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Podcast Transcript

NO Is A Complete Sentence

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  0:10  
Welcome to "Your Authentic Path to Powerful Leadership" with Marsha Clark. Join us on our journey where we're uncovering what it takes to be a powerful woman leader. Marsha, welcome back yet again.

Marsha Clark  0:24  
Thank you.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  0:24  
Yes, I've been looking forward to this episode ever since we did the one on "The Bigger Yes". The phrase "NO is a complete sentence" was a bit of a game changer for me the first time I heard it and really processed it. And so I think this episode is going to be awesome for our listeners, too.

Marsha Clark  0:33  
Well I do too, Wendi. I get the feedback that you just offered many times of "Oh, NO is a complete sentence!" So the idea of setting boundaries, not just setting them and sticking to your nose is often a pretty big aha for people when we talk about it. And especially anyone with the slightest bit of people pleasing tendencies.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:04  
Yeah. Okay, so listeners buckle up, because we've got a lot to cover today. This is going to be a big episode.

Marsha Clark  1:12  
Well, it is, because it's got a lot of pieces and parts in this big important topic. And it impacts leaders really all over the world. And I would dare say, especially women leaders, because it can be hard for us to say no, so I'm ready. Let's dive in.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:27  
All right, well, maybe before we dive in we should set some expectations for everyone up front on this episode because this topic of setting and maintaining boundaries is an entire chapter. It's actually chapter six in Marsha's book, "Embracing Your Power", and it's 40 plus pages of content in the book, right?

Marsha Clark  1:49  
Well, it's hard. So and it's a good point, too, because I know many of our listeners do have the book in front of them almost as we go through some of this. So it's a lot of content. And we've already broken that chapter up some because it is so content rich, and explored some of the tools and tricks in other episodes like "The Bigger Yes", the one that you mentioned, and also on the "Big Rocks". So we'll also dedicate an entire episode to one of the topics there, which is one of my favorites, the delegation model. And it's coming up soon. The name of that episode is entitled "Leadership is not a DIY or do it yourself job". So today, for our listeners to know what we're going to talk about we're going to specifically explore why our listeners might have a difficult time setting boundaries and provide some tips for making that process easier and dare I say less guilt ridden when we say no, which is one of those things. So still quite a bit to cover. But we've been deliberate about setting a boundary around what we can reasonably explore.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  2:58  
Yeah, I liked that little pun there.

Marsha Clark  3:01  
Well, it was quite intentional.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  3:02  
Yes. Well, okay. So then I would actually like to start with the quote that you use to open that chapter in the book. Will you share that with our listeners and why it's spoke so strongly to you to include as the opener.

Marsha Clark  3:17  
Yeah, I'll be happy to. So the quote is, "Givers need to set limits because takers rarely do". And that's a quote by author, Rachel Wolcen. And I want to say it one more time for our listeners: "Givers need to set limits because takers rarely do". And you can think about these limits as boundaries. So you know, when I say this in class, there's this... like in unison everyone there.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  3:52  
Yeah. They're thinking about that taker.

Marsha Clark  3:57  
And they're thinking about, Oh, yeah... limits and I don't, yeah. So the quote, just, it just jumps out at me, because it's so incredibly relevant and quite succinct, right? It just says a lot in those few words. And it really resonates with the women who hear it and read it. And it's not like we're surrounded by a bunch of greedy takers 100% of the time, but I bet every one of our listeners can identify someone as a taker in their lives, and that they see themselves in that giver space for the majority of their days, weeks, years, whatever you want. And by talking out loud about the idea of setting limits or boundaries, we can begin to strip away the years of resentment or hurt or guilt, or whatever has piled up in the wake of taking on too much because we don't say no.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  4:49  
Right. So this topic is really it's supposed to liberate people, right? I mean, talking about stepping into your power, setting limits and getting comfortable with saying no guiltlessly can be a huge leap for some people.

Marsha Clark  5:05  
It is. It was for me. And I can attest to that. And it was hard. And it's a huge leap.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  5:13  
Yes, exactly. Well, our regular listeners know that we like quotes, and we like definitions. So what would you say is the definition of setting boundaries, at least for the purpose of our conversation today?

Marsha Clark  5:26  
Yeah. And I'm going to, I'm going to give quite a few excerpts from the book today. So because I think, you know, I've done a lot of work to figure out how to say it well, right. So this, this, I think, from the book will set this up nicely for how we think about this going forward. "So setting boundaries means we are taking responsibility for ourselves and promoting mutuality and respect in our relationships." Big, not just hurray for me, or hurray for you, mutuality and respect. And it also means we're setting limits. So this goes back to what we can or will do, as well as what we can't or won't do. There's two sides to that.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  6:16  
Right. Right. I yeah, I there's so much with this already. Just the idea of setting boundaries, I think. I think that that is something here in the year 2022, that a lot of women recognize that they should. And I think a lot of times we think we do, but then there will be that circumstance, that person, that thing, that situation that causes us to drop all of our skills around this because we're either caught off guard, or this person has some sort of emotional control over us more than we would like to admit. So I'm just gonna set that there.

Marsha Clark  7:05  
Well, we're gonna talk about a lot of that. Yeah. So, you know, I love all that. So listeners get ready. And there's one other aspect that I again, I quote from the book, it's also about 'respecting yourself and your time.' Mm hmm. And it creates an opportunity for you to hold on to your power.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  7:32  
Okay, I'm just gonna repeat that for Marsha: Respecting yourself and your time creates an opportunity for you to hold on to your power. Okay, Marsha, elaborate.

Marsha Clark  7:44  
All right. So when I think about holding on to my power, it's by considering what my priorities are. Right? I got stuff to do, I got things that are important to me. And by me honoring my own priorities that in and of itself is holding on to my power. And so I know that's a bit circular, right? By holding on to my power, I know my priorities, I honor my priorities, and therefore I hold on to my power. But even by considering my priorities, it's a step towards holding on. Now, another way of looking, say I'm putting and keeping (and I really want to emphasize keeping) my wants and needs on my To Do lists. So what we know about women is that what comes off our to do lists versus anything that relates to us. Exactly. And anything that brings us joy, oftentimes, or relaxation, or rest, or fulfillment or purpose, can be put on a back burner, or set to the side, or I'll get to it when I can, and everybody else good. So I'm losing a part of all of that. And I can burn myself out, I can deplete myself, I can do all that, which doesn't make me my best self. So part of embracing your power... putting. So if I can't take care of my best self, I can't put it forward.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  9:12  
Right. Right. Keep going.

