Or: Trust the Process
Over the last month I created a talk The Wisdom of Saying No for Women in Leadership groups and life threw me a bit of a curveball that fits right into the topic.
In the Wisdom of Saying No I talk about the importance of knowing your very own values, and how helpful it is in really stepping up and saying No to something.
And still, when I got a request that went absolutely against my core values of creativity and my freedom of expression I went through a bit of an emotional rollercoaster ride as I felt torn between my need for individuality and my need for connection.
Saying No is actually not that easy and it often is not just an either-or decision. There are tons of nuances and to reach the best decision I realized I had to actually go through the whole rollercoaster ride and trust that it will work out.
What happens on the rollercoaster ride
(or why to trust the process)
When we as human beings are triggered there is a pattern that always happens. And this happens no matter how much personal development we have done or how aware we are of ourselves, our needs, and our values.
First - our core emotions (fear, anger, sadness, disgust) show up. And they have to show up because they alert our body and our brain to react. That happens unconsciously and can’t be controlled (no matter how hard we try). They pump the information of a risk to our system, and release a lot of energy that allows us to react to a perceived threat. Even if that only has to do with saying NO to something, and we do not feel all this to the extreme, our body and brain gets activated this way and starts reacting. We often call that” fight, flight, freeze mechanism”.
Second - our body gets on high alert, our muscles get ready, and the high energy systems we do not need for immediate survival are shut down (at least somewhat and you can observe that easily when you realize that your brain and your digestion are not running as usual). That is the moment we can feel physical discomfort (pit in stomach, shortness of breath, muscle tension…). Old behavioral patterns and habits can be recognized here. When we like to hide from conflict we might observe a pit in our stomach, shortness of breath, a squeezing in our chest. When we like to fight, we might feel our muscle tensing, particularly the back and shoulder muscles etc.
And Third - our brain wants to get a say, too! However, as body and emotion are so occupied, the brain scrambles a bit and shoots out mainly old warnings in forms of Inner Critic voices. The brain is not yet able to form proper, helpful, cohesive thoughts apart from run, hide, fight etc.
Using Body - Heart - Head to gain clarity and say No
Knowing all this, we actually can use it to prepare us to say No.
First and most important is the body here: Take a step back, take a couple of deep breaths and, if possible, gain some distance (physical and timely), so that you can respond appropriately and not just blindly react or say nothing or yes to something you do not want to say yes to. To gain that extra space you can say something like: “Oh, let me think about that, I will get back to you later.”
Depending on your needs, you either might need to go for brisk walk (or any other kind of high-energy exercise) or you might need to do the opposite and do something soothing and calming like meditation, yoga, taking a bubble bath etc. That can be different for each person and/or situation.
Regardless, either way will calm our nervous system and, therefore, our emotions and our mind.
And now we can either tackle our emotions or our thoughts first. Most of the time we do both more or less simultaneously. This is not a linear process, there are a lot of loops and ups-and-downs on the ride. (Don’t forget it’s a rollercoaster.)
Our mind is likely occupied by our inner critics. The voices in our heads that tell us we are not good enough, we shouldn’t be such pushovers, etc. (fill in the blanks here - you all heard them). Reasoning with these voices is very hard to do alone. Depending how much you have worked with your Inner Critics, you can either do your favorite practices or (my advice) call your best friend, mentor, coach, mom to talk about it. It should be someone that is not just ranting with you, but able to listen and honestly giving you some new perspectives. Below I added a few reflective questions that can help you along.
And as much as we sometimes like to or are used to, we can’t suppress our emotions here. They have super valuable insights. Our emotions (anger, fear, sadness, disgust, joy, excitement) hold valuable information.* They are there in the first place to protect us. Listen! Feel them! According to Joan I. Rosenberg* they will pass within 90 seconds max. In my case I often react with anger. Anger is a protective / fight emotion and in my case it highlights that I feel helpless in this moment, I feel threatened or very vulnerable. In the past that meant I might have had a volcanic eruption. Since I know that anger is more like a guard dog, I use that information to find out what I really care about and what I want and that will then inform my action and decision making.
And that is why you need to stay on the rollercoaster ride, as each step will give you valuable information and helps you feel stronger in your decision making.
Reflections on the rollercoaster ride:
What emotions are triggered here? And what do they want to protect me from?
What sensations are running through my body? Do I need to calm and soothe myself or do I need to release some excess energy?
What thoughts are running through my mind? Are they really true? Or are Inner Critics occupying my mind? Questions to ask yourself (apart from the above):
What needs are currently not met?
In what way do I want to honor my core values?
For the sake of what? Is there something that I have to sacrifice to say No, and if so, is that really aligned with my values and is it really worthwhile?
If you want to know more about the Wisdom of Saying No, join me in my upcoming webinar June 25, 2019
I am also very happy to talk to your women leader’s group or team. Please contact me directly if you are interested in this.