“My wife is mad at me again.”
I’d been coaching Mark for a few months and his focus had always been on work. So I was surprised when he started this coaching session talking about something personal.
“I got home from work last night and my wife was making dinner. She started talking about an issue she was having with one of her co-workers. Darcy, it was so obvious and simple what she needed to do! So I told her. You’d think she would be thankful, right? But instead, she huffed out of the kitchen muttering that I could finish making dinner. And now she’s given me the cold shoulder since.”
There was a lot to unpack there.
I asked Mark what pattern he’d been noticing.
“Well this is the first time she’s given me the silent treatment, but we’ve definitely had conversations similar to this before. She comes to me with a problem, and I assure her it’s not that bad and proceed to tell her how to fix it. But instead of being grateful, she changes the subject.”
Having developed a strong foundation of trust with Mark, I decided to be playful in challenging his thinking.
“Well Mark, this isn’t that bad and it’s actually really easy to fix. Just send your wife some flowers.”
“Darcy! This is my marriage. You really think flowers are going to fix this?”
At that moment, Mark’s energy changed. I asked him what was happening.
“I feel like crap. It doesn’t seem like you’re hearing me. And you’re minimizing my problem. What you just did is what I do to my wife every time she talks about work. No wonder she’s mad.”
The word “NO” can be difficult to say… and to hear.
Here are a few quick tips to help you practice Flexibility when someone in your life is saying “NO.”
Jill Mueller (00:01):
I think I have a new holiday. Have you heard about this? It is No-vember. I just learned about this on Facebook. And the concept of No-vember is to say no to all the things that, let’s be honest, you want to say no to. No to the things that drain your energy, that take time away from the things that are important to you. And saying no to the things that prevent you from saying, “Heck yes,” to the things that you really want to say yes to.
Jill Mueller (00:37):
And I think one of the reasons why I love the concept of this No-vember so much, is it is so hard to say no. So many clients that I work with … and let’s be honest, I’m right there with them … have a hard time saying no. Because we don’t want to disappoint people, we’re afraid of what people might say. Sometimes the things we’re saying no to are things that we want to do, there just isn’t enough time in the day.
Jill Mueller (01:08):
And so while we have explored this concept of how to say no … heck we’ve done workshops on this entire concept of how you can say no and how no is a complete sentence. What we’re going to explore today, in Thoughtfully Fit Thursday, is how to hear a no, and specifically how to hear a no with the Thoughtfully Fit practice of flexibility. Because if we turn the tables a little bit, as hard as it might be to say no … for all those reason that we just discussed … it also can be hard to hear no. And when we hear no, sometimes what happens is we can get into a place of judgment. We can get into a place where then we try to start convincing the other person of why they should say yes, of why they should do what we want them to do. And in a way, we then perpetuate exactly why it is so difficult for people to say no, because then it turns into this difficult, awkward, not fun conversation.
Jill Mueller (02:15):
So I’m going to share with you three strategies for how you can hear that no, while practicing the Thoughtfully Fit practice of flexibility. And if you remember, the practice of flexibility is all about stretching for acceptance. It doesn’t mean you have to approve. It doesn’t mean you have to be happy with it, that you’re okay with it even. But when you’re practicing flexibility, you’re stretching to accept what it is that the other person is choosing. Because you can’t control what they’re doing, you can only control you and specifically how you respond. And so that’s our focus; when you hear that no, how can you thoughtfully respond?
Jill Mueller (03:05):
And so the first strategy here is to listen. And so when you ask somebody a question: do they want to go out someplace? Do they want to commit to something? Do they want to spend time doing something? whatever it is that you’re asking, and you hear that no. Sometimes if you get an email or you’re having that conversation with them, just as humans, what our brain can do is we can stop listening and start thinking of our next argument. “Okay. They said no. I’m going to have to think of something else to convince them. I’m going to have to think of my next argument.” You’re in your head, already moving on to that next argument that you want to make with them.
Jill Mueller (03:45):
And so if you’re going to practice flexibility, the strategy here is to listen. As simple as that might sound. Because the goal here is not to change their minds, the goal here is for you to hear what they’re saying. And again, it might be they’re just saying no as that complete sentence, that they just said no. And acknowledging: okay, you’re hearing that no. They don’t need to tell you a why. When we say no is a complete sentence, that means accepting that sometimes a no is a no. And so just really listening before jumping into that part of your brain that wants to convince them otherwise, or fix it, or get your way.