Marsha Clark  9:17  
All right. Now, one last what I what I think is an important definitional element to setting boundaries. And when, when and where you set boundaries is different depending on the situation. So I want to go back to your point about some we all got a taker in our life, right, or two or three or five, yes. And we want to make sure that we're honoring commitments that you've already made. So we've already got our list of things to do, and we've made commitments to others, and then that taker comes in, ask requests, demands, whatever it might be. And so it's almost as if all those other commitments can fall out the window because, like this new one. So I want to make sure that people understand where this gets to the when and where. So before you take on another commitment, regardless of whether it's from a tech or anyone else, consider what commitments you already have. And, you know, if you say yes, take into account and ask yourself, does that mean I'm going to not get any next three days? Or does that mean I have to work this weekend? Or does that mean, I can't make my son's little game? You know, really consider the ripple effects before you say yes.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  10:36  
I love that you're talking about wanting our listeners to be responsible and respect the commitments that they've made. I also love this point that you made that where and when you set boundaries is different depending on the situation. So you're not completely inflexible, it's not no, I have these hardened set boundaries, and no one is getting inside the gate boat ever, ever. Because this is my boundary, no things shift. Things do happen. But it's on you to make that conscious choice.

Marsha Clark  11:09  
It is. And that brings in so many things we've talked about in previous posts. Slow down to speed up, right? Hit Clear. Yes. Right. You have a, I call it a pause. You know, before you immediately go in, understand your intention, know what's already on your plate. I mean, all of those things are part of what happens in a split second, right. Right. And that's why we've got to practice this step. And I also want to offer to our leaders, you know, respecting the commitments we've made, or, you know, find a way to renegotiate them, right? So maybe what the person asking you now, it is a higher priority, because it's an urgent need or a time bound need. And you've got some flexibility with some of the other commitments, or you can renegotiate and compromise on some of those things. But either way, I want I want our listeners to think about setting boundaries is future oriented, what what am I going to do moving forward. And so the tools and tips for how you can change the way to set and maintain boundaries going forward is a lot of what we're going to talk about. So bottom line, regardless of how, or when, or where, or with whom, the main point behind this whole episode is to remind our listeners that in the end, and this is again, quoting from the NO is a complete sentence. And I first heard that I want to give credit to Beverly Wright, in our self class two. So Beverly, if you're listening out there, you get credit for teaching me this. I've now seen it many times, used it many times giving you credit. So you need to explain, defend, rationalize or apologize that's not always needed or necessary. The women that I've worked with over the years, coaching programs, and so on have told me this is the hardest thing for them to do. Just to say no, no. We want to give reasons we want to justify to do all that. And when they do it, they tell me it felt really great.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  13:09  

Marsha Clark  13:10  
It's very powerful, all the negative stories that they've told themselves about, oh, my career's over, you know, this relationship is, you know, damaged or whatever. It just did not play out. And I am going to harken back again, to things we've talked about in previous episodes. They discovered a what else could be true moment in real time.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  13:29  
Yes, that's so encouraging. Okay, there's so many places that we could jump in with this content. So I think many of our listeners will relate to the reasons we struggle with setting boundaries in the first place. So a little diagnostic reflection might be a good starting point for this.

Marsha Clark  13:47  
Yeah, I agree, because you got to understand what's prompting or cueing it up. So sometimes it's more a matter of stopping unhealthy, unhelpful, if you will, behaviors than it is to think about I've gotta add new or, you know, better behaviors. So first, let's touch on what I described as the four typical signs to watch out for that might indicate that we're struggling with seeing, and, dare I say, and or maintaining boundaries because I also want to make sure that people understand it's more than setting - you have to hold on to. And again, there's times and reasons for flexibility. But if we say we've got a boundary and then we don't hold on to it or maintain it t's not really about  when people learn that they can talk us out of it.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  14:40  
Right? Absolutely. So the first behavior for our listeners, the first behavior is and oh my god, I can't believe I'm about to say this, doing things you don't want to do for others. And I just want everyone to know in our show, no show notes. This is like bolded and highlight everything underlined. I underlined doing things you don't want to do for others. That seems so obvious. And yet I know our listeners like right now as I said that, everybody had a moment where they just went, yep, those cupcakes.

Marsha Clark  15:13  
Seven things on my to do list.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  15:15  
Exactly, exactly. And you find yourself doing things for other people that you really don't want to do.

Marsha Clark  15:20  
Yeah. So it is obvious kind of obvious. And we're doing all the time. So we walk away. And when we say yes, right, yes, I will make cupcakes for the you know, tomorrow's meeting or whatever. I walk away from those going, and I just agreed it? I mean, I'd be why did I open my mouth? That's right. I know more have said yes before I start asking myself that question. And especially if I'm already stretched, or, you know, the task really isn't the highest and best use of my time and talents?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  15:52  
Yes, exactly. In your book, after each one of these signs, you offer a few reflection questions. So what are some of those questions for this first challenge?

Marsha Clark  16:01  
Yeah. So if our listeners any one of you find yourself saying yes to things that you really don't want to do I'm going to ask some questions for you. And for those of you who may be following along in the book, this is on page 204 of the hardcopy version of the book. So the reflection question is, think of a recent example, when you may have accepted a task or duty you didn't want to take on? And here are the prompts. What factors made you take it on anyway? The person who asked you, I feel guilty, because I haven't been participating in my child's school activities. And so in order to demonstrate that I'm a good mother, you know, I mean, or my mother in law asked me to do this, and she's my mother in law and all that. So whatever those might be? How did you feel after agreeing to the work to take it on saying yes to it? If you could go back and say no to the task or duty? What would you say? Is language is important? Having language ready? No. And I'm going to share some news with you about that later in this podcast. But you got to be ready for it and see it coming, right? Especially if there are patterns and themes like when I get asked to do something for school, or you know, from this person at work, or from this person in the community. And then what can you do to ensure you do not take on an assignment that you don't have room. So this is helping us get greater awareness and consciousness of what this looks like. And if we keep up with let's just say, we keep a little log, and we have these questions, and we then and then we're going to begin to see. Yeah, so that's where this...

