In my early 30s, I half-heartedly said “yes” to a lot of requests.
I remember clearly how it used to feel when I was asked to do something I didn’t really want to do. First came the sense of pressure and obligation. I would imagine what people would say or feel if I were to say no, and I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I would consider saying “no” in some cases, but mostly I’d just say yes and rationalize my decision.
Of course, you can imagine how I felt once it came time for the actual commitment that I’d only said “yes” to out of obligation, whether it was a social invitation, a work-related project, or a volunteer commitment.
I know some of you are nodding your heads. It’s pretty difficult to actually enjoy a task that you’re only doing because you feel like you have to. Instead of enjoying it, you tend to feel resentful.
Several years ago, though, I decided to stop the crazy and start saying “no.” It has made a huge difference in my wellbeing and in my career, especially as my kids have gotten older and my career has matured.
You can do it, too. It’s not always easy, but I promise it’s worth it. It starts with reframing your thinking. Let’s go through the steps together.
The Dangers of Saying “Yes” Too Often
My big revelation about people-pleasing came when I realized a few things.
- My own happiness shouldn’t be second priority to everyone else’s.
- I can take responsibility for my happiness and wellbeing.
I started to see the importance of my role as a proactive gatekeeper for myself, my family, and my business. I decided that it was my job to filter the things, people and activities that came into each one of those channels as best I could.
You can’t control everything that happens in your life. And the goal isn’t to stay happy all the time. The goal is to take mindful notice of which things add your life and improve it, and which things distract from your goals.
(Related post: The Beauty of Taking Full Responsibility of Your Design Business)
Any event, project, task, or favor that you say “yes” to necessarily takes time away from something else. That means that taking on work solely to please someone else potentially takes energy away from the work that truly brings you joy in life — the work that you wouldn’t hesitate for a second to say “yes” to.
Perhaps just as importantly, I realized that saying “yes” wasn’t necessarily the kind thing to do, even if my goal was to make people happy. That’s because I wasn’t being totally honest. Good relationships require directness and frankness. And in many cases, the people I was trying to please wouldn’t have even necessarily wanted me to say yes to their request unless I was truly enthusiastic about doing it.
Honestly is a beautiful thing.
So, people-pleasing puts more of our relationships and our personal satisfaction at risk. But it can also jeopardize individual design projects, as I’ve seen and experienced personally.
Here’s what happens: A client makes a request for a change that jeopardizes the integrity of the design, then designers simply accommodate the client’s request or scramble to please them. Client changes often end up compromising the integrity of the entire project. That makes the job unsuitable for your portfolio, and in many cases, the client won’t like the end result, either.
Instead, interior designers should stand boldly in their designs.
That doesn’t mean automatically saying “no” to any changes. But it does require standing firmly in your “expert” status, explaining why you made your original choices and explaining the potential repercussions of the suggested change.
People-pleasing invites mediocrity, and mediocrity will kill your design work. For your interior design business to succeed, you need to stand out from the crowd.
As Warren Buffett says, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything.”
So, how do you know what to say no to and what to say yes to?
In short, get a clear picture of what success would look and feel like to you. This vision of your best life should act as your compass as you decide how to spend your time. If you’re wondering whether to take on a certain project, make a client-requested change, or even travel to a certain conference, ask yourself whether it will get you closer to your ultimate goal.
Tips for Saying “No”
The idea of saying “no” seems pretty appealing until it’s actually time to do it.
The key is to anticipate the complexity of emotions that you’ll have when you let someone down and be ready to work through them.Expect the guilt. Expect the insecurity. Expect the discomfort. You can embrace those feelings and still not act on them. Click To Tweet
Embrace all of those feelings and acknowledge where they’re coming from as they arise. These feelings are normal, but that doesn’t mean that you have to act on them.
Keep your vision of your best life in mind, and take comfort from the fact that each time you feel uncomfortable, there’s the potential for personal growth. As I wrote in my post on the beauty of discomfort, good things never come in comfort zones.
Plus, practicing using a polite-but-firm script can alleviate a lot of the perceived pressure or anxiety surrounding turning people down.
We give you several examples, including the language to use, in our bonus download below:
Finally, if you want more guidance on how to be a good gatekeeper for your own interior design business, please reach out to me.