Have You Ever Experienced This?
You’re on a roll and so proud of yourself. For some time now you’ve managed to regularly carve out the time to exercise after work every day. You feel great, look great, sleep deeper, have more focus and productivity at work and your lifted mood has improved your relations at home.
You feel more yourself, in fact a better version of yourself and life is running much more smoothly as a result. One day your boss calls you into his office and begins praising your performance and offers you a position with more responsibility that would require you to stay later for more pay and bonuses.
What do you say?
The Inner Battle Begins
With sweaty palms you thank him for the great offer and tell him you’ll get back to him. On the commute home the inward battle begins. You have already seen how people in that same position have had their entire life consumed by it.
You want to be on good terms with your boss and the extra cash flow would be nice, but estimate that a good chunk of it would just go to self medicating activities like more coffee in the morning, sleeping pills at night, junk food to keep up the crazy work pace and gifts to your family to compensate for your absence. You realize you really don’t want it but would declining, risk your current position?
We all face moments like these where to say yes would mean painful consequences for ourselves, yet to say no would mean the risk of disappointing those people important to us.
If I’ve learned anything, it’s that to prioritize some things, consequently means to say no to other things. Life is a constant editing process that’s for sure.
Since having regularly made the time to be with my own thoughts over the last 2 decades, I’ve gratefully experienced clarity around my priorities. In rearranging my life to reflect them, getting better at saying no has been a hard won and non negotiable skill. I’ve mentioned the importance of saying no before on this blog here and shared about my own battles with my conditioning to people please here .
Parenting Method Translates to A Setting Boundaries Method
I’ve struggled with many uncomfortable situations in which I’ve clumsily asserted a “No” and after years of trial and error there is one method that I’ve become increasingly comfortable with that is as efficient as it is ego-bruise-friendly’ if you know what I mean.
I picked up this technique from having observed parent friends of mine and seasoned teachers I admire, in action with children. After having used it with the children I work with and my own son I began adjusting it to use in my “asserting no” conversations with the adults in my life. Before I let you know how I use in my adult life I’ll explain what it looks like when in use with children. In essence I’m course correcting a child by first acknowledging something great about what their doing, following it up with the behavior change I want to see, then giving praise for the first thing I mentioned or even better, a new thing I’ve noticed.
It would sound something like this:
At home with my son.
Me: “I noticed you worked so hard on your Lego city sweety, it’s amazing with the additional tower of doom you added. I also noticed that you built it in the middle of the dining room walkway. I’d hate for anyone to bump into it, what if you carefully moved it further into the corner of the room where no one walks? I want this masterpiece to last, I think the odds of that are better in that corner over there.”
At a group of 6 and 7 year old boys at a BBQ
Me:“I noticed you guys are having so much fun playing flying ninjas over there, you all move so fast I can hardly see you! I also noticed there are people walking back and forth in this area and that one of you almost bumped Mr. Avila as he carried that heavy tray of food. What if you practice your master ninja moves over there where no one is in danger of being accidentally hurt by your turbo, super strength, ninja moves?”
The mind of the child naturally captures the first and last thing said more then the middle: “Your creation is amazing, I don’t want it to get destroyed and you are so fast, you’re moves have super strength!”
In The Adult World
This method in adult conversations makes saying no incredibly easier for the giver as for the receiver. It’s essentially made up of three parts
- A Firm No
- Alternatives and praise
The firm no is buffered by the soft gratitude, acknowledgment and praise aspect so it’s sting is felt less.
The Sandwich No, “Soft Upper Bread” layer
Acknowledgement of one or two of these:
- Them reaching out to you
- Their trust in you
- Your relationship to them and what it means to you
- What their request means to you if anything
The Meaty Middle
A no that can be delivered with an:
- I’m not available
- Unfortunately I can’t commit,
- I can’t make it
- Sadly I can’t make it
- Unfortunately I’m booked for something else at that time
- I’m not taking on anything else right now
- That won’t work for me
- I won’t be able to make that work
- I’d love to but can’t
- It’s a great opportunity but I’m going to have to take a pass this time
The “Soft Lower Bread” Layer
Direct them to alternatives by closing the topic with:
- What you are available for
- In time
- What else could help them in terms of
- A person
- A site
- An organization
- A book
- A course
Using this in real life could look something like the following.
As a volunteer I’m asked to take on another volunteer position.
Volunteer manager: “Hi Lorena the xyz has come up and we were thinking you’d be the perfect candidate for that.”
Me: “What a special opportunity, I’m so flattered you thought of me considering how important this position is. Unfortunately I can’t commit to that right now but what I am available to help with is ________, in this time frame______. I also know person “#1, person” #2 and person #3 would be more then qualified and able to help out.”
The previously mentioned situation of being offered a position at work that entails more hours with higher pay
Employer : “We are impressed with your skill and capability and want to offer you the _xyz___position”
Me : “I’m grateful that you would consider me for such an important responsibility and hold in esteem your trust. I don’t want to damage that trust by accepting an offer I can’t fully deliver on as I know, considering the other priorities in my life right now, I wouldn’t do it justice. I can however offer help in finding other potential candidates for this position and personally think person #1 and person #2 would be more then qualified, capable and excited to take on such a commitment.”
The “sandwiched no” method has gratitude and appreciation before and after the no. This combination validates that even though you’re saying no to them, you still value them. This method eases the sharpness of the no while acknowledging their value, having them walk away feeling that in place of being let down, they’ve been given something.
A Compassionately More Assertive Life is the Way to Go
Getting practice with the “Sandwich No” has made having boundaries much easier. It’s also helped me clearly weed out the people and things I definitely want to say no to since there is always the presumptuous person every now and then that cannot take no for an answer. Those are the people that after having received one of my sandwich no’s, stand out in my radar of whom to more assertively avoid since the situation makes it clear that they have an unspoken agenda. I hope this has been of help to you as I know that this way of saying no has made it easier to simplify my life and stay true to my priorities
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