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  17:48  
So awesome. So we're going to talk about some ideas on how to answer that last question during this last during this episode. So I'm super excited about that.

Marsha Clark  17:57  
Me too. And we want to be sure, because as we always do, we want to equip our listeners, not just to say, here's the problem, but to give some tools to help with these these kinds of challenges.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  18:08  
Right. So the second behavior that you might be dealing with is feeling helpless or powerless to say no. That's a big one.

Marsha Clark  18:18  
Yeah, it's, it's the cousin to I didn't have a choice. Right. So it is you know, a big deal. And I find in so many ways, and so many of my type A high achieving coaching clients that this is a part of their story.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  18:35  
Interesting, interesting. So your book, your description of this is just so spot on. You say, quote, "We live in a pressure cooker of Yes culture. Anything less than a can do is unacceptable. Or so we have come to believe you may find yourself feeling that you have no choice but to say yes."

Marsha Clark  19:02  
Well, and again, think about type A personalities, I can do everything right.  I'm on it, I got this. And so when we believe that there's no other alternative, it hasn't even dawned on us that we have an alternative to do anything but yes. Then we add that assignment and one more thing on our plate. Again, I have these images of the Type A personalities and some of this but women are so much more predominant and women we're, we're spinning 12 plates, and we've got four things jumping through flaming hoops, and, you know, this is all while we're juggling raw eggs. And, and it is one of the ways and I want our listeners to get this two ways in which we give away our power. Because we've got to understand and know we always have a choice and that needs to become our default thinking. And it may mean that you know, we have to step out of our comfort zone, muster the courage to say no or we need to get creative and look at and explore possible alternatives to offer to the person who's asking. And what I have found time and time again, is that people are usually surprised how agreeable the other person is that requested that, that taker if you will. And all those scary worst case scenario stories that you've been telling yourself, they just don't come to fruition. So I just beg, grovel, implore our listeners just try it. Just try it. And know that the more experience you have in setting boundaries that the easier it's going to be.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  20:37  
Well, I love this simple reflection question that you ask from the book. Think of an example when you recently believed you had no choice but to say yes. And in the spirit of what else could be true, can you think of other choices you could have had? I mean, that's just I, you know, my favorite Marsha-ism from you is 'what else could be true?' Because I think it just opens, it changes your perspective and your lens on everything. And it, it takes your mind to a more open position. But thinking of that, when you really want to say no, but you're afraid to or whatever, like, think of the other choices you might have had. That's so powerful.

Marsha Clark  20:37  
I have to tell you. Shameless plug again, but that's our most popular magnet. I want 100 of those!  Yes. Yeah. You know, I go back to I've made up the story If I say no, I'll get fired. If I say no, they'll never ask again. If I say no, blah, blah, blah. So is it really true that you think that no matter all the great things you've done for this company that you say no to this they're really gonna fire you really? Right. I mean, we've got to get some

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  21:57  
some perspective.

Marsha Clark  21:59  
So in my entire career as a leader and an executive, I never and I may never ever, ever, ever fired someone for telling me no. When I said, No, I never got fired either. I look at that. Look at that. And know Wendi, this is not on script. But it reminds me I want to share with our listeners this story. So one of my dear friends and colleagues had a daughter who was working. Here's what she did with the school stuff. Okay. So she told the teacher at the beginning of the year, I sign up for and you can count on me to be chaperone on two field trips. You can count on me to do cookies, donuts, muffins, you know, whatever cupcakes two times in the school. And you know what? By setting that boundar and that expectation, when they asked her to be a chaperone on the third field trip, she can say No. I told you and I fulfilled my obligation. And I really meant it that that's what I can do. And then went right on. And so I think about if I get clear up front what I can and can't do what I will or won't do, that makes it easy to say no. So this, that boundaries are future oriented. Because then the repetition of all of that is a part of what gets us into the hole.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  23:31  
Yes. Exactly.

Marsha Clark  23:32  
Just thought of that and thought it might be useful.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  23:35  
No, that's incredibly useful. I mean, because then, I mean, you could even go further and say, Okay, it's September and the school year is starting,. I'm going to chaperone this field trip that happens in November, I'm going to chaperone this field trip that happens in February. I need those dates. I'm going to provide cookies in October, and I'm going to provide them again in May. I need the dates of when you need the cookies. And then if you get asked for anything else, it's no it's not that. Wait a minute, it's not that date. I've done it. Yeah. And somehow for me getting that that just feels so much easier to say no, because you're really not saying no, you're just saying these aren't my times.

Marsha Clark  24:20  
Well, and I've had women even tell me the story and other women in the class when they hear the woman tell the story is like no way. You know, it's like, you know, you need to understand that Saturdays and Sundays are for my family. Right? I will get on to my email Sunday night at whatever time right six o'clock, seven o'clock, eight o'clock, and I will answer any urgent issue at that time. But otherwise, you know, it's gonna wait, right and women go You can't do that. There's no way you can do that. My boss. I've told my boss that they just keep calling me and I'm like, do you? Exactly. And then I had another story. This story just still blows my mind this many years ago. She said, Oh, my life is just so crazy. She said, You know, I was at the gynecologist and my boss knew that I was at that in the doctor's office. This is for women listeners only. It's like my feet were up in those stirrups, and I'll be danged if I didn't get a phone call and have to take it. And I said, Annie, you answering the phone? Of course they're gonna keep calling you if you answer the phone. And I just, I mean, all of us have it. And it's like, come on, of course. Why are you holding the phone? I mean, you had your out of office on you're not your boss. No, you were I mean, and you answered the phone. So ladies, come on now.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  25:45  
So there's a boundary right there. Okay. So yeah, I've you know, I've been very fortunate to work with clients and for leaders who were also open to considering alternatives. And I can see that it took some time to building trusting relationships where people understood that when I said no, or offered options, it wasn't because I was trying to put off responsibilities but because this was a partnership based conversation. I really want to stress that. You're not pushing off responsibilities. You're setting up a win win mutually respectful conversation and partner based conversation relationship.

