The Art of Saying Yes (Episode 76)

What if you could transform “yes” into “HECK YES!” What if you could stop saying “yes” so darn fast, and instead, you could learn to pause before you say “yes?” Join host Kay Coughlin to talk about how to say “yes” from a place that will make your life better and more fulfilling. 

As always, you can expect to be guided with no judgment and no guilt!

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Transcript of episode is below.

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Transcript: The Art of Saying Yes (episode 76)

Hi there. I’m your host Kay Coughlin and you are listening to From One Caregiver to Another. I am a life coach for family caregivers and sandwich family caregivers like me, who want to get some rest and feel less alone. I taught myself how to navigate all of my responsibilities and get into the mindset I need so that I can set boundaries, have self-compassion and prioritize myself, so that my needs get met too. And that’s what I help my clients do. And if we can do it, I know it’s possible for you too.

This is episode 76.

Today, I am talking about the art of saying ““yes”.” This is the other side of the coin of saying “no”. And it really is helpful to think about them together. And if you listened to the episode last week, you already knew this was coming.

Here’s why I recorded the episode about “no” first. It’s because when you say “no” to the things that don’t work for you, you can make space in your life to say “yes” to the things that are important to you. So if you haven’t listened to that last episode, that’s episode 75, that was called “The Art of Saying No,” I highly recommend that you go back and listen to it.

Talking about saying “yes” feels energizing to me in a way that talking about saying “no,” just doesn’t feel energizing talking about. Saying “yes” feels a lot less challenging than talking about saying “no.” And in fact, I didn’t mention it at all when I recorded the episode that was released last week about saying “no”, but writing that outline took a lot out of me. And even recording that took a lot out of me, even though I do talk to a lot of people about saying “no” and I mean a lot. And I do it a lot of the time. It still brings up quite a bit of challenging thoughts and emotions for me. I had to reward myself a lot to get through that recording.

And I mean, I had to reward myself with just a half hour of time to read a book. I had to go sit in the sunshine and there were times that I even had to kind of trick my mind into working on it.

So, I had this whole big outline for this episode I’m recording today, but it was starting to feel just as challenging to me and I was putting off recording it. Then I woke up this morning just knowing exactly what it was that I wanted to say instead. So, I wrote a whole new outline. I threw the other one out and I’m just working from one that I wrote a short time ago.

And I’m saying “yes” to this, to what I really want to say, because it’s who I am. It is so closely aligned with my mission and what I want my message to be when it comes to talking to people who have family caregiver responsibilities.

And this is one of the things that I really want people to remember and to take away if they happen to come across this work. I want our “yeses” to be big “heck yeses” for us.

Now I know that while some of our “yeses” will be big and juicy and they’ll make us wildly happy, some of our “yeses,” they’re going to be “heck yeses,” but we’re gonna say them because we have an obligation about decisions that we’ve made in our lives. There are things that we’re going to say “yes” to, because we just made the choices to put those things ahead of other things. I think that what I’m trying to say here is that I want all of our “yeses” to be choices, intentional choices for us.

I don’t want our “yeses” to be forced on us by what other people say or what other people expect of us. I want them to come from us, from you and from me based on who we are and what we want out of life. The hard part about this is what I’m not saying and what I’m not implying is that all of our “yeses” are going to make us happy and you know, want to dance around with joy. I wish I could say that, but that is just not how life works. Life is just way more complicated than that.

And that’s why I think that it makes a big difference to say “yes” as a deliberate choice, because choosing, choosing in itself is so empowering and that’s whether it’s something exciting or something really more ordinary than that. And maybe even if you have to choose something that’s really hard. When you choose it for yourself based on what you think and what you want and what you feel and decisions that you’ve made, you free yourself from the emotional grind that happens when you say “yes” for the wrong reasons.

Okay. How do we do that? I know you’re probably saying to yourself, that’s all well and good, but how does this actually work?

So how do we figure out what to say “yes” to and what are the right reasons to say “yes”? Well, I want to start here by encouraging you to figure out what’s important to you. And I mean, important to you because of who you are. Not based on what other people say should be important to you. I want to be really, really clear about this point.

