on saying no: update part 2

these two lessons are part 2 of yesterday’s post. although i’ve thought about the two particular lessons below before, miriam put them in succinct ways that i appreciate.

“if i’m gonna say no, i have to be serious about when i say yes”

i like the idea of saying no as a muscle. but, as far as i know, every muscle in the human body has a counter-muscle that controls the opposite motion. your biceps help you bend your arm inward and your triceps help you bend it outwards. so, to stretch the analogy maybe too far, on the other wise of the saying no muscle is the yes muscle. and, as miriam said, getting better at saying no means being serious about showing up when saying yes.

imo, this just means not bailing at the last minute. i used to bail a lot on things i had committed to. mostly i’d bail because i had committed to the thing when my schedule was already full and then when the time came to do the thing, i was exhausted and couldn’t bear to go. either because i didn’t want to have to answer the dreaded “what do you do” question or because i just needed sleep or because i was socially over-scheduled and needed to do some work. either way, learning strengthening my no muscle has actually resulted in an increased ability to show up and show up well when i do say yes. people seem to really appreciate it, too. they know when i say yes, it’s not just off-hand or out of courtesy.

“saying no is really about setting boundaries”

this is accurate in all sorts of ways. i don’t even know where to start with this one, but one thing i’ve noticed is that it seems people’s individual capacity to set boundaries is diminishing. it seems like in some places it’s structural and cultural. for example: working at a place where it’s normal to be on your email all day every day and to have your work email on your phone with notifications. or another example is just how rude it’s perceived when you tell someone you don’t want to get together for a drink or coffee.

saying no, in some senses is about being clear about what you need to be well and then setting boundaries so that you get what you need.

this, to me, is the most powerful part about getting better at saying no. i definitely don’t feel that great at it yet, but i can tell that over the past two years, i’ve been able to make way more progress in the areas that i wanted to. i think that’s fundamentally related to the fact that i say no to things that aren’t helping me move towards my goals.

it’s hard, but definitely a game-changer.