Keeping our commitments is an important part of a sane, healthy life. At the same time, we sometimes find ourselves trapped by something we said “Yes” to. Whether you now have a conflict, can no longer participate in the project, or simply have overbooked yourself, it’s sometimes essential to uncommit. When we do so, we need to do this intentionally and gracefully, to keep your reputation intact and your relationships strong. In an article in Harvard Business Review, Melody Wilding offered 6 tips for how to gracefully handle this in the business world. I think these tips can also help us in recovery.
Here’s her list:
Consider the cost: Before you deliver the news, make sure that backing out is in fact the right decision by working out what backing out will cost you in terms of priorities, skills, and opportunities. Make sure that you’re not making a worse choice by walking away.
Shift your perspective: If you struggle with guilt, look at the big picture. You might have felt like you’re being generous and helpful by agreeing, but if you can’t follow through on your promises, it’s not a recipe for high performance, personal happiness, or strong relationships. (This is also great advice to work through BEFORE you say Yes!)
Be diplomatic but truthful: When it comes time to deliver your message, be direct, thoughtful, assertive, clear, and above all else, honest. Providing a short explanation about why you are doing this can help them understand why the change is necessary.
Preserve the relationship: It’s appropriate to apologize and take responsibility for any mistake, misunderstanding, or simply overextending yourself while you maintain healthy boundaries. Understand the impact that dropping out will have on them and let them know that you understand the cost to them of your new choice. After all, the other person was counting on you and may have been making plans around your participation.
Offer an alternative: As you back out, you can avoid leaving the person in a lurch by suggesting an alternative. Perhaps you can introduce them to someone else who can help, or a resource such as a community, podcast, or some training materials that might help fill the gap. Where you can help them work around you stepping back, do so.
Learn from it: Melody points out the learning opportunity that can come from this hard situation: “Backing out of commitments isn’t fun or comfortable, but it can provide a valuable lesson and an impetus to overcome people-pleasing tendencies that may be standing in your way of being more successful. Use this as a learning opportunity to build greater discernment around what you do — or don’t — agree to in the future. Going forward, try to say yes only to opportunities that excite you, and ones you have room for.”
I’d add two more points to this list:
Determine why you want to back out. It’s easy in life to fall into one of two extremes: sticking with a commitment regardless of the cost to us and those around us; or, walking away at the first sign of difficulty. Healthy relationships require that we take the more difficult path down the middle. Working through the reasons for WHY to back out can help you make sure that you’re being healthy in your choices, both now and in the future.
Determine why you said “yes”. Am I saying “yes” in a circumstance that I may need to back out of later because I’m longing for approval? Is the relationship unhealthy, so the other person has unreasonable power to affect my choice? Am I not considering the consequences of my decisions before I make them? Examining HOW we make decisions can help us make better choices in the future and can help us see problems in our life that we may have been denying, such as co-dependency.
If you struggle with co-dependency and over-committing, you may have said “yes” to try to feel better, to feel that sense of reward and satisfaction from “being needed.” As reality sets in, you may now feel helpless and that you have no choice, unable to break away from the cycle of behavior that causes this situation to repeat.
If you do, your Celebrate Recovery® group can help you find your path to recovery from co-dependency. You may want to join into a Step Study to understand the hurts, habits, and hang-ups that contribute to your struggle. Talk with your CR Sponsor to about ways to build in safer boundaries on the path to recovery. We are here to help you along the way!
Original Article: https://hbr.org/2021/09/how-to-say-no-after-saying-yes