Because as people with family caregiver responsibilities, a lot of us have gotten used to substituting other people’s opinions and values for our own because, let’s face it. Sometimes things are easier for us when we just go along with the people around us, rather than fighting back all the time and fighting for our own opinions people love to tell us. What they think we ought to do what we ought to want and ought to feel.

And we’re so busy hearing that it’s all around us and we’re so busy managing other people’s lives because that’s what we do as family caregivers. Or I should say that’s one of the things we do. That’s not our entire life, but it is one of our things that we do is we take care of other people. Well, what all that means when you put it together, is that we forget who we are. I forget who I am, and you can forget who you are, too. What I’m describing here is actually called an identity crisis. And I talked about that over in episode 68, which I think is called when people only see you as a caregiver. So that is another podcast episode that you might want to go back and listen to if you want to hear more about an identity crisis.

I’ve got some questions that you can ask yourself to help you figure out what’s important to you so that you can say “yes” from what’s inside of you from a place of who you are. And maybe you can answer these questions in your head, but maybe you need to make a list. You know, if you are driving and this strikes you as something that’s really important, you can come back to it later. You can pull over.

So here are some questions that I’ve got to help you get started. This is not an exhaustive list. There are lots of questions you can ask, but this will get you started.

Here are the questions.

“What do I love?” “What do I hate?” And I will talk about that word hate in a minute, I promise. “What makes me happy?” “What do I believe more than anything else?” “What makes me angry and what makes me want to fight?”

 Now I want you to notice here that not a single one of these questions sounds anything like, “what am I supposed to do?” Or “what am I supposed to want?” Or “what am I supposed to believe?” There are no “supposed to”s in this. Because if you are going to start learning to say “yes” from that inside place of who you really are, your real identity, you have to admit to yourself who you really are.

Even if you keep this all to yourself, locked away your heart, maybe not forever, but for now, these are questions to answer for yourself. And this is how we arrive at the answer to what’s important to you.

I’ll tell you some of what’s on my list personally. I love music and nature, and I know that if I don’t get enough of either, I am absolutely miserable. I love my family and my marriage. I love my business. I love my spirituality and my faith. I love feminism and I love anti-racism.

And now I’m gonna talk about the things that I hate. That’s a pretty strong word, isn’t it? Because this is something that you’re doing just for you in your own head, maybe on a piece of paper that nobody else is going to see, I want to stir you up from that place. The really deep places inside of you to help you understand yourself better.

So here are some of the things that I hate. I hate gun violence. I hate racism. I hate anything that devalues women or anyone who is underrepresented in our culture. As a matter of fact, I hate that in our culture, lots of systems treat family caregivers as an afterthought.

So these are things that I hate. These are things that I want to fight for that I wake up in the morning and they get me going. I guess you could call this my personal mission, sort of, these are definitely my values. I know these things are incredibly important to me. And because I know how important they are to me, I say “yes” to these things.

Look, I know that this is a big list. It is a big list and I’m fine with that. And these aren’t all the same priority for me all the time. Some of these things are more important than other things. I mean, I could rank these in priority order. I’m not going to do that, but I could if I had to, and sometimes my priorities change over time, but basically I know who I am.

I know what’s important to me and the people around me know that too. So the questions that I just asked and gave you my own answers to, these questions are about who you are. And I do think that’s always the place to start when it comes to figuring out what to say “heck yes” to.

Then there’s another question to ask and that one, oh, and this is so hard. Prepare yourself for the question: “What do you need?” And I might also say, “What do you want?” Now here’s not a lot of words in those two questions. “What do you need? What do you want?” Those are very short questions. They might sound deceptively simple, but I know for people with family caregiver responsibilities, and I’m speaking for myself, and I know there are some of you I’m talking to who are going to understand this because we lose our identity in being a family caregiver. Talking about what we need and what we want can actually be extremely difficult because we’ve, we’ve really learned that we shouldn’t answer those questions on our own behalf.