Marsha Clark  26:29  
Well, I love that you tied together partner based and mutual respect. Right. Right. Right. That's what a partnership is. It's really respectful behaviors, agreements, expectations, conversations, interactions. So the status and quality of a relationship can absolutely and does absolutely play a factor in how easy or hard this may feel. And it's another thing to consider that if the relationship is so off balance, or one sided, that you're going to feel powerless to stand up for yourself, and it may be time to look for a different, dare I say, place to work or a different client or something. And I know that may sound extreme. And yet, if you don't really believe that anything's ever going to change, or this person is always going to be that one way person, then I'll just get real clear. You have options, right? And exercise those options, stop complaining.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  27:31  
That's right. It's absolutely right. So absolutely right. And it makes me wonder if this whole concept isn't contributing in some way, or maybe a lot of way to the great resignation that's been going on this past year. I mean, people can't figure out how to break that cycle of saying yes to too many demands. So rather than try to work it out, they just leave. And then they leave. I don't, I've been reading more statistics about this lately that say it's really not a great resignation, as in people, women especially, are opting out of the workforce. They're just shifting to another place that they're hoping has a different culture, different expectations, different relationship, different, you know, all of those things. And they're leaving where they currently are, because they know they can't work it out, or they think they can't work it out, or the other person really is unreasonable. So they're bouncing.

Marsha Clark  28:31  
No, I think that's absolutely right. And I think, you know, with the talk of inflation and recession, and all these kinds of things, I'm already beginning to hear some of my clients talk about do we have to do another restructuring? Are we going to have to do some, you know, layoffs and other things that go along with it? So yeah, where is it all? So I also attribute, you know, the great resignation that people are getting to the point of life is too short. It's sort of a philosophical awakening that's been taking place since the pandemic hit where all of a sudden things that just had to get done didn't, and the world did not follow. (That's right.) Right. And people are realizing that they aren't as stuck, you know, they got to put up with it as they once thought, and they're moving to these, you know, quote, unquote, greener pastures, or what at least seems like greener pastures. And I want to throw up my, my big yellow caution flag regarding that. It's another one of my favorite sayings. And I think it's quite profound. It was quite profound for me both in for myself and the people that I work with. And here it is. "No matter where you go, there you are".

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  29:44  
And yes, that's true.

Marsha Clark  29:46  
So think about it in this way, listeners, no matter where you go. I'm taking myself with me. So the you who left the old environment The you who didn't set or maintain boundaries in the old job is still the same you, even when you move to that new job, new relationship, new culture, whatever. So it's possible that if you found yourself in a vicious cycle, and I would say probable, if you found yourself in a vicious cycle of taking on too much work as you felt helpless or powerless, and in your ability to set boundaries in your old job and with your old boss, you're highly likely going to discover that the new boss and the new job will also invade and intrude upon your time and space, like an invasive vine that, you know, like, kind of takes over the structure and can climb up the wall of the house.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  30:47  
It's taking over the state.

Marsha Clark  30:49  
So without you actively, proactively establishing the limits and maintaining them, the job, regardless of where you are, will take you over.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  31:02  

Marsha Clark  31:04  
Yes ouch. You know, it is an uncomfortable coaching conversation that I often have with someone when they realized that their great escape wasn't an escape at all. And I often think about this in terms of career planning, as I encourage people to run towards them. As if you're running away and taking yourself with you, because you haven't solved for the problem, that the one that is within us that we've at least got to give our best shot to, before we determine that we need to get away, I don't ever want our listeners to think I'm saying stay in an abusive situation, you know, or any of that, because we got to try everything we can do. But sometimes we have to go but be clear about what you're gonna recognize what the new who you who sets boundaries can do. So hopefully with these signs to watch out for and you know, considering some of the reflection questions of what that include what else is possible, we can avoid some of the unpleasantness by recognizing that the solution that may be most viable isn't about looking for the greener pasture, but figuring out how to stand up first. In the place where we are already.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  32:19  
Right, exactly. So we go from being feel or feeling powerless or helpless to feeling resentful with this next behavior and situation. So this third example is where we say yes to someone's request, but then start feeling resentment.

Marsha Clark  32:37  
That's right, item number three, revealing resentment. So it's the classic case where someone makes a somewhat unreasonable request, let's be real, I needed by this afternoon, or I needed tomorrow morning. It could be that it's reasonable, but you already have so much on your plate, because you've already made those commitments. And instead of saying no, like you need to and want to you smile, right? Sure. I'll get that done and say yes, anyway. And then what happens next?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  33:05  
You see him, you resent this person, they're piling more on your plate, you get mad at yourself for taking it on and not standing up for yourself. And it's a mental cycle of angry, angry angriness. And I'm getting worked up just thinking about it.

Marsha Clark  33:19  
You know there's two things that I've observed in the women that I work with. One is that I didn't even make the connection that I'm not, I may be mad at that other person, because I asked it, because I may be thinking to myself, don't they know how busy we are? And all that, and they haven't, it hasn't even dawned on them what role they're playing in a recurring story. And for others, it's like, I know the story. Well, I get mad at them. And I realize it was me. It's on me. So it gets even hotter if that other person should, right, depending on ourselves, have known we already had a lot on our plate and and especially if it's your boss or a client who's the... these are the very people with all the requests, right? They're the ones you already made some of these commitments to and you start feeling indignant, you know, almost an hour long with resentful, and you're wondering why they don't realize how busy you are, and you think they're being insensitive or inconsiderate. And then, as you said, Wendi, you get mad at yourself because once again, you didn't set a boundary and said yes when you wanted to say no.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  34:29  
Every single time. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Marsha Clark  34:31  
That's right. So for me, and this is my part of my own journey, I really had to dig deep inside search within me and recognize how I was contributing to the situation and and to be fair, as long as I kept saying, yes, they would keep asking, and that's the that's such a big thing. And, you know, another way that we say this Wendi, is I was teaching people how to treat me, right?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  34:59  
I just want to underscore that.  We teach people how to treat us.