Jill Mueller (04:33):
The second tip here then is to avoid the assumption. I know there are some times where I will ask somebody if they want to do lunch or go for a walk or go out for dinner, and I’ll get the no. And part of me is like, “I wonder … that must mean that they don’t want to be my friend anymore. That must mean that they don’t want to meet with me to discuss this possible business potential. They’re just not interested in meeting. They’re not interested in spending time with me.”
Jill Mueller (05:04):
That’s quite the jump, isn’t it? You might be hearing that and say, “Jill, what are you talking about? They just said no to having lunch or going for a walk. Maybe they don’t want to go for a walk. Maybe they’re busy that day. Maybe they just are still not going out to eat. There could be so many reasons.” And so it’s always easier to do with other people. And this is then the challenge for you, when you’re practicing flexibility, to avoid those assumptions. That if somebody’s saying no, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything else other than they’re saying no to what you are asking them to do right then in that moment.
Jill Mueller (05:43):
And the third one then is to check your judgment. This is one skill that I’ve been learning from Darcy, that I admit I have a hard time with when she says, “No judgment.” Part of me is like, “How can you not have judgment? Something’s happening here. How can you not be judging what’s going on there and have an opinion, and maybe a strong opinion, on what’s happening?”
Jill Mueller (06:08):
And the lesson that Darcy has reinforced with me over time that, yeah, judging is part of our humanity. It’s hard to turn off that part of your brain. But that doesn’t mean you have to follow through on that judgment and feed into that judgment and allow it to get in the way of the relationship.
Jill Mueller (06:30):
And so, specifically, if you ask somebody to do something and they say, “No, I don’t have time.” And you’re thinking, “What do you mean you don’t have time? You don’t even have kids. You’re not even working. Your kids are back in school. You have plenty of time. What do you mean you don’t have time?” Okay, that’s judgment. That’s judgment there.
Jill Mueller (06:49):
And, obviously, if you say that out loud, it’s going to have an impact on the relationship. And even if you think it, it’s going to have an impact on your relationship. Again, those assumptions might come into play and it’s just going to change the way that that relationship is.
Jill Mueller (07:05):
And so, again, as hard as it might be, just to check that judgment. Again, don’t try to avoid the judgment. I mean, that’s part of our brain. And it’s okay to be disappointed, of like, “Oh gosh, why can’t they come out? What could they possibly doing that’s more important than …” fill in the blank of whatever it is that you might be looking for. Acknowledge that judgment, but then check that judgment. And choose if you want to invest in the relationship and continue to nurture that relationship, as opposed to taking a knock at it.
Jill Mueller (07:39):
So we’ve been talking specifically about how to hear that no with flexibility. And perhaps you need to step into another practice of Thoughtfully Fit’s, maybe step into balance. If you are really needing something, if there’s a need that you’re looking to have a conversation and there’s a need that need needs to be met, but then have that conversation while still accepting the no that you might have received for something else.
Jill Mueller (08:08):
There’s a difference between saying, “Hey, can you come out for dinner on this night?” or, “Can you come to my party that I’m having on the weekend?” and hearing a no to that. And then stepping into balance, if you want, and to say, “Hey, I totally respect that you’re not available, not interested, not your scene, to come to a big party. But I would love to spend some time with you at some point before the end of the year, or at some point. What would work best for you?” Instead of trying to convince them of, “Oh, the party’s going to be fun. Oh, you really need to come out. I really need you to come out,” and laying on the guilt trip. You know what it’s like to get the guilt trip. Nobody likes that.
Jill Mueller (08:50):
And so, if needed, to step into balance and find that win-win of how you might maybe connect over Zoom or connect one-on-one in order to get that need met that you have with the relationship, while still practicing that flexibility, to accept that person for exactly who they are. And during No-vember, encouraging people and accepting and creating that safe space for them to say that no as well.
Jill Mueller (09:22):
So, once again, let’s just quickly review by engaging that Thoughtfully Fit core: pause, think, act. When you hear that no, hit the pause button. Before you jump into trying to convince or fix or change their mind, hit that pause button. And then think. How can you accept the no that you’re hearing here? And what’s most important to you about the relationship here? And then act in that thoughtful way. Don’t act on your autopilot, on default. Act in a thoughtful way with your friend, or whoever it is that you are having that conversation with and that you heard that no from.
