Transcription of the Yes or No? episode of the podcast Doers Shakers Makers with Sierra Bailey.
[00:07] Every time someone asks you to do something, do you say yes without thinking it through or maybe instead you find yourself always saying no, no matter what it is. Today we’ll talk about how to decide when it’s a yes or a no and how to fit yeses into your life and how to tell people no gracefully. My name is Sierra Bailey. Welcome to Doers Shakers Makers, a podcast for go-getters to inspire you in your business and life. Of course, not everyone is a polar yes or a no person. Although if you want to read about a journey from no’s to yeses, I highly recommend, Shonda Rhimes, A Year of Yes. It’s so good and I like to read paper but I’ve heard that she reads it and it is fantastic in the audio version as well. We are talking more about how do you decide when to say yes and when to say no in your life.
[00:57] In business, in life, you are confronted with decisions and there’s a lot of talk out there about how you should say no to everything once your business gets to a certain level because you should be focused completely on what you’re doing. And realistically I have had some great opportunities come up that would have been crazy if I really sat down and thought about the effect that it could have on my business, but ended up having a great impact on my business and on future Sierra and not just on what I was doing at that moment. So, I am a big fan of sometimes a yes, sometimes a big no. Not being straight off, I always say yes, I always say no. So we’re going to talk about that because I’m pretty sure that if I’m thinking that way, many of you are thinking that way and it deserves a little bit of attention and a little bit of giving you some tools on maybe how to say no or to think about ways to decide yes or no.
[01:50] Saying yes can, of course, bring great opportunities. It can change your life. It could completely overwhelm you if you say yes to too many things. So that’s really why it’s not wonderful to say yes to everything because there are only so many hours in the day. You want to be making sure that you’re filling your hours of the day with the things that are aligned with your values and mission. Saying no, on the other hand, can rob you of new experiences, keep you stuck and even cause isolation, maybe depression. So, that is also obviously not a good thing to say all the time. It’s interesting, in the Shonda Rhimes, A Year of Yes book, she talks about how, obviously the woman owns Thursday night, great level of success, was doing many things that there are, I’m sure many of us that dream of doing some of the things that she does, but she found herself constantly saying no.
[02:37] A lot of it was fear, shyness, things like that, but a lot of it was also, I’m so busy working, I don’t have time to do those things. And then she started to really reflect. Read the book or listen to it, if you want to know the whole story, it’s a great story. But she started to reflect on what she was saying no to and the reasons why and started to realize that she was giving up opportunities that were so cool because of all of the work and the stuff that she was doing. I often say, when I do these podcasts that if you own a business or you’ve been working for a good amount of time and you’ve put some time and some energy and have worked hard at something, you usually start to get a lot of really good opportunities. There’s a saying that most of luck is just showing up and being there when luck kind of appears.
[03:21] So basically if you are doing cool things, more things will come about. And a trend that happens with a lot of people is that once they get to a certain level, they think that they no longer should say yes to things because they have to keep their time more protected. But in reality that was probably how they got to where they were because they said yes to a lot of things. So you do for sure once you’re quote-unquote busier in life, have to protect your time a little bit, but at the same time, don’t think that by protecting your time that it’s okay to just say no to things because you’ll really lose out on so many cool things. How do you know when it’s a yes or a no? So there are a lot of ways that people figure this out. From the complete, leave it up to chance as in flipping a coin to, the metaphysical of having your cards read, to crowdsourcing by asking for advice, to researching, to just straight-up listening to your gut.
[04:17] That’s actually a really big thing in this, of physically, and when reading and preparing for this episode, what was really interesting was that I read something about listening to your gut, but knowing how to tell the difference between anticipation and excitement and anxiety, which I thought was very interesting. So sometimes your gut can be giving you a cue that you’re taking the wrong way. Learn to listen to your gut. Pay attention to your gut. When you’re doing things you’re really excited about, kind of feel what that feels like so that you know for the next time. Also, think about why you are saying yes or no. Is it just a kicked in habit that you are saying no to everything because you’re shy or have some fear like Shonda Rhimes did or maybe you instead are having guilt or obligation. If you don’t say yes, you don’t want to let somebody down or something like that, or maybe it’s because you’re so uncomfortable saying no that you just always say yes so that you don’t have to have the uncomfortable conversation.
