How to say ‘NO’ — putting boundaries in makes your business work better

Saying NO actually has the power to free you up. But do you have a clear way to know what to say no to? Check out this model to help you.

One of our key frameworks we use to help our clients make good decisions is our ON YOUR TERMS model. So many speakers, authors & coaches are busy being busy and not getting the results they want. They get trapped by the business because they just don’t know how to say NO!

We can all find it hard to set healthy boundaries in business as much as we do in life:

  • We are afraid of rejection
  • We fear confrontation or conflict
  • We don’t like the guilt
  • We don’t want to let people down

The list could go on here and that’s all material for another blog and likely, much discussion!

Instead, we’ll do what we do with most of our clients — make it easy for you to start putting some boundaries in place to protect you & your business. Evaluating the TERMS is a great way to start identifying what you can say no to. Determine if what you are about to say yes to uses your TERMS wisely:

When we work with speakers, author and coaches to work our their optimum weeks, and the projects to take on or let go of, we get them to use the above evaluation tool. Will it give you more time? Will it drain or replenish your energy? Do you have the resources or will you get resources by doing / not doing this? Will this make money or cost money? Is it worth it? Do you have the skills, is it in your remit to do, or can you outsource it if all the other things point to a yes?

Most of the time, the On Your TERMS model helps you to understand where and when to say no. But let’s help you even more 🙂

Here are some reasons why you should start to say no:

Saying yes to one thing always means that you are saying no to something else (and usually that’s at your cost, because you are a service oriented person and like to be helpful). Every time we do something, we spend time energy and attention on it, meaning you have less capacity ‘later on’ for the really important thing that you also want to get done. It’s a choice, and a responsibility thing — you are the director of your company and you need to give it the help and support that IT needs (there’s a fun one to get your head around!)

If you want to hear it really simply, here are 5 reasons to say no:

  1. To keep your brand strong
  2. To protects your time
  3. To complete a projects
  4. To avoid overwhelm
  5. To allow you to stand firm in what you believe

There are many ways to experiment and practice saying no.

Whether you are practiced at guarding your time or you are someone that really does say yes to everything, here are some practical suggestions for you to flex your ‘no’ muscle:

  • Start to reduce how exposed and available you are.

-Have a VA as a gate keeper.

-Don’t have your mobile number or personal email address public.

Get a booking system and limit the amount of appointments you set up

  • Have an organised calendar with set days for activities so you ensure that you are doing what needs to be done as well as what you want to do, that allows you to say ‘no, I can’t’ because I’ve already got something in the diary
  • You might need to sack some of your current clients or at least say no to ALL their requests. Becoming more ‘choosy’ is one way to start saying no. Only accept the ones that really are your IDEAL clients. It can feel scary at first, but the rewards come soon after the initial ‘eek’
  • You might want to have alternative ways to work with you — what could you offer them digitally if you can’t see them 1–2–1? (We created our How to Deliver Digitally course to help turn what you do in person into something that can be delivered without you)
  • Negotiate and create a Win-Win scenario when you see that don’t align. For example, if you are asked to run part of a retreat, weigh up having to travel to the venue, organising cover at home and so on, to do just 4 of hours delivery — rather than just jump into yes, consider what other ways you could still deliver. With everything that is going on at the moment, it’s a no brainer to decide that it might be better to run the session as a digital conference.

There are all sorts of ways that you can carve out more time, and importantly, protect your energy and attention from wandering or being squandered. This all comes down to setting those boundaries above that you can enforce yourself.

How to Set boundaries

One of the first things to do is to understand what boundaries are already in place in your life, and where or in what contexts you are lacking boundaries. Think across the board, not just work but include your individual personal relationships, your hobbies, charity work etc. You may find that you are strong at creating boundaries (knowing what to say no to) in some areas of life, but not in others. That’s useful to know; if you can do it in one context, it means you have the ability to do it in others.

Get clarity on what you really want, and understand what values are driving your choices. For example, you might want to finish your working day at 4.30pm 3 days a week in order to spend time with your family. That becomes a ‘hard no’ in your diary because you prioritise (value) your family life.

Another way, as we hinted above is to make your boundaries ‘public’ and ‘educate’ people via different avenues. These include things like:

  • Use out of office on email
  • Use your VA as a gatekeeper
  • Have an accountability partner
  • Publishing contact times on your website
  • Setting times for when you are available on social media

One of the biggest things to learn around setting your boundaries though, is to take away the personal emotional element. Acknowledge that you aren’t responsible for how people to react to the boundary that you have set, only that you have set it. It gets easier over time. And focusing on why you’ve set the boundary can help make it feel less emotional. You do (and should) NOT need to be available all that time. Here are three final things to help you:

  • When saying NO don’t over explain, just say no, or give a simple reason if you feel you must — you have a right to say no 😊
  • Remember that every choice has a result — saying yes and saying no always come with a consequence. Which do you choose?
  • Develop a supportive network around you who support your boundaries and help you to keep them when you are wavering

Boundary setting and learning how to say no is a skill, a muscle you need to work often. Get good at it. You and your business will start to thrive as you get better at it. Learn to be discerning and get good at saying ‘No’.

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