Woman with brown hair and pink shirt holds both hands, palms, out, in front of her body as if to say "stop."

Transitioning from a well-paid corporate job to building a successful solo business was, for me, a daunting goal with a lot of trial and error.

But when I was laid off from my corporate job in 2000, I needed to reinvent myself. I discovered the emerging field known as life coaching.

There were many clients along the way whom I didn’t say “no” to because I was afraid I wouldn’t have enough money to make it through the month, let alone build the successful business I wanted.

As I eventually discovered, this was the wrong way to grow a business. 

Proper Boundaries Means Saying “No”

Setting proper boundaries is essential for many reasons; one of the most overlooked or counterintuitive reasons is identifying and implementing boundaries creates structure. This structure is necessary to set and achieve goals and build a successful business or relationship.

Saying “yes” to everyone or working harder is not always the answer. Using the power of “no” can make the difference for your practice.

When you don’t set limits on your time and energy, you can slowly drift away from your goals and values — slipping into a self-sabotaging and continual cycle of burn-out, anger, resentment, overwhelm, frustration and disappointment (not to bum you out), none of which will lead you to a prosperous and fulfilling life and business. 

I learned this the hard way. I worried if I said “no” to just one client, I wouldn’t make my bills, or worse, put food on the table.

And so, after a lifetime of living with the self-sabotaging pattern of saying “yes” when I often wanted to say “no,” I dedicated myself to transforming these patterns into a system to confidently set and convey my boundaries and stay focused on what was most important to me.

I learned ultimately the more laser-focused and structured my goals were, the sooner I would reach them and the less fearful I felt. It makes sense, right? 

6 Steps to Get to the Power of No

When you are not used to setting boundaries, it can feel overwhelming, among other emotions. To make it easier for my clients and students to make these changes, I created The TAILOR System.

TAILOR is an acronym for the six steps to empowered boundary-setting. This mnemonic device makes it simple to remember the steps so you can accomplish your goal of boundary-setting and create the life you want. 

“T” is for Trigger. Learn to identify specifically what situations, memories, language, or behaviors trigger your negative feelings of anger, resentment, guilt, hurt, disappointment, etc. Ask yourself: What specifically triggered my negative emotions?

 “A” is for Awareness and Acknowledgment. Learn to become aware of your triggers, negative feelings, and self-sabotaging behaviors when they are about to happen or are happening. Learn the power and necessity of acknowledgment of self and others.

“I” is for Issue and Intuition. Identify what the real underlying issue is. Ask yourself: What is underneath my anger, frustration, guilt, overwhelm, or other initial reactions? Become aware of, and tap into your intuition. 

“L” is for Language. Develop new supportive, confident, and empowering language to communicate your expectations and your boundary line.

“O” is for Outcome. Identify the specific outcome you want, instead of the disempowering one you’ve been settling for. 

“R” is for Response. Identify and break the pattern of your old negative and self-sabotaging responses and develop new, more empowering responses.

The TAILOR System is the big picture for boundary-setting. What I hear most often from people is their biggest challenge in boundary-setting is eliciting the proper language to set and convey a boundary, so I’d like to give you my favorite tip to get you started. It’s called: My Seven Magic Words. 

My seven magic words are: “Hmm, I’d like to think about this.” Learning to say “no” confidently is a big leap when you are not skilled in setting and communicating boundaries. Therefore, you need what I call “bridge” language to narrow the gap between explaining why you are saying “no,” and confidently setting a boundary.

Learn the Real Power of No

Bridge language starts the process of repatterning your knee-jerk, self-sabotaging response of saying “yes” and transforms it into a considered response.

When you say, “Hmm, I’d like to think about this,” it conveys reflection simply by the language itself. The word “hmm” provides a thoughtful pause in the response. It conveys you want to carefully consider the request being made.

Lest you think this phrase is the same as saying “maybe,” it is not.

I encourage to you practice using this phrase whenever someone asks you something — even if it doesn’t seem to fit the situation. You will learn to build your muscle and break you knee-jerk response of always saying “yes.”

Defining and implementing your goals through proper boundary-setting will lead you to work with the type of clients whom you value and will value you.

Isn’t this one of the most important reasons for having your own business?

About the Author: Julie A. Hawkins was a lifelong people-pleaser until the unexpected death of her life partner, which forced her to begin setting and conveying proper boundaries to survive and thrive. Drawing on two decades as a life coach and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) trainer, Hawkins developed an innovative six-step system to help others say “no” without guilt and confidently set boundaries. She lives in Silicon Valley, where she conducts workshops and spends time with her human and furry friends. She is the author of Say “No” Without Guilt, Six Achievable Steps to Confidently Set and Communicate Boundaries.