[05:14] Again, think about why you’re saying yes or no. Are you just saying words because you’re used to saying yes or no? Are you really considering what’s on the line here and then we come to one of my favorite ways to figure out a yes or no and that is to measure the decision based on your own personal mission and values. You can think about what is your mission that you want to accomplish with your life. Is this opportunity, and mind you, sometimes when you do have an opportunity, the reality of what that opportunity is, like, sometimes it could seem really great and it’s not going to be and you have no way of knowing that. So you’re really looking at what is on the table. Don’t feel like you have to freak out and research all the possible outcomes, but you do want to think about those outcomes.
[05:57] You want to think about the time that it will take to do it. You’ll want to think about the people that you’re involved with. You want to think about the company that you’ll be keeping if all of that aligns with your mission and values, because sometimes right off the bat that makes the decision for you. If you have very strong beliefs in one direction and you are presented with that opportunity that is aligned with the opposite, then you perhaps do not want to get involved in that because you’ll be conflicted the whole time. Now, another thing is to have guidelines set up for yourself, which are kind of like having a mission and values, but examples of that are saying yes only to what you can go all-in on. So only say yes to the things that you know that you can fit into your schedule.
[06:32] I mean really that’s just good sense. Another example of this is Derek Sivers who is famous for saying if it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no. So if you’re not really excited about it, just say no because you want to keep space open for the things you’re really excited about. And remember, if you are saying yes to one thing, you are saying no to something else. So that’s a very important thing to keep in your mind that yes, your time will be used by whatever you’re saying yes to. Don’t say, Oh, I’m waiting for great things to come and don’t do anything. But note that if you are saying that you’re going to serve on a board, it will make it so that you know there are only so many boards that you can serve on. So make sure that you are saying yes to ones that you really want to be a part of so that you do have the time and the mental space to take on projects that you want to do.
[07:17] Let’s take a little bit of personal experience here because as I have said before, I know my own life the best to use examples for on the podcast. I’m not quite comfortable with using lots of examples from clients. I don’t know what the rules are for that. I, for now, will use my own examples and here are some times when I said yes that I was really happy that I said yes. One was, I was asked a few years ago to create a committee for the National MS Society and at the time I looked at the staff person who approached me like they were crazy because of the amount of commitment that I knew it would take to get this new committee off the ground. But I did it and I have never looked back and this year I actually have to double the size of it and I am somebody that really considers service a very important part of my life and so it aligns with my values, it aligns with my mission.
[08:07] One of my sisters does have MS, so I have that connection with it as well. That is something that I really had to think about and say, I know this is going to take a lot of time away from work, which mind you, I did have a different job at the time. I had my business prior to what I’m doing now. So, it is interesting how it all works out. Another thing that I said yes to was having a live TV show for one of the shopping networks. Also, when I was still in my prior career, I had the opportunity to have a live DIY show to be the host of it and it ended up being a little bit different than what it was originally proposed. I ended up basically creating a program and these kits and all of this stuff. And it was such a cool learning experience.
[08:49] And I ended up after a year deciding not to continue on because the company’s values and mine did not necessarily align perfectly, but also because going forward, doing the second year I was having to say no to a lot of things because of it. And I learned the cool things I wanted to and that was really the reason why I took it, but it was not something that aligned with what I wanted to be doing. So I moved on. So that is a yes and a no really that I was very happy about. Another one was, I know these are all work-related, but we’ll get to a personal one in a moment. Years ago I went full time with my jewelry company for the first time about, I want to say three years in or two years in. And while I was doing that, I was paying a PR agency a lot and I got to the point where I wanted to put more money into the business.
[09:37] So I was kind of looking at getting something maybe part-time. I had been in the restaurant industry in college and a little bit after college and I reached out to somebody who had a while before approached me about to be like a bartender or something and I called them and I was like, Hey, is that offer still on the table? And she said no, but I’m leaving. And you actually have been brought up as being a great general manager and I think you should go for this. At the time I, as I said, I was doing my jewelry business full time and it was a bit of a commitment and I ended up saying yes because it was a private club on the weekends and everything. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. The members were so instrumental in talking to me about business and about what I was doing.