Marsha Clark  35:05  
That's right. And as long as they kept asking, and I kept saying yes, they were going to keep asking. And you know, this goes right back to our original quote. But, you know, I recognized I was the only one who could really change the dynamic. Givers need to set boundaries, and feeling resentful or angry about my own choice in saying yes was 100%.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  35:30  
Well, the reflection question on this behavior and situation is really straightforward. And from your book, the question is, think of a time when you felt resentful because of your own inability to say no, and how that impacted your work relationships? How can you manage this differently going forward?

Marsha Clark  35:53  
And it is a straightforward question. And it it's a pretty impactful one. I will I will give our listeners this little cue. If you're takers in your life, if you see them, their name come up on your phone, and you don't want to answer the phone. It could be this situation. If you see the person coming down the hall or across the cafeteria, and you run the other way, the other way, it could be a sign that you don't want to have that interaction. So I'm just saying!

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  36:28  
Yes, yes. So the final indicator from your book that might be a warning flag that you're having a hard time setting or holding on to boundaries is all around procrastinating.

Marsha Clark  36:41  
Yes. So number four, procrastinates. So this is a popular one, again, with many of my coaching clients, when they find themselves in this Oh, wait to last minute kind of thing, procrastination on projects or tasks or whatever especially if this isn't their natural approach to work. Because you know, it's for some of us, it's just, you know, we get that adrenaline rush and all. But this is not that. So let's face it, some people are masters at procrastinating. So if it's not your usual mode of operation, then it may be a sign of difficulty setting boundaries. So only we can determine that knowing ourselves.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  37:19  
Yeah, I really liked this question that you asked in the book, are you procrastinating because you didn't want to do it in the first place? Was this task or project better suited for someone else, but you ended up with it anyway. And now you don't want to do it. And maybe you're back to resenting it because you think someone else shouldn't be doing it. And so now you're putting it off.

Marsha Clark  37:43  
Well, and I just want to say, if it really should be somebody else maybe they said no. Maybe they said and held a boundary. And they do that on a regular basis. So I know...  are the ones stuck with it. It's that commercial: Give it to Mikey. He'll eat it! Yeah, live cereal. Yeah. I mean, give it to Marsha. She'll do it. Give it to Wendi. She'll do it. Yeah, you know, so all possible indicators that the real reason underlying your procrastination wasn't because you don't know how to manage your time, but because you didn't manage your boundaries. That's a really important distinction. It is, it is. So two very different performance issues to address with different strategies. So the reflection questions for this warning sign are and you think of a recent task, you procrastinating on? And how did that procrastination relate to boundary setting? And so those are two, again, very simple, straightforward questions, but we've got to call it out and acknowledge that circumstance, then we've got to dig and explore and question and, you know, tear it apart and put it back together again, and again, only I can answer these questions. And how did it relate to boundary setting? No, examining the relationship, examining the ask ,examining the timing, examining the level or volume of work you already have, all of those things have to go into that for me to really explore and understand it?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  39:10  
Absolutely. Well, we've already covered a lot of ground with these warning signs and these behaviors that some of our listeners may be struggling with, with setting boundaries. So let's do a quick review of these behaviors to be on the lookout for.

Marsha Clark  39:24  
Good, good. No, I like that. So one, doing things you don't want to do for others. Two, feeling helpless or powerless. I had no choice. Three, feeling resentful after we've said yes. And four, procrastinate.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  39:44  
Excellent. Okay. So let's say that our listeners have come to the conclusion that yes, they do, in fact, have a hard time setting or maintaining boundaries. One thing you say in the book is that it's important to figure out what might be driving those behaviors like the why behind the what, and you list five different potential drivers that I think would be really enlightening for our listeners to hear.

Marsha Clark  40:08  
Yeah, and I'm gonna bet that everybody's gonna be able to relate to at least a couple of them. And I'll go them pretty go through them pretty quickly, because they're fairly self explanatory. Okay. All right. So the first driver is avoiding conflict, which is basically, I don't want to deal with the drama that might come with saying no, just plain and simple.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  40:28  
Yeah. And I love your suggestion for this one is to imagine the other person actually being okay with your No, or agreeing with your alternative idea if you have one to offer, and imagining that person responding reasonably and respectfully, especially if they're typically a reasonably respectful person.

Marsha Clark  40:51  
Yeah. And I think, you know, from many of us, our brains conjure up this image of the other person storming off, you know, flipping tables on the way, this, you know, dramatic experience, and having some version of a two year old temper tantrum, if you will. So, when you say no to them, and the reality of that is that, probably 90% or higher is that they're going to respond professionally and rationally. And I just want our listeners to hear: try it, try it, try it, because I've just had women go try it, and they come back, and they're amazed. And they didn't, it didn't damage our relationship. I didn't get fired. You know, he, the person asked me something an hour later. So like, it's a missed opportunity. So just try it.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  41:37  
Rght. Imagining the person as rational. That's such a novel idea. So the second driver you list is the fear of being perceived as incompetent or a poor team player. So are we afraid to say no or offer any kind of alternative that might work better for us because we're afraid they'll think we're covering up for not being able to do what they asked?

Marsha Clark  42:05  
So for some people, this is a real driver in saying yes, always saying yes, versus, you know, saying no appropriately. So we're going to have an entire series on the imposter phenomena coming up soon. And I think that could definitely be driving many of the yeses, because they feel the need to constantly, we feel the need to constantly prove ourselves as competent or worthy of being on the team. So this fear of being perceived as incompetent or poor team player is the flip of that, right? So even with people who don't have huge issues with the imposter syndrome, this driver could be what keeps them on their own, never ending gerbil wheel of saying yes to projects and tasks, just to continuously prove their value to the team to the organization and so on.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  42:58  
Right, right. Well, I can't wait until we dig deeper into all the imposter stuff. But in the meantime, this next driver on the list is disapproval, that you don't say no to requests because you're afraid the person won't like you anymore, or that it will somehow damage the relationship. I mean, why am I thinking about junior high as I even say that?

