My daughter says no a lot. As a precocious toddler, it’s one of her favorite words. She says no when we give her food she doesn’t like, try to take away the Sharpie she’s found, or tell her it’s time for bedtime.
I find myself with an interesting balancing act…on one hand, my daughter needs to learn that she won’t get everything she wants. On the other, setting good boundaries is a critical life skill.
And it’s one I have never been naturally good at myself.
I’ve said yes to unfair requests, stayed silent while people did hurtful things, and tried to soften my no’s to make them more palatable. As a human, I’ve had to learn and re-learn how to protect myself and mark the boundaries in my life. As a business owner, it has been even more important, and more complicated.
I used to think that the right systems would make good boundaries less important. If I could cram it all in and automate a bunch of stuff, after all, do I even need to say no? If I’m tough enough to handle any blow, I’m set, right?
Turns out, there’s always more stuff waiting to take up the space that systems save. And I don’t know about you, but I’d love to experience more relaxation and breathing space because of good habits rather than a longer to-do list.
So, here are three tactics I’ve learned from my toddler that we can all use to protect our time:
Pick some areas where you always say no as a matter of course
- My daughter says no every time if I ask her if she’s ready for bed. She could be on the verge of passing out on the floor and still do it. It’s part of our routine at this point, and she doesn’t even have to think about it. In your business, what might it look like to set up a policy where you always say no to calls on Wednesdays, or last minute client requests?
Use no as a full sentence
- Averee never says, “um, well, I don’t think that’s a good idea.” She just says no. Later on, there will be a lot of circumstances where she’ll need to learn to give a reason why, or suggest an alternative, but the one thing I hope she never forgets is how to share a strong and clear “no.”
Don’t be embarrassed by a no
- As adults, we can often get embarrassed by our own boundaries. We think things like, “I should be able to be more flexible,” or “this shouldn’t bother me so much.” Little kids aren’t bogged down by any of this. Their boundaries are their boundaries. What would it look like if we followed their lead?
Have you found any tricks to be helpful in helping you say no more often?