Something I have realized in my years as a business owner—and as a person—is that the common denominator of a lot of people’s problems is not being able to say “no.” When we learn to say no, we can focus on moving forward, nourish our passions and, most importantly, protect our mental health. No good can come from people-pleasing behaviors and constantly denying our own needs.
So, why is saying no so hard?
Although a good question, it is a loaded one. Many factors play into the answer, including the simple fact that when people ask for a favor or for you to take something on, a lot of emotions come up. Saying no to these requests can be perceived as selfish—whether it is an internal struggle or a struggle with saying no to a client, coworker, employee or employer. Some people may take your “no” as not caring about them, or others may see it as a sign of weakness.
Think about when you have to tell a client that you are unable to groom their dog for one reason or another and how upsetting it typically is for both of you. Or maybe it’s time to tell an employee that their goals for their own career don’t align with your business model. It’s a difficult conversation to have, and it’s one that leaves both of you distressed. Human brains want good, positive experiences. We crave the “feel good” effect that comes from endorphins, and we don’t want to be seen as difficult.
This is even truer for people who are a part of the service industry. We have an image (a brand) to uphold. Society is quick to turn a “no” into a bad review or negative gossip about a business. The fear of the negativity that can fall upon a business plays a huge role in the difficulty many business owners and employees have saying no. This fear causes a downward spiral because we are not being true to ourselves, and this constant fighting with ourselves leads to burnout.
Did any of this resonate with you?
The odds are stacked against us when it comes to people-pleasing, so it’s no wonder we have such a hard time. Saying yes when people ask us for something is more natural, positive and what we are trained to do when providing a service in today’s society.
Ultimately, I got sick of being burnt out, trying to live up to society’s unrealistic expectations of grooming, and keeping up with the demands of potential and current employees, so I knew I had to find a way to change it. An active change had to be made to protect my mental health. But no matter what I read or did, it never seemed to stick, and I always found myself saying yes when I wanted to say no. I followed tips and tricks exactly as they were laid out and still wasn’t seeing results.
The problem was that I wasn’t utilizing what works for me and my thought processes. I needed something more than, “Do this repetitively, and change will come easier.” No matter what I tried, I kept falling back into old habits.
So, I tried something new. I started to break each “no” down. Once I defined the no and the reason I wanted to say it, I could come up with ways to stand behind it. Next, I asked myself: How can I say no but yes at the same time? Following those steps, I found my own system that works for me. I am now able to say no without feeling guilty.
So, just how can we say no without feeling guilty or giving in?
Here a few tips that have worked for me:
1. List it out. We all have a list of things we want to say no to for one reason or another. List them out so they are not taking up space in your head. Don’t overthink it; just start writing. If you are a person who has a hard time concentrating in one sitting, try keeping a notebook with you or entering them in your phone. As you go about your day, jot things down when they pop up. Take your big list and narrow it down by placing each item in a category. I usually have two categories: personal and professional.
2. Focus. Pick one listed item to come up with a gameplan for. This doesn’t have to be the item that’s most important to you. You can pick something that may be easiest to work with at the moment. Sometimes the easier ones will give you momentum as you work on them so you can build up to the harder ones.
3. Define your “why.” It is important to understand why you need to say no to this item. Your why will help you stay on track when following through with your no.
4. Plan for adversities. What could pop up that would stop you from following through with your no? Here’s a helpful hint when listing these things: It is usually the excuses that you tell yourself, so dig through those first.
5. Find the “yes.” We are wired to say yes, so why do we feel that we have to work against that? Come up with some alternatives to your no that you can say yes to. These options need to align with you and your values or else you will not stick with saying no.
6. Practice. Start these practices right away. The longer you dwell on them, the harder they will be to implement.
Pricing is a great example of something many business owners and groomers struggle to change. Raising prices can be scary because you know the client probably won’t be happy with having to pay more money. Regardless, we need to raise prices for a multitude of reasons; being able to pay competitive wages, pay for increased costs, manage inflation, account for advancing skill levels, etc. When we raise prices, we fear conflict, getting our feelings hurt or losing clients. But those fears are some of the adversities we should plan for that could get in the way of saying no.
Now, what kind of yes’s can we give to our clients to stand behind the price increase? Can they come in more often to offset a bigger increase? Can you go shorter with the cut to lengthen the time in between grooms? Can you add in an extra service that doesn’t cost much but adds value for the client? Whatever works best for you and your business model can be the answer to walking that line between yes and no. Once you’ve decided what your yes’s are, you can start saying no with more confidence and less conflict.
This system has allowed my groomers to become more confident in their choices and make saying no so much easier. It allows me to make smart business decisions and stand behind them.
People will always have something to say, and while we cannot control other people’s reactions, we can control the decisions we make behind growing our businesses. Make saying no easier from the start so you will have more time to focus on the things that matter to you and make sense for your business. ✂️