Jill Mueller (10:02):
The final thing that I’d just love to encourage you to do is to check out our online community. It’s Thoughtfully OnCore. If you go to Facebook, you can find the OnCore group just by searching for Thoughtfully Fit. You’ll find it pretty quickly. What we were talking about, this idea of No-vember, in OnCore. And we’d love for you to join us and contribute to the conversation, not just about this, but about other Thoughtfully Fit topics as well.
Jill Mueller (10:29):
My name’s Jill Mueller. Thank you so much for joining me today. Have a wonderful Thoughtfully Fit Thursday.
Fixing isn’t the only way to solve a problem
If you’re good at solving problems, chances are you’ve found success—personally and professionally. Not only that, it feels good to be the person who can “fix it,” doesn’t it?
It’s likely you’ve also been on the receiving end of someone trying to “fix” your problem. You start telling your friend a story and all of a sudden you’re hearing about how they dealt with a similar issue. Sometimes that can be helpful. But more often, it makes you regret bringing up the issue at all.
So how else can you be helpful when someone comes to you with a problem? Simply put, don’t make it about you. There’s a growing body of research showing that validating someone else’s feelings provides more comfort than “fixing” their problems.
One of my favorite YouTube videos is It’s Not About the Nail (it’s less than two minutes long, so if you haven’t seen it, it’s definitely worth your time to take a look now!). When I show this video in a workshop, I can see all the fixers in the group get uncomfortable within the first 30 seconds. One person will inevitably exclaim, “But it is about the nail!” at the end of the video.
Would she be better if she addressed the nail in her head? Sure! But until her feelings are acknowledged and validated, she’s not interested in focusing on anything else.
Accepting instead of fixing
There are times where fixing is necessary. But if you notice you’re not getting the response you’re expecting (like Mark with his wife), it’s likely time to explore some other choices.
One of those choices is the Thoughtfully Fit practice of Flexibility. When you practice Flexibility, you choose to accept the other person exactly for who they are and for what they need at the moment (and this can require a big stretch). You don’t try to change them or fix them—even if you think you know what’s best for them (and even if you’re absolutely, positively certain they’ll feel better if they take that nail out of their head).
Here are some examples of what this could sound like:
Instead of saying, “That’s not so bad.”
Try saying, “I can hear how frustrating this is for you.”
Instead of saying, “That happened to me, too.”
Try saying, “What do you wish would happen here?”
Instead of saying, “Here’s what you should do.”
Try saying, “How can I best support you right now?”
That last question was the one Mark asked his wife.
Her response? “I just want you to listen.”
So Mark went to the fridge and grabbed a can of beer. His wife started talking about her day. Mark took her request seriously and really listened. He repeated back what he was hearing, maintained eye contact, and kept his focus on his wife. Before Mark even finished his beer, his wife said, “Thank you so much. I think I have a better idea of what to do now. I’m so grateful for you! This was super helpful.”
At our next coaching session, Mark reported back. “It didn’t feel like I did anything. But she was so happy. So the next day, I grabbed a beer again and asked her to tell me about her day. She was thrilled! It’s become part of our daily routine. And while sometimes I’m frustrated because I can see so clearly what she should do, having an enjoyable evening with my wife is way more enjoyable and important.”
One-Minute Core Workout
So how can you practice Flexibility and stretch to accept people for where they are at, instead of trying to fix their problem? It always comes back to your core.
Pause. When you notice you want to solve someone’s problem or tell them what to do, Pause.
Think. How else can I support them right now? (It’s not cheating if you ask them that question directly instead of guessing.) How can I accept and validate where they are at this moment?
Act. Listen and provide support, instead of fixing. (If you find yourself fixing, time to Pause again to Think about how you can get refocused.)
As you might guess, Mark found success practicing Flexibility with his wife. Next week I’ll share how this strategy impacted his “fix it” mentality at work. In the meantime, try enjoying your favorite beverage during your next conversation and see what problems you solve!
Conversations aren’t the only place we need Flexibility. The Lazy Genius Podcast is here to help you “be a genius about the things that matter and lazy about the things that don’t.” Listen to episode #224 “When Things Don’t Go According to Plan” to hear host Kendra’s three rules to Flexibility.
P.S. We have some big announcements coming soon about the official launch of our new virtual Thoughtfully Fit Gym in 2022. Join our exclusive online Facebook community, OnCore, to be the first to know. We’ll see you there!