Marsha Clark  43:21  
Yes. Okay. So well, you know, for fear of just making it too simple. In some ways, that is what it feels like. Yeah, you know, and this idea that I had to go along in order to be included to be one of the guys you know, that's where I hear sometimes, to be part of the cool kids click. And, and I didn't dare say no to anything to anyone that was popular, right? And then another way, think about that, or powerful, right? They have powerful positions, and that those people might ask me to do. So the balance of power was clearly lopsided, right, it wasn't mutually mutual, it wasn't respectful. And I wasn't willing to risk being ostracized or isolated. So I just went along to go along to keep my quote unquote, "friends".  

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  44:12  
And if those friends who you have have acquiesced to who you can't set boundaries with or they'll kick you to the curb, those really aren't your friends.

Marsha Clark  44:25  
I mean, as a parent, have you ever heard yourself saying that to your kids? Look in the mirror. Yeah, yeah. And also just welcome to the dinner table conversation. I hope parents are having these kinds of, you know, conversations with their tweens and teens, you know, on a regular basis, because it's definitely NOT the definition of a healthy, mutually respectful relationship. I don't care if you're 15 years old or 50 years.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  44:53  
Yeah, yeah. And there are also people who put the needs or desires of others so far ahead of their own, which sounds a lot like the next driver, not wanting to inconvenience the other person.

Marsha Clark  45:07  
You know, this is one of the signs. I mean, there certainly is overlap there but this one, and I cringe every time I hear someone use it as their reason, not wanting to inconvenience, as their reason for not setting or sticking to the boundaries they've set. Why are you, Nurse Marsha, Wendi, the only person who seems to deserve to be inconvenienced I mean, just like ask ourselves that question, why me? Am I so less than that, you know, my time doesn't matter? If you're, if any one of us are the constant accommodator we're always bending over backwards and perhaps even sacrificing something we want or need to make sure that no one else is inconvenienced, dare I say we're doing it wrong. That's our you know mo.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  45:58  
Exactly. Well, I like how you respond to this in the book with some advice on how to set up your own boundaries without coming across as self absorbed. And it's really a nice approach. And so I know this is like, now we're getting to the good stuff because I know I can hear the listeners in my head saying, okay, Marsha, all great. And yes, I'm all these people. How do I do this without coming across as a capital B?

Marsha Clark  46:25  
Yeah. So thank you. And what I've found that for people who aren't genuinely worried about inconveniencing others, and who still need to work on setting their own boundaries, this approach I'm about to describe can feel unnatural or uncomfortable. So so let's get to the point of where it feels more natural and comfortable. So I suggest when people get asked to do something that they communicate their current or upcoming commitments and deadlines to whomever is making the new request, so that the other person has a realistic and honest sense of the workload and priorities already imply. So again, assuming that we're working with reasonable, respectful people, they're going to clearly see, without me having to belabor the point, that their request doesn't easily fit into my existing list of to do's or commitments or schedule. And now, I have a really helpful hint that I'll share in a couple of minutes with how else to handle this type of situation. But be prepared and speak about and what I do is to encourage people always have your list of to do's your priority.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  47:43  
Um hmm.

Marsha Clark  47:44  
You can have them in must do, should do, like to do or or you can have them in date for deliverable order. Either way, you whip that thing out when you get the request and say where does this fit on my priority list?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  47:57  
Exactly, and put it back on them.

Marsha Clark  47:59  
Yes. And, you know, I will tell you, when people started doing that with me, because I could come up with ideas and assignments again and again and again and again, and I would look at their list because I'd forgotten the seven other assignments that I'd already given them. And I'm managing, you know, big organizations of hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people. And I would say Oh, right. Right, because it was a wouldn't that be curious to go explore? Or I'd love to know the answer to this. But when I looked at it in the context of other things on their list, my mind changed dramatically. And I wasn't trying to be a taker, or trying to overwhelm them. But each of us, this goes back to I have a responsibility to let people know what my world is right now. And if I don't, that's on me.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  48:48  
Right, right. And so this last driver you list in the book is a concern with career repercussions.

Marsha Clark  48:55  
Right, I'm going to be seen as someone who's not willing to step up. So I'll say that this one probably is the one that I hear maybe most often, but quite often. And people get nervous that if they say no to an assignment that it's going to have this lasting negative impact on any future career opportunities. And, and I get it, it's an understandable concern. And what I tried to do is help them get clear on the impact of their request. And again, to look for patterns. So first, consider the scope of the request and how it fits into your overall career direction. So if you're being asked to do something, does this request help you advance your skills or scope of responsibilities in a way that's aligned or supportive of your long term goals? Does it increase your visibility and access to maybe some of the key players or influencers who might be critical in helping you attain your career goals? And this can also be a really important time to remember that you don't always have to give an immediate response because especially career and job changes, you know. It's a great place to slow down and, and I think get really, really, really clear before responding. So give yourself the time to be intentional in your response.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  50:14  
Just a simple  'Can I get back with you on that?' Or please let me think about it. I'll get back to you on Friday, you know, whatever, give yourself some space. I mean, all of this is so helpful. And it's kind of making me think of Alice in Wonderland and the Cheshire Cat conversation where she says, she asks the cat, or the cat asks her, where she wants to go. And Alice says, I don't really care. And so the cat says, then it doesn't matter which way you go. I mean, if that's your career plan, maybe we need to have a one on one with Marsha.

Marsha Clark  50:50  
And I think about this, you know, I probably butcher this a little bit, if you don't know where you're going any path will do.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  50:56  
Exactly, exactly. (The same kind of thing). So if someone comes to you with a request that might take you in a new or a different direction but you don't have clarity around what you want your career path to take, then how would you know whether to say yes or no. And so a lack of clarity can make it really hard to set a boundary or make a decision.

Marsha Clark  51:18  
That's absolutely right. And you're also right, that the boundaries are harder to set without some semblance of structure or framework or sense of what you want. So we're back to the idea of our Bigger Yes, going back to something and helping us get clear, which helps us set and protect our boundaries. So the other consideration here as it relates to potential career implications, is to look at your own historical patterns of responding to those kinds of requests, especially to big requests like taking on larger responsibilities or even relocating you, your family, you know, for a new role. And if you have historically said no to new opportunities, then let's be real. So at some point, people will stop asking.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  52:02  
And I love the advice you offer on how to handle the situation so that you don't shut off future possibilities.

