LET YOUR VALUES DETERMINE YOUR NO
Deciding when and how to say no can be hard. But it gets easier if you understand the why behind your no. The truth is that most people offer a quick yes because they’re not sure of what they value.
However, if you know what you value and what truly matters to you, then your precious yes only gets spent in ways that honor you and allow you to live your best life. Here’s how to discover your values so you can proudly proclaim no to projects, opportunities, and causes that aren’t the right fit for you…
Consider Your Values
Most people have one to three core values that drive them. These values could be anything. For example, you might value family, travel, faith authenticity, success, or any number of other things.
If you’re having trouble getting clarity around your values, try to think of people you admire. Write down each name on a list and beside their name, write down why you
Then go through your list and look for common traits. Maybe you value people that work hard, your value might be competence or responsibility. Perhaps you value people who prioritize relationships above all, your value might be connection or family.
Don’t Assign Labels to Your Values
When you begin looking at your values, you may feel guilt or frustration. It’s important to understand that there are no wrong or right values. This can be difficult to grasp if you’re surrounded by people that don’t share your principles.
Perhaps your family doesn’t understand that one of your values is travel because everyone's lived in the same town for generations. You feel guilty for wanting more or craving something different.
But living an authentic life means being honest about what you value and letting your choices flow from those principles. Maybe you value quiet alone time and you’re surrounded by extroverts. It doesn’t make you wrong or those around you wrong to be different.
Think about Alignment
Now that you’ve done a deep dive into your values, it’s time to ponder if you’re living them out. It can be helpful to ask yourself, “Am I spending my time, money, and energy in alignment with my values?”
This can be an eye-opening exercise. A friend, Tasha realized she valued her creativity but was spending very long hours at work and not pursuing her love of art. She saw she'd been raised to think her worth was found in how successful she was, but that didn't align with her values. So, she made the decisions to cut back her hours and began spending more time in creative pursuits like drawing and painting, and refinishing antique furniture.
Spot the Inconsistencies
The more you understand your values, the more you’ll begin to spot inconsistencies in how you’re living. You might say you value compassion and kindness, only to find yourself gossiping about someone else with your co-workers.
At first, you may see a lot of inconsistencies and that’s completely normal. Don't get overwhelmed or think that you have to correct your whole life overnight. Change is a process so be patient with yourself during this time.
Acknowledge that Values Change
As time goes on, you may have to periodically review your values and adjust them. That’s because values do change as you grow.
You might find that in your early twenties, you valued family and chose to be a stay-at-home parent over a fast-track career. But once your kids are grown, your values may shift, and you may choose to focus extensively on your career. It doesn’t mean one path was wrong and the other was right. It’s simply a reflection of changing values.
Your Relationships May Change Too
When you begin to live according to your values, you may notice shifts in your relationships. This is to be expected and it isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, it can be a good sign.
The people around you might be surprised by these new changes or worried they're losing you. Be patient and reassuring with those you love but stick to your values. Don't be bullied into doing what you've always done.
Choose Between Values
After you’re clear on your values, some choices might be obvious and it may be easy to say no to your friend’s invitation to go to Italy for a month if you don’t value travel and you’re focused on helping your child through a difficult time.
Other times, the choice may not be so straightforward. You may be asked to choose between two things that you strongly value. For example, you might value family time but also financial security. Your boss puts you up for a promotion that will provide financial security, but it will require that you work an extra ten hours a week. Which value will you lean into? Which opportunity will you say no to?
Again, it’s important to understand that there are no right or wrong answers here. It’s only a question of what you value most.
Perhaps you’re going through a difficult time financially and choose the extra hours. Maybe you’d rather cut back on expenses and not give up your family time. Both choices are good and valid. But you’re the only one who can make the decision.
Learning what your values are can be helpful in showing you what to say no to and what to embrace more of!
WAYS TO SAY NO GRACEFULLY
You’ve done the hard work of evaluating your commitments and determining your values. You’re ready to joyfully embrace the word no. There’s just one tiny problem. You don’t know how to actually say it.
When you begin saying no, expect that you’ll be saying it to co-workers, clients, friends, loved ones, and even your own children. Fortunately, saying no is a skill and anyone can learn it. Here’s how to handle your nay with grace…
I Can’t Commit To That At This Time
It’s simple and to the point. It lets you off the hook without going into an in-depth explanation or making an excuse for why you don’t want to attend your cousin’s cat’s third birthday party (families are complicated).
I Can’t (Won’t/Don’t)
Your no doesn’t always have to be complicated. Keep it simple and direct. You can say something like, “I can’t” or “I won’t do that” or even, “I don’t do that”. Said without judgement and a compassionate smile, you still come off looking great.
I’m Afraid that Doesn’t Align with My Current Priorities
This is like the “get out of jail free card” for co-workers who always want to load you down with their tasks. Remember, you don’t have to be the “team player” who rushes in and saves Procrastinator Polly from herself yet again.
I Can’t But I Would Recommend…
Sometimes, you want to help but you really can’t. In these cases, you could suggest an alternative solution. For example, you might say, “I’d love to help you with this writing project, but I can’t. I would recommend you reach out to Dan instead.”
I Don’t Want That. But I’d Be Open To…
This is the perfect way to turn someone’s request around on them. You’re saying no and providing an alternative that’s in alignment with your values. It’s like having your own superpower.
Don’t Offer Explanations
Most of the people in your life will respect your no on the spot. However, there are always a few busybodies and pushy types that will ask (or even demand) a justification. To them you can say, “I’d rather not get into right now.”
Don’t make the mistake of explaining yourself. First, if you do it once, they’ll expect you to justify yourself again in the future.
Second, they may try to resolve the issue for you. For example, you say no to your cousin’s cat’s birthday party. When asked why, you say that you have a date with your partner scheduled. Your mom says, “Oh, that’s great! Bring him along!”
Better to skip the awkward conversation altogether by refusing to offer an explanation in the first place.
No Apologies Offered
Don’t offer apologies when you’re saying no. It’s important to understand that you don’t owe anyone. Remember, the asker made a request of you, not the other way around.
At first, saying no is going to feel awkward and uncomfortable. That’s because you’re out of practice. But the more you do it, the easier it gets. Pretty soon, you’ll be able to say no without thinking twice!
WHAT WILL YOU SAY NO TO?
The most important thing to understand about saying no is that the world won’t end if you do. Your kids probably won’t grow up to be warped. Your spouse will understand. Your co-worker will find someone else to badger about their project. Your friend will discover someone else she can complain to.
But the best part is you’ll be happier. You’ll wake up with more energy. You’ll be excited to face your days again and you’ll be able to embrace a new life—the kind where you only do what you want to!