One of the things many women struggle with is saying no. Not because we’re inherently incapable of saying it, but because of our good girl training.
Good girl training teaches us to be compliant and accommodating. To put other people’s needs before our own.
This means that when we’re confronted with a situation that doesn’t match our wants or desires, we suppress them first. We say yes in order to please others, even when that yes leads to a quiet simmering resentment within.
This conditioning sets up a certain set of expectations around how women should behave in business. It leads people to feel very comfortable asking women to compromise themselves. It also leads to a lot of push back when women say no.
Sometimes the push back comes from a simple desire to get one’s own way. But this is still impacted by societal conditioning. It plays out most noticeably, for example, when the person used to holding power, such as a white man (conditioned to assume other people will comply with his demands), is told ‘No’.
The negative reaction to being told no is surprising in and of itself. The man it’s used to it.
But more than that, he’s being denied by someone who, according to the hierarchical systems we all live in, has no right to autonomously express their own needs (whether that’s a woman, a person of colour, a person with a disability, or a trans person).
This is why you’ll very quickly see their energy shift from request to, ‘How dare you say no to me!’.
There are other layers to this too. Women who haven’t unpacked their own patriarchal conditioning will often be triggered by women who are no longer ‘playing by the rules’.
(Think of the women who turned on other women during the witch hunts. Or women who vote for men who are patently misogynist, because unquestioningly supporting the interests of men is just what they do.)
If you’re running a business that’s focused on supporting other women, this creates its own set of interesting dynamics. You’ll find that some women expect you to capitulate to every request, simply because you’re a woman. They’ll make wildly inappropriate requests, or they’ll accuse you of a lack of kindness or compassion when you hold them accountable for their decisions. In short, they’ll fight to stay disempowered and unconsciously try to hold you there too.
All of this is at stake when women say no.
Which is why we all need to practice it. As often as possible.
When you do that, you become more comfortable with setting clean boundaries. In other words, you become comfortable with the idea of saying no. You become less concerned about what others will think of you and more comfortable with caring for yourself.
As you’re building that habit, it can be useful to see how others are doing it. To see what a clean and compassionate no looks like in practice. That’s what this recipe is all about. We’ve got scripts you can use to support you in saying no. Scroll down to check them out.
Here are the scripts to try out. Identify a comparable scenario to one in your own life. Try the words on for size. Adjust them as necessary to suit your vernacular and circumstances.
Take it step by step and be kind to yourself. Saying no is a habit you build just like any other. Each time you take the necessary action, you’ll be moving closer to making it a natural way of being. When you fall back, notice that’s happened and re-commit to using the script next time. Eventually, you won’t think twice about it. It’ll simply be your new normal.