Marsha Clark  52:11  
And I will tell you that what I'm about to share with you, and what's included in the book has been a really effective approach over the years. And I suggest it to people who have been offered an opportunity and they need to turn it down to tell whether it be their boss or client or whoever's making the request that they are declining the opportunity. And this is from the book. So this is the nugget: "I'm declining this opportunity at this time, and I'm going to share my relevant reason " you know, and so that sort of, in parentheses, maybe you want to allow your children to finish high school, you know, at their current school. And working parents often put a grade or time threshold on that, right. They've started high school, I want them to finish high school. They're going from elementary to junior high or middle school or whatever. Maybe that's a good time to transition. You know what, once you start high school, I want you to finish. So maybe your parents are aging, and you want to be close by to look in on them and spend some quality time with them. It's a finite set of time where you usually get to that point. Maybe your spouse or your partner can't relocate right now, given their career aspirations or based on their current responsibilities. I often have heard my clients talk about well, I made the last move. So the next move, you know, I can't make the next move because it's my husband's turn or my partner's turn or something along those lines. And, and I just, you know, again, encourage our listeners to make sure that you're honoring both your personal and your professional values and your big rock priority. So you got to know those ahead of time in order to honor them. But make sure that that's a part of the decision making process. And let the people know, you know, the people who need to know about why you're saying yes, why you're saying no. And And here's another big, this is the close. Once you've provided your basis of declining the offer is to say, and please ask me again should another opportunity arise, because life changes, right? My situation changes. So don't count me out. Ask me again.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  54:22  
Right. Because I do want to keep growing. That's right. Yeah. I and I think people appreciate hearing the why behind declining the offer, and that actually helps keep the doors open.

Marsha Clark  54:34  
Well, that's what I have certainly found out and, and I've also found out that it's rare that there's only one opportunity in anyone's career you know, and another's going to come along at the right time. And you know, perhaps you can say yes to that.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  54:49  
Exactly. It's it's so easy to get caught in the mental trap of thinking that this is the only time you're going to get offered this kind of promotion, or project or opportunity. But as long as you're performing well, odds are that you're going to continue to stay on the radar for other opportunities.

Marsha Clark  55:08  
Well, that's right. And I am I harken back to a quote from Irma Bombeck. And she was, she was early in the women's movement recognizing working mothers, working women. And she said, women can have it all. Not all at the same time. So as you go through seasons, phases, stages of life, recognize no one moment in time will define. Right?(Absolutely.) There's going to be a whole lot more life to live, and more opportunities to come. And that's the, you know, the beauty of looking for patterns. So not only your own pattern of saying yes or no, but also your patterns of producing top results and continuing to be recognized. And the more you can have those experiences, the more mindful and intentional we can be. And that's the real advice here.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  56:00  
Exactly. So the last thing we want to cover today are your steps for setting those boundaries. You offer five steps in the book "Embracing Your Power". Will you share those now and provide just a short explanation of each one?

Marsha Clark  56:14  
Yes. So the five steps are, starting with number one, is 'get clear on your boundaries and priorities'. You know, we usually figure out our boundaries after someone's crossed them. But you don't have to wait for someone to step on you your time, your schedule, and so on, to recognize which boundaries you need to set. So what many people have found helpful is to go back over the list that we worked through earlier in the episode and see which if any, where their personal challenges are, and then think about what boundary was crossed there. What boundary do I want to set there? So if I can think of those times when I procrastinated, when I've been resentful, when I've been fearful, then  just begin to make that list.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  57:01  
Yeah, yep. So just to recap that earlier in the episode we covered the list of reasons why we don't set boundaries in the first place, like avoiding conflict or worrying about being seen as incompetent or not being a team player.

Marsha Clark  57:13  
Yes, yes, and our listeners can go back over that and again, see if any of those belief patterns match, you know, the reasons on why they aren't setting boundaries then from there they can work through, you know, what their specific set of concerns are, and then check in and see how realistic those fears might be. And from that list, you can again begin to develop your own set of values.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  57:36  
So just if you say that we can be really clear, can you give us an example of how someone might use the list?

Marsha Clark  57:43  
Sure. Okay, so let's take the example of avoiding conflict. This is from the book. So each of us has our own views about conflict and how comfortable we are whatever. And for some of our listeners, a harsh tone from someone they admire or respect is enough to send them into some shame spiral, and they want to immediately repair whatever damage they think they've caused by saying no, or suggesting an alternative to what was requested. And some listeners read between the lines and bristle at what feels like really passive aggressive resentment coming at them when they've tried to stand up.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  58:24  
So then, how do you use your own recognition of your own tendency to say yes when you want to say no because you're trying to avoid conflict?

Marsha Clark  58:35  
Well, it requires reflection. Yeah. So examine your own thoughts about conflict. And I know we're going to do several series episodes on conflict later. I just want to say, women in the normative database of an assessment that I use around what our conflict patterns are, we tend to be more avoiders and accommodate, so watch out from the get go. So examining our own thoughts about conflict, recognize when you're assuming that conflict is the inevitable and only reaction you're gonna get if you say no, really challenge yourself in that. In reality, it is only one possibility. And I say, say no, and see what happens. So this is the try, just give it a shot. Notice what you're thinking and how you're feeling, what really happened, and stop long enough to say, Oh, I had this whole story in my head, and guess what? None of it played out. And then the next time you find yourself in that place to make the decision of engaging or not engaging in conflict, remember the time that I engaged in.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  59:49  
Right. Right. But I also want to offer real quick before we move on that sometimes it does, like when you say no and set a boundary, it does step into somebody else's world like they are not, they did not expect you to behave that way. And for some people, they're it's a very small number of people, but for those people, it will affect your relationship. I've had this happen to me, it happened to me this year, within the last six months, and I set a boundary, a very firm one, and that woman completely has completely shut me out of her life. And I'm like, You know what? That's on you, honey. That's your choice.

Marsha Clark  1:00:32  
Well, I kind of agree with that. I mean, that's not mutually received. And if I don't do what you want, then that means to me, that is the five year old little girl, Wendi is not my friend.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:00:49  
Right, because she didn't share her dolly with me.