[10:21] It was able to work around my schedule. It was, I stayed there until my next thing. I was very happy about saying yes to and that was moving to Austin from New York and then I ended up going full time and staying full time for the next seven years after that with jewelry, even though it took a little bit of time away from the jewelry, it was basically a way for me to have some very impressive mentors in my life that I got to have a lot of access to. I enjoyed the work and it made it so that I could really fund the business to go to the next level, not have to take money and to be completely self-funded. So they were all great reasons to say yes. Some I didn’t see coming. It was definitely a thing where like my gut was like, no, you are full time with what you’re doing, stay with what you’re doing.
[11:01] But it really, it worked out. Now here are some times that I have said no, that I’m really happy that I said no to twice I considered going to Grad school. One was to get my MFA and a second was to get my MBA. Both times I really weighed the options and realized that I did not want to do that and I’m very pleased with both of those decisions. The second is a very personal level and that is having kids. I made the decision not to have children and I’ve never regretted that one. And this is not about, we’re not having a moment about like, oh, do I regret things in life? It’s more like, making a decision and times that I was happy about those decisions and then times that I kind of wish I’d thought about it a little bit more. And the second time that I was really happy about doing it was really weighing the options of paying for local press.
[11:44] It was flattering that I was considered for this quote-unquote press, but really it’s basically an advertisement and it was not something that I knew would get anything for my company or my business and I opted to not do it and I’ve watched other people do it and get nothing out of it. And I was pretty pleased that I had not done that opportunity. Here are some things that I said yes for the wrong reasons and why it’s important to really think things out. At one point I hired a showroom and I had been doing big trade shows in Vegas for my jewelry company and I was pretty much flattered. It was probably ego. I was really excited about the anticipation and I didn’t research the showroom enough. I just kind of was like, oh, I need a show room. There you are, fantastic.
[12:24] You’ve come to me. It was a horrible fit. It did not work out. My Gut said no, I did it anyway. It was a colossal waste of money. That was a time that like my gut was telling me no and I didn’t listen. Again, you have to sort out between anxiety and excitement and figure out really what your gut is telling you, but a lot of times we do know, not to say you won’t make mistakes, we all make mistakes, but I just wanted to share some of these. The next is really, I have dated some people that I knew from the beginning that I shouldn’t have and I think I just felt rude saying no, it’s a stupid reason to go out with somebody. Feel totally justified in being rude. What’s the thing from My Favorite Murder? Don’t feel bad. Lock the door if there’s some creepy guy next to you, who cares if he feels bad, say no, I don’t want to go out with you.
[13:05] Who cares if they feel bad, they’ll go away anyway. Here’s the time that I said no, that my gut was screaming to say yes and I just moved to Austin, Texas. There were a lot of logistics involved. It was a little bit of a financial decision. My sister who lives with MS was in the process where she was being diagnosed and she called and she was like, can you fly to New York right now? And I was like, oh, I am not somebody that does well with fast changes of plans. I kind of freak out a little bit sometimes and get a little anxious. And I was like, oh my God, I don’t know what to do with the dog. Like, oh my God, tickets are so expensive. And I talked myself out of it and I have said to people that I think that that one moment in time is why I devote so much of my time to the National MS Society.
[13:46] It is the biggest regret of my life. And that is one of those examples where, *sigh*, you just sometimes have to say when you feel in your gut and it aligns with things, it can be, it can seem ridiculous at the moment, but you know, sometimes you have to say yes to them. All right, so let’s move on to more positive things. How to say no. We all like to say yes because if someone asks you to do something, it feels good to say yes. You’re making them happy. They are getting what they want. They smile a lot, they hug you. It’s exciting. Saying yes is easy to do, it’s really the easiest thing you can do. It’s not easy to say no. So how do you say no? Well, as Gretchen Rubin says, sometimes that 30 seconds of uncomfortableness, I’m paraphrasing here, is worth a lifetime of satisfaction that you didn’t do it and that’s so true.
