Putting Boundaries Around Our Steps (part 1)...Saying No


Whether you own your own business, have a home based business or work for a boss,  we all need to learn how to establish boundaries.  This is hard for women in particular because we have a strong need to nurture.  This is great for building relationships that are necessary to be successful, but without boundaries we eventually find we are either in over our heads or being walked all over. 

In either case, our steps to success come to a screeching halt if we don’t take some time to evaluate what boundaries are needed. 

This week I thought I'd offer some warning signs that boundaries are needed and how you might go about drawing some necessary lines. 

Today we’ll discuss the ‘no’ boundary! 

You might need some boundaries if….
Saying “no” makes you feel guilty. 

Whether it’s saying no to a business colleague, team member, family member or friend, if you dread having to tell people ‘no’, you probably need a boundary put in place.   

So often we equate saying no to ‘I don’t care about you’.   Do any of these words sound familiar?

  • I really need to generate some income this week from my business to help with the bills, but the school/ church / scouts /team  has asked me to volunteer for the (field trip, party, project, etc…) and I feel bad telling them no. 
    • SOLUTION:  First…be ready at any time with this rehearsed response: “Thanks so much for thinking of me.  Let me look at my work calendar for the week and get back with you.  I’ll let you know by (fill in blank with a time).”   Now, look at your calendar and establish your work schedule for the week.  Be honest with yourself and determine how much time you need to be on the phone making sales, booking or coaching calls, how much time you need to be conducting business outside the home and when the best time is for each of these things to occur (don’t schedule your call time when you know people won’t be there to answer the phone…that’s not scheduling, that’s passive aggressive avoidance ~ a topic for another day!).  Once you have done that, look and see what time you DO have available and make that promised return call with what you CAN do.  Maybe you can’t do the entire thing that was asked, but you can contribute in a less time consuming way.  Sometimes the ‘no’ boundary is a compromise instead of a slammed door. However, if you really don't have time to say yes at this very moment, that's a perfectly acceptable answer!  Try saying something like "I've looked at all that I am already committed to at this time and have to say no right now, but please let me know what I can help with in the future".  

  • If I tell my business colleague or team member I can’t help her  (______fill in blank)  today I’ll be letting her down.  I don’t want to disappoint her but this just isn’t a good time. 
    • SOLUTION:  instead of saying ‘no, I can’t do that today’, say "today is not a good time for me but I have the following times available this week (list times).  Which one works for you?"  
  • The  family / husband / kids want me to be available for them at a moment’s notice and I feel so guilty telling them I have to work.  The whole reason I took a work at home job was to be more available for my family and saying no means I’m not a good wife/mom. 
    • SOLUTION: Once again, scheduling is key (I promise I’ll be writing about this very important topic soon!) Just like a job away from the home, there are hours you must work and hours you are off.  Make sure you have off hours scheduled and keep them.  Now, instead of saying ‘no’, you can say , “I can’t go to or do (fill in blank here) right this minute, but I’m off work at xxx time and we will go to / do (fill in blank here) then.”   Enjoy the fact that  you don’t have to ask a boss to take that time off but don’t let your life be all ‘off time’ and no ‘income earning time’. 

Here's the thing about saying ‘no’.   
Even when we say ‘yes’ to something, we are still saying ‘no’ to something else. 

Unless you're sitting around with hours and hours of spare time every single day, when we say ‘yes’ to one person, project or activity, we’ve said ‘no’ to whatever else might have also wanted or needed that same time slot. 

If we don’t have boundaries in place, we say ‘yes’ to whatever is begging for our attention at the moment.   Unfortunately, the things in our face at the moment may not actually be the thing that is most important to us.  It might be a ‘good’ thing, but a ‘very good' thing was just told no by our yes to something else.  

I can tell you that this was a big lesson for me to learn in the early days of building my first company.  Can you guess what was the loudest, most obnoxious and needy thing in my life at that time?  Yep, the growing business.  A business that was started to help pay bills and bring some financial security to our family…a good thing. 

At the same time, can you guess what ‘very good thing’ I was constantly saying  no to as I said yes to the demanding needs of the business?   Family.  If you asked me during that time what was most important to me, I would have said ‘family’ without hesitation.  And if you asked my family if they understood why I was so busy all the time, they would have said yes.  However, if you asked my family if they ever felt neglected or not as important to me as the business, they also would have said yes. 

Did they complain?  No.  Never.  They understood and just surrendered to what seemed to be an unavoidable consequence of starting a company.

Eventually I began to see I was silently telling my family ‘no’ more times than I should and quickly learned how to be mindful of what was behind me so I could be more purposeful with my yeses and nos. 

So what's the boundary needed when we feel guilty saying no to ‘good things’? 

A rear view mirror 
that makes us look around in all directions 
before taking a step forward! 

Next time we’ll talk about necessary boundaries when we are driven by a need to please others.

Let’s Get There One Step at a Time,
Copyright© 2012 Just One Step at a Time

Do you struggle with guilt from saying no?  Is there another 'no' scenario that wasn't addressed here but you could use some help with?  Leave a comment and let's chat about it.  If I don't have a suggestion, I'm sure there are others that do!  Feeling shy?  Leave the comment anonymously...it's that easy! 

Or, have you succeeded in putting a boundary around your 'no' issue?  We'd love to be encouraged, so leave a comment, with or without your name!  

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