Now, because this comes up so much in my practice as a life coach, I do have a bunch of ways that I help my clients answer this question. It’s really something that life coaches like me, we do a lot of this, so I’m not going to get into those tools here. But I want you to know that there are a lot of tools out there to help you answer this question. You can even Google, “how do I find out what I need or what I want?” And I’m not being silly when I say that it’s really hard to answer this. So, you know, get some help answering this if you need to.

And I’m going to tell you what some of my answers are to these questions as well. I really started that with the first one, “What I need.” “What I want” is all mixed up inside of this, but I’m just going to answer the what I need question. I need rest, physical safety, emotional safety. I need time with God. I need intellectual stimulation. I like to go deep on intellectual stuff and I desperately need time to read every single day. I also exercise every single day, some exercise, I’m not talking about an exercise program. I just need to move my body. I need to be in nature as much as possible. And if I have my preference, that’s going to be camping or gardening or sitting in the grass, reading a book. I need girlfriends I can be honest with, I need friends who listen without trying to fix me. And I need to fight against injustice.

When I’m thinking about that first one, the first one I said is that I need rest. I’m really running through both of my lists of answers to both of these questions in my head. So the big list with that first set of questions I had. And then this big list here of things that I need. I know it’s a lot, it’s a lot to try to balance all of these things.

I don’t try to balance it. I try to pay attention as much as possible. And I’m not saying that I always get it right. What I am saying though, is that I do know myself and I know what’s important to me. And on a daily basis, every single day, knowing these things about myself helps me say “yes” in ways that feel good and feel right for me, because I’m saying “yes” to things that are aligned with what I want and what I need.

And also the decisions I’ve made about things that I am going to be obligated to in my life willingly, obligated to like being a family caregiver.

So sometimes I do get it wrong when it comes to saying “yes” and saying “no” to things. That’s totally okay. We all do that. That’s part of life. It’s just another part of what it means to be human.

But I pay attention to when I say “yes” to something and it just doesn’t feel good for some reason. What I’ve learned is that that is a clue that I am saying “yes” to the wrong thing for me, or maybe for the wrong reasons. And I want to encourage you to do that too.

So if you say “yes” to something and you start to have mixed feelings, or maybe you feel a little sick to your stomach, or you might feel that kind of emotional twinge anywhere in your body. For me, it’s, uh, in my stomach, usually. Or if you feel any shame or guilt or resentment, and I would say, especially resentment, but really any of those challenging emotions. Pay attention to that.

Here’s why, because something to know about saying “yes” is that you can always change your mind. Always, even if you said “yes” to something five minutes ago, you can say “no” to it now.

Now, of course it might not feel good to say “no”. And you might have to deal with some consequences and you might feel some regret if you said “yes”, in the first place for the wrong reasons, like so that you wouldn’t disappoint somebody else. Well, you might end up disappointing that person anyway, if you say “no”, and that is really hard to face and it’s really hard to feel. But you can still say, “no”, you can say “yes” one minute and change your mind the next.

You can say “no” to anybody, to anything. Anytime. That is part of what it means to be an adult, is making hard choices like that, and sometimes changing our minds. And that’s what I mean when I said that saying “yes” and saying “no” are really two sides of the same coin. I hope that this is making sense for you now in a way that it makes sense for me.

And I always try and keep that in mind in my life that when I say “yes” to some things, I’m going to have to say “no” to some other things. And when I say “no” to things, then I can say “yes” to things. And I always start from this place of what’s important to me.

So because some of us like to jump in and say “yes”, too quickly, we kind of do it automatically. The last thing I want to offer you today is that you, yes you, you can pause before you say “yes” to something. You can pause before you say “no” to something also, if you want to, but we’re really focusing on talking about saying “yes”, here.

Pausing before you say “yes” is an especially important habit to build. It’s important to know that you have a right to do it, if it really is your knee jerk reaction to say “yes”, pretty much all the time. And I can relate to that because there are times in my life when I have done that, I don’t do that now. I should say, I’m pretty good about doing it. Now I’m I know there are times when I do it anyway, but as a habit I pause before I say “yes”.

