and courage and I can readily see the impact it makes for participants.

Woman holding out her palm as a no

For asks that cross my “ok” line, I decline with grace by acknowledging the person with gratitude and try to support them in finding another answer. 

If it crosses my values or boundaries, I find my “no” much clearer and easier to share. I have my explanation at hand. 

Right now, my “no” is about protecting my energy in lockdown, to enable me to serve my clients to my full ability without depletion and to make space for joymakers, like a walk in the rain or a call with a mate who’s planning her wedding.  

My sticky one is saying “no” to helping others, when I need to focus. My most easy access Powertype is Mother and if the face of high emotion, stress or distress, I kick into overexpressed. I sacrifice my own needs, energy and time for others. It’s my recurring pattern and has definitely been at the root of my misaligned life at times. I work with my coach to unpick, resolve and re-apply myself leaning into other Powertypes, using the clarity of my values and needs, as well as my intentions within my work, life and beyond.

We’re all a work in progress and change is possible, when you are ready to say “yes” to aligned living. You’ve got this, I have every faith in you and I know you’re always connected to motivation, advice and support through me and the women in your Haven.