Don't tell yourself "no" 🛑 before they do!
Once upon a time I was part of a work team that had a standing meeting at 6:30 pm on Thursdays.
I hated it!
I am fiercely protective of my weeknights. I have young twins and a husband I want to spend time with, plus slew of quirky hobbies (like upcycling old furniture, my T.J.Maxx shopping habit, and finding ways to exercise outside in a foot of snow), and like most of us, I badly need time “off-the-clock” to feel like me.
Despite hating this awful meeting time, I continued to show up at 6:30 pm for months. Every single time I felt annoyed and resentful — before, after, and during the meetings. I honestly felt like the exploding head emoji! 🤯
So what happened?
Well, first I stewed in my resentment for nearly a year. Then, I finally decided to speak up. When I did, and I proposed switching to a meeting time that was within everyone's workday, the group quickly said "Yes."
Wait, whaaaat?!! It was that easy to get what I wanted.
So what took me so long to advocate for myself?
I was telling myself NO before they did. I continued to say “yes” to an unwelcome commitment, and it was like saying a loud, screaming “no” to myself the whole time.
What I learned that day is that you don’t have to settle for "less-than-great" in your life. Instead, say yes to what YOU want. This means being the Chief Negotiation Officer of your time and energy.
It’s one of the best ways to build your confidence and self-esteem because it reinforces that you live your life on your own terms and that you're in the driver seat of your own life — not by a default setting, or according to someone else’s preferences.
Quick Confidence Tips to Becoming Your Own Chief Negotiator:
Interpersonal: Start using “let’s” language. When we ask questions that begin with “can,” they come off as permission-seeking. Instead, say yes to your own plan of action! You don’t need others’ consent to speak your mind, so try an approach that’s “permission-free”: substitute “can” with “let’s”. This way, you create buy-in for your idea, all by using a term that inspires cooperation and forward momentum. Here’s a simple example: substitute “Can we regroup as a team to deal with the remaining issues?” with “Let’s meet again next week to address these remaining items.”
Embodied: Take up space at the table. When you're seated — whether virtually or in-person — bolster your body confidence by taking up the entire chair. Say you’re proposing to a senior person that you come off a project to free up your time. Envelop your seat, with your back firmly supported, shoulders back, and your legs comfortably planted to the ground. Sitting this way shows self-belief and puts more power behind your words. It’s the opposite of perching on the edge of your seat, or hunching your shoulders down, which can make you look nervous or tentative.
Mindset: “If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me.” I use this power mantra all the time. It reminds me that I am the number one agent of change in my career and life, and the same is true for you. You’re the Chief Negotiator of your title, your role, your advancement, and your time. So instead of putting all the focus on them (whoever they are), focus on *self-directed* action. Claim that up-for-grabs power that’s sitting on the table — and go after what you need.
It sounds easy, and it IS. With practice, you’ll learn to embrace any nerves or fears you have around what-they-might-think-of-me, and go forth and advocate for what you need anyway.
Of course, it doesn’t mean you’ll always get precisely what you want. My team could have insisted on keeping the 6:30 meeting time, and then I would’ve had to make some decisions. But here’s what I know for sure: you will miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
Now, I want to hear from you: what’s a time you said NO to a sub-par work expectation or inconvenience? What did you do to say YES to yourself? Let me know in the comments!