So here’s how that works. When someone approaches you. About any opportunity or situation or responsibility they want you to take on. And that could be by email or voicemail or over social media or in person. You can insist on having time to consider it. That is your right as a human. I want you to hear that you are allowed to take time to consider things before you say “yes”.

So if you need to practice what it would feel like to say that, try saying something like this, “Okay. Thanks for bringing that up. I need time to think about it. I’ll get back to you.” And you know, you can give them a timeframe if you want. “I’ll get back to you in five minutes.” “I’ll get back to you in an hour.” “I’ll get back to you in a week,” whatever, but let me repeat that so that you can hear me say that one more time.

Here’s what you can practice saying, if you need to practice it. And I like using scripts for things, I think it’s really important to train our brains, to have the words that we need if your brain wants to blurt out “yes”. Because that’s your habit, practice saying this instead, so that you have something else that you can say instead of just automatically saying “yes”. So here it is, again, you can practice saying, “Okay, thanks for bringing that up with me. I need time to think about it. I’ll get back to you.”

Ultimately, what I hope for you and for myself too, is that we will say “yes” to the things that are in alignment with who we are and what we want.

And that we’ll say “no” for exactly the same reasons.

I want us to base our decisions on what we truly think and believe for ourselves, not the things that people around us say we ought to think and ought to believe. I want us to remember that we, you and me, we always have a right to say “yes” or “no”, and we can always change our minds.

 I know it can be a shock to hear it stated so clearly like that. So let me say it here again. You and me, we never have to say “yes” to something because another person tells it to us or expects it from us. “Yes” is a decision and it’s a choice. Just like “no” is a decision and a choice.

As family caregivers, our responsibilities can make it challenging to live in a way that makes us truly happy and so that we’re fulfilled. When we can learn to say “yes” from a place of these intentional decisions, deliberate choices instead of saying “yes” to everything, because it’s what people want us to do. We will have a much better chance at living a fulfilling life, living a happy life.

In fact, what I’m going to say is that saying “yes” and “no” from this place of choice, that’s what’s going to make a joyful life possible for you and for me.

If you haven’t left a rating or a comment for the podcast, any episode, you can always leave a rating or a comment on any episode. I’m going to ask you to do that now, if you don’t mind. I didn’t make up the rules. This is how podcasts grow, is when people rate them and share them with other people. So do that, if you would, that’s going to help other people find this podcast. And in the end, it’s going to make it so that the world is better and more livable for everybody like you and me who has family caregiver responsibilities.

If you liked this episode, you have to go check out my monthly membership for family caregivers who want to get some rest and feel less alone. It’s the place for emotionally-safe community, brave self-development, and always self-compassion. You can find a link to it in the show notes and on my website at Facilitator On Fire dot net. And that is facilitator on fire dot net.

If you are looking to connect with me, the best place to find me is in my free Boundaries Community. And I would love to hear from you. I can’t wait to be with you again in the next episode, From One Caregiver to Another.

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your guide

Kay Coughlin, CEO of Facilitator On Fire, is a business coach for the non-profit sector and social justice businesses. She is also well-known for being an advocate for family caregivers.

In every forum she can find, she shouts that it's OK for every human to earn a living, set and enforce boundaries around their bodies, thoughts, feelings and actions. You can join Kay's free, private online community to talk about boundaries here.

Kay also teaches about emotional labor, how to rest, and Human Giver Syndrome, and is the host of the "From One Caregiver to Another" podcast and author of "From One Caregiver to Another - Overcoming Your Emotional Grind."

Kay is well-known for her public speaking on boundaries and self-care. 

Facilitator on Fire is a subsidiary of Donor Relations Mindset LLC, which Kay founded in 2015. She lives with her husband and children in central Ohio, and is the primary caregiver for her own mother, who lives right next door. Kay can be found on LinkedIn and Instagram.

Copyright 2022. All rights reserved, Julia Kay Coughlin and Facilitator On Fire.

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