How to Stop People-Pleasing And Set Better Boundaries In Business

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If it doesn’t come naturally to you, saying NO can be an incredibly difficult task.

You feel that despair in the pit of your stomach, that reluctance to vocalize your thoughts, and can’t explain why you always feel the need to people-please. 

In this blog, I want to share some of my thoughts on the importance of saying no.

ESPECIALLY as a leader! 

I've had issues with saying no in the past, and so have many of the clients I’ve worked with. We’ll talk about the importance of saying no, how to say no, why it's sometimes difficult for us as human beings to say no. 

Let’s go! 👇🏾

Why is it so hard to say NO?

One reason saying no can feel so tough is because you’ve been designed to live in harmony. It’s natural to want to be agreeable and be part of a community. 

So when you say no to someone, you’re going against these instincts, and your brain might rush to create a  narrative. You might start jumping to conclusions like: 

  • “Oh, they're not going to like me…”
  • “I'm scared of missing out on something…” 
  • “I might be missing out on money if I say no…” 

You don't want to disappoint others - and you don't want to potentially disrespect them.

Sometimes culture or tradition may play a role in our inability to say no. Perhaps we feel peer pressure, that we don’t have a choice in the matter, or that we’ll be left out of a group. The pressure to say yes can intensify when the person asking us is a boss or family member. 

In business, whether we’re conscious of it or not, we’re always wanting to be liked. You want your team to like you. You want your clients to like you. You want to build relationships and it’s hard to say no because you’re afraid of being seen as a bad leader, a bad worker, a bad person - you get the idea.

The first step in getting better at people-pleasing and putting up boundaries is recognizing that it's a HARD thing to do. 

But you can build routines and rituals that make it easier for you to say no. You can say no in a way that not only benefits you but also benefits the other party. 

Did you know that saying no can be the most effective way to build better relationships, better products, and better businesses? 

If you think about it, it's a win-win.

What happens when you don’t say NO?

There’s no way around it - not being able to say no gets in the way of our ability to show up. By constantly saying yes all of the time, we diminish our performance and productivity. 

Your priorities get put on the back burner

When you’re unable to say no and set proper boundaries, other people's priorities will take precedence over yours. 

It’s so important for us to know what our priorities are so we can say, “this doesn't fit with me right now.”

There will always be important or ‘urgent’ tasks that others want you to do. 

But you have a choice.

Will you constantly give in to other people’s urgencies, or stay focused on the things YOU know will move the needle in your business? 

It’s important you don’t let other people’s needs put your priorities on hold.

You neglect self-care

Productivity is not just about doing...it’s also about resting. Having the time and space to rejuvenate, reflect, and rest.

If we don't say no we will NOT have time to recover. Soon, we’ll end up stressed and frustrated, but feeling too mentally and physically exhausted to make any real change.

This is a dangerous place to end up. 

Boundaries allow you to sleep well, eat well, exercise - whatever you need to do in order to show up and be an effective leader.

You miss out on quality time

If you have people-pleasing tendencies at work, you’ll find yourself missing out on quality time with your partner, friends, and family. 

That means people who aren't even necessarily important to us can chip away at our time for our important clients, our families, and our hobbies.

Knowing what your priorities are will allow you to focus your time wisely, and not only invest in yourself and your business, but in your physical and mental health as well. 

You’re not able to say YES to important things

When you people-please, your calendar is completely crowded with things that you said yes to, just because someone asked. This leaves absolutely no whitespace in your schedule for the things that are going to have a real impact on your business’s bottom line. 

Remember, saying NO is a skill that can be learned

It's important to recognize that saying no is something that you can practice and improve upon over time.

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you turn someone down. You can use scripts and templates so you know exactly what to say when someone sends over a request you just can’t meet. 

Having that process to back you up can make it so much easier.

Which leads me to my next point. 👇🏾

What can you do to say NO?

You can create a script, a template, or have a place to send people to.

First thing’s first. I suggest you think about the activities or tasks or requests that you will not honor immediately or you may not want to honor at all. Let me give you some examples:

One of the biggest requests I get is - “Can we have a meeting today?” 

Don’t get me wrong, I get SUPER excited that someone wants to talk to me and it could potentially lead to business. But instead of jumping in, I step back and recognize that having a meeting today disrupts my schedule. 

I work better when I'm planning my meetings out a week or two in advance. 

That question of, “can I have a meeting today?” can be incredibly overwhelming. 

My blanket rule around same-day meetings stops that from happening, eliminates the pressure, and leads to better quality service.

Another area you might find yourself needing to set boundaries around your services. 

If you don’t want to or are unable to offer a service, then a list of people that you can refer people to can help.

Perhaps they come to you for a specific thing that you no longer do? 

When someone comes to me with a request like this, l share my sales page with them to let them know what I *currently* do. Then, it's up to them to decide whether or not I fit into what they’re looking for. 

Whether it's a referral page, a sales page, or a PDF, having a place to send them rather than an endless email exchange means you're not wasting their time and they’re not wasting your time. They can decide whether or not you are someone who can support them, and if not, move on. 

How to change your mindset

You have to accept that some people who come to you won't always align with your priorities. 

By having these processes, you're allowing them to learn more about you and allowing yourself to move forward in your business.

You need to find what works for you. 

Perhaps it’s:

  • Using a calendar app to manage your time
  • Having a referrals list when you cannot serve someone’s requests
  • Creating a morning routine to structure your day

There’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach.

The first step in creating a method for how to say no is recognizing that there are some things that you will not do, some things that you may defer, and some things you may delegate. 

Practice saying no.

Make sure that you're focusing on the most important responsibilities and that you're creating time for the people that are important to you as well - whether those are important clients or close friends and family. 

If you’re interested in building your confidence by saying no and prioritizing, click to apply for my 1:1 coaching here.

Remember - don’t forget that you CAN get better at boundaries and people-pleasing with practice. I know myself and my clients certainly have. You’ve got this. 💪🏾

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