[14:32] Sometimes you’re just uncomfortable for 30 seconds. Remember that. It’s just uncomfortable. It’s just uncomfortable. Everybody says no, it’s okay. So the number one part of being a good sayer of no is to be nice about it. “I would love to, but…”. Saying things, “I would love to do, but my schedule does not allow it at this time. I’ll let you know if it opens up.” Or “thank you for thinking of me, but I’m going to have to respectfully decline. I have too much on my plate right now that I would not be able to give the amount of commitment that this opportunity deserves.” You know, those are nice ways to say no. Specifically, there are things that you can use to say no. One is the sandwich technique. A positive statement, politely say no with a reason, positive statement. “Oh, I would love to so much.
[15:13] What a great opportunity. I’m so sorry. I’m not going to be able to, my schedule does not allow me right now. I really would love to be able to help out in some other way though.” That’s a nice way to do it. Another is to delay your response and quite honestly, you should always delay your response for a very big decision. You should think about it. You also want to make sure that you really do have the time to do it. You should make sure that you’re not just trying to make that person happy and please them. You should make sure that you’re doing it for all these reasons we’ve been talking about. Another is to provide alternate solutions, so suggest someone else who can do it. “Oh, thank you for inviting me to be on this board. What a wonderful mission you’re on. I am not able to do it at this time, but Frank has really been talking about how much he wants to step up his helping.” Or a way for you to be involved in a lesser way.
[15:57] I’ve been invited to be on boards where I’ve said, “I’m so sorry I cannot take this on at the moment. However, I can (usually I’m doing marketing of some sort for a board.) I can help out and be the person that posts on your Facebook say or something like that instead of being a chair on the board.” Now, another is to stand firm and protect your boundaries. That goes with all of them. No, full stop. No can be a sentence. Remember that and N O period. That is it. Sometimes that’s all you have to say. Especially if you’re really uncomfortable and you know you’re not going to handle that conversation well, just say no. For example, I do not do things on Sundays, ever. It’s my day without people. I call it Silent Sundays. When people make plans with me, I say no. Sometimes I’ll explain why, but more often I just say “No, I am not able to, no.”
[16:41] Because most of the time I don’t want to say to them, “I’m sorry I can’t hang out with you on that day. That is a day I don’t talk to people.” I do things around the house I read, I catch up on non-work things for the most part and you don’t have to even give the excuse. Which brings me to, avoid being overly apologetic and don’t get caught up in a list of excuses. Just the one excuse. That’s all you have to say. If you want to give a reason, you only have to give one clear reason. That’s all you have to do. You can say no with or without reason. You can say no with or without providing options. It really is up to you. But like I said, be nice about it because if somebody is asking you to do something, it usually means that they do value you and they do respect you and they do want you to be involved in something that they care a lot about.
[17:28] So just remember to be polite about it. Don’t be rude, but be firm and protect your boundaries. Either way, when you’re confronted with an opportunity, especially a big one, really think it through. Even if you know instantly that it’s going to be a yes. For example, I recently was asked to come on to a board and there was some emailing. They scheduled a phone call with me and when they called I said, yes, I am interested after the spiel. And she sort of said, well that was really fast. You need to think about it. And I said, well, quite honestly I started thinking about it when I first replied to your email when you asked about it. So as long as the thought is going into it, that’s all that matters. If by the time you talk to the person you know, you don’t have to say, Oh yes, then let me think about it.
[18:10] But put some thought into it. Don’t autopilot your response with an instant yes or no, but think about all of the aspects of it, the time that you’re committing, what you may be giving up doing, what other areas of your life it will influence, but please don’t say no to every opportunity because you may miss out on awesome things and don’t say yes to everything just because you feel that you should out of obligation. There are so many things for us to do in life and I hope you get to the really awesome, fun new things that are popping up as opportunity. Well, thank you for joining me today. I hope it was a little bit helpful and figuring out how to say yes and no to things. My name is Sierra Bailey and this is Doers Shakers Makers, a podcast for go getters. If you enjoyed this, please subscribe and if you’re listening with apple podcasts, rating and reviewing helps this podcast get found. Of course, stars are always welcome, but a little review goes a very long way. Even if it’s just a sentence or two. I’ll be back next Monday to keep you inspired and get you doing shaking and making.
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