Is Your "Yes" Helping or Hurting?



Hi! Welcome to this week’s training. I’m Sherri Wilson, an educator, strategist, and introverted entrepreneur that empowers other introverted entrepreneurs the art of persuasion and influence so you can communicate your message clearly and confidently.

Recently, I had writer’s block. The good thing about batch writing your training notes is you get it done in less time and have less stress. But the bad thing about it is that it’s not always easy to know what to write about. So what I do is I go to my favorite blog sites and read some of their articles to get inspired. Well, this thought from founder Beth Buelow hit me between the eyes and I knew instantly what I wanted to talk about!

Listen to this:

One rainy afternoon a few years ago, I was driving into Seattle for a networking event when my husband called me on my cell. I answered (this was pre-hands-free law) and listened, noting the barely perceptible panic in his voice: something unexpected had come up, and he needed the car for an off-site meeting. Since I was in the car, traveling up I-5 at 65mph in the opposite direction from him, he clearly had a problem.

There was a time when I would have sighed, said, “I’ll be right there,” and gotten off at the next exit and turned around. He called me with a problem; I had to save the day, right? I would have felt mildly annoyed but, in a twisted way, virtuous for having come to his rescue and fixed his problem.

But that’s not how this story ends. I listened to his description of the situation and said, “Oh dear, I’m sorry to hear that. How else can you get to the meeting?”

We brainstormed for a moment, he said, “I’ll figure it out,” and we hung up. And I forgot about the conversation until I got home later that evening.

This might not be a big deal to some people, but it was a true turning point for me. It was one of the first times I’d intentionally taken a concept I use in coaching and put it into practice personally: view and hold others as whole, capable, and resourceful.

While the words are simple, the concept is a game-changer.

If I choose to hold someone else as whole, capable, and resourceful, I see her not as a person to rescue, but a person to respect. Not broken, but healthy. Not helpless, but self-reliant. Not clueless, but creative.

What?!!! OMG! View and hold others as WHOLE, CAPABLE, AND RESOURCESFUL. The reason this struck me as so relevant to us introverted entrepreneurs is that it can be really hard for us to say “no.” I think it’s actually a human problem not just an introvert problem, but the majority of introverts are S personality styles—accommodating, tactful, diplomatic, nurturing, salt of the earth, altruistic, safe, accepting—you get the point. IT CAN BE REALLY HARD FOR S PERSONALITIES TO SAY “NO.”  

And if you think about it, some situations are designed to make it hard to say “no.” The request from your boss or best friend or mother-in-law. The salesman you feel pressured to buy something from. The list goes on. What happens is we enter a martyr complex of saying “yes” and doing things we really don’t want to do. And to make it worse, sometimes we passively aggressively LET the other person know we really don’t want to be there doing what we’re doing. 

If You Really Don’t Want To, Don’t!

Years ago, I had a problem saying No.”  My main reason is I didn’t want people to get mad at me or let them down. So I’d say “yes” and then either never do it or be fussy the whole time on the inside. Then one day I was in this Christian bookstore and a lady asked me to help with some ladies Bible study and I was about to give my auto-yes (you know…the one where you just blurt out “yes” like someone else is in control. Push the button and get “yes” syndrome) when Holy Spirit stopped me and I heard this whisper, “If you really don’t want to do it, say “no.” Be very cautious in what you agree to.” So I said NO. The person didn’t looked please but from that point on I was free to say “no.” And I also learned that keeping my word was very important to God and I needed to create a lifestyle that made that easier. 

I’ve never ever thought of how empowering it can be to not “rescue” people like we sometimes feel the need to do. And often we do it when we’re not even asked! And that to me, makes saying “no” at times even more important. What if our “yes” is actually hurting the person and not allowing them to step up to the plate, solve their problems and grow as people?!

Recently, my husband made a shift after 7 plus years of saying “yes” to his own hurt and others. He is a property manager and when he was hired, his only job was to collect money. Whatever he collected, he received a commission. But what happened is that he ended up doing ALL of the maintenance work, renting them out at times, and anything else you can imagine. He basically ran someone else’s business with all of the stress like it was his. 

What happened is that the hours he put in, put the commission pay he received at less than minimum wage! I finally told him that he could get a job with less stress and make more and on top of that, his “help” would be forced to step up and do the work. With the current situation, they didn’t need to because he did it all. Guess what. He took my advice. Got a job and his hired help stepped up to the plate! He gets paid for only what he was originally hired to do. 

At first, it was a transition because the owner of the properties was used to the free labor and still resents the fact that my husband got a job and couldn’t devote his full attention to his business. His hired help had to also adjust and get past the initial “I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING” and figure it out. 

How to Say “No” Gracefully

So here are some tips to say “no” gracefully: 

1.      Have them email you the details.This gives you a way out of the awkward moment and lets you see what all is involved and decide if maybe you do want to do what they’re asking. But remember your trade-off for doing it. I like to get what exactly I’ll be doing, when, how many hours it will take, etc. If you decide it won’t work for you, politely email them back that you can’t at this time. Thank them for considering you. 

2.      Don’t give them a “why.”When you say “no” and then give them the why for it, they might change the request to accommodate your why and things can get awkward. Let’s say someone invites you to an event, but you tell them that you can’t because you don’t have a sitter. They can say that you can bring your kids. If not careful, your “no” will look like a bartering session.

3.      Awkwardly pause.Pause for about three seconds after the request and then politely decline. It throws people off and lessens the odds of them trying to convince you. 

4.      Offer another option.I actually use this quite a bit. When someone asks me if I can do something and I decline, I’ll point them to a person who might be able to help them or offer a suggestion that eliminates the need for anyone at all. 

5.      Use humor.This can work both in person but really well in an email. Be creative.

6.      Compromise.If you can’t do all of the request but can part of it and it not require a trade-off, go for it. I’ve done this plenty of times, too. I’ll let people know I can do this, this, and that but someone else or you will need to do the other things. More often then not, they ask someone else for all of the request. Other times, I do the parts I can and not lose my focus.

7.      A soft “no.”This is a definitely “no” now, but keep me in mind for a future request. Or I can’t now, but at the end of next month, I’ll be available. 

8.      Say “Yes. What should I eliminate to do this for you?”This can work in a professional environment really well. If you’re the one that always gets extra work thrown at you because you’re the dependable one, it’s probably time to say you’d be happy to do the request, but which other project do they want you to put on hold or hand off. 

Beth wrote another incredible thought for us introverts that I want to leave you with:

So much of being a healthy, happy introvert is about managing our energy. To do that, we often find we need to establish boundaries: around our quiet time, our work spaces, our social interaction. And depending on our personality, we might find those boundaries frequently being violated because of our equal need to help (to be of service), to feel needed, to show love by being the shoulder to cry on or the sympathetic ear.

Being “The Fixer” is a comfortable role, especially for the introvert who almost feels relief when there’s a problem to focus on (which steers attention away from the social aspect of the interaction).

Sherri Wilson