Marsha Clark  1:00:52  
Right. So to think that we have to do say yes every single time and that our relationship is dependent upon that, that is unhealthy and toxic, and there's nothing good about that kind of relationship.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:01:05  
Right. Right. So I just want to offer that, you know, to our listeners that, you know, sometimes it may have been to be prepared for that, that sometimes when you set a boundary and say no, it could happen.

Marsha Clark  1:01:18  
Yeah. And let me also say, not only that that relationship being broken, but it also goes the other way that says, if I just say yes to everything, well, that can impact my desired work life balance, right? My personal situation, right, and you know, the clarity, to be prepared to say what you will or won't do, or what you can or can't do, we've got to get clear about that. Thus write down you know what these are. And it's better if you say this earlier, rather than later in the process of requesting and getting it done. So whether it be earlier in the relationship, whether it be earlier in the looking at what I have already committed to, it doesn't get better with age. So don't miss a deadline or fall short on commitment because you took out more than you can handle. That makes you look bad. You'd look a whole lot better by saying you know what, my plate is full, I cannot get this done in the time you requested. I encourage you, each and every one of our listeners, myself included, to be as direct as possible in your response. And you don't have to make excuses and go on and on and on about setting and maintaining a boundary. And I'll say this for my own learning because I wanted to make it so clear. And I didn't know how to close on my 'No', I would go on and then I found myself repeating myself. When you start repeating yourself, just say, I think I've covered that. Yeah, you know, and say it outloud.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:02:47  
Yeah. Yeah. Love it. So number two in setting boundaries is to be consistent and follow through. Yes.

Marsha Clark  1:02:55  
And again, from the book, it's critical that once you've set a boundary, be sure you follow through and maintain the commitment. And there are people in our lives, both personally and professionally, who will try to wear us down. Right? They're gonna keep asking us again and again and again. And maybe they give you that look or use that tone, right, which they think is the guilt-inducing look or tone, and you've got to stay strong. The goal again, remember the goal, a mutually respectful relationship. Be clear that chilling looks or a harsh tones, or guilting language does not reflect or equal a mutually respectful relationship.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:03:37  
Exactly. And so we're full circle back to our opening quote, 'Givers need to set limits because takers rarely do" right? (Nice throwback). Yep, exactly. So number three in setting boundaries is to hold yourself and others accountable for maintaining those boundaries.

Marsha Clark  1:03:58  
And again, this is a big one, especially for keeping boundaries strong. You need to be clear from the beginning when you're communicating what your particular boundary is that you also include the consequence or any consequence of honoring or not honoring your boundary, because there is no accountability without consequence. You know, I've said that many times. For example, you might set a curfew for a child to be home at a certain time. What are the consequences if they consistently meet or don't meet curfew, right. And the same can be applied to employees or team members who do or don't meet deadlines. You know, if you're late for the curfew, and you're late on your deadlines, and there's a pattern of that, what are you going to do about.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:04:42  
Exactly, it seems to me like this could be something that either makes or breaks your ability to hold on to your boundaries. And I can see how it's one thing to draw the proverbial line in the sand and show it to someone, but if or when they cross the line if you don't stay strong and consistent and hold people accountable, then the line is basically erased.

Marsha Clark  1:05:04  
Yeah. And it's a double whammy if you think about it. Not only did you lose your boundary, but you also lost credibility and trust, not sticking to it. So it is the lose, lose proverbial lose, lose. And it just makes it that much harder to set and hold one.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:05:19  
So true. And you lose so much traction when you aren't consistent. And so speaking of consistency, number four in setting boundaries is to look for patterns in your own or others behaviors to help anticipate and manage our responses around boundaries.

Marsha Clark  1:05:40  
Yeah, I think that's, again, a really important one. So, you know, identifying patterns can help you better manage your response and your actions. But you've got to know where those patterns are to manage them. So doing this helps you anticipate the request that's coming. And I'm gonna go take us back to another one of the Marsha-isms, if you will. A dot is a dot, two dots is a line and three dots is a trend. What trend in request or requester can you see heading your way that you need to consider and weigh against your priorities and boundaries?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:06:19  
Yeah, you give some really good examples of these patterns in the book. So will you share a couple of those here real quick for our listeners?

Marsha Clark  1:06:26  
Sure. So let's say it's an annual budget system, and you know, you're going to be asked to do all the research and your boss is going to present it. Knowing this request is coming your way, maybe it's time to offer an alternative and suggest that someone else on the team is given the task as this year's developmental opportunity. So you know, that's one example, right? You know, a more personal example is that it's the holiday season and as usual, you're being asked to host the extended family, you know, for a big dinner. Now, do you love doing it or does all the preparation, work and cleanup fall on you? And are there boundaries that you can establish in this scenario around what you will and won't do? So maybe this year, you ask others to bring favorite foods, you assign a cleanup crew that doesn't include you and you know, these new boundaries are going to give you an opportunity to enjoy the time to visit with your family members, too. And, you know, Wendi, I would just add, have you ever had a holiday and you think I need a holiday from the holiday or vacation?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:07:27  
Yes. Yes. Yes. Yeah, and I really like this one, because I need to spend some time with that strategy, for sure. I think it ties nicely in with number five, this final step in setting boundaries, which is...

Marsha Clark  1:07:43  
All right, to thank the other person for honoring your boundary or honoring their commitment. This is rewarded performances repeated. Another Marsha-ism. And saying thank you is a form of reward in this case. So your acknowledgement reinforces the boundary, and lets them know you're serious. And it points out to them what that you know, reinforcing the boundary itself. So thank you for honoring my boundary of... right. And we generally, you know, like being thanked or acknowledged, and it does encourage us, research shows again and again, to repeat the behavior.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:08:23  
Lots of positive reinforcement goes a long way. So as we wrap up this chapter in the book and this podcast with a few thoughts to remember some of what you've already shared today, what's one last suggestion you have for our listeners to help manage their boundaries?

Marsha Clark  1:08:40  
So one last piece of advice or coaching is to consider what I refer to as a soft no. And that's basically to offer another option or alternative when someone comes to you with a request. So I'll use the example from the book where a boss or a client is trying to sweet talk you into taking on some huge project by heaping on you know, the praise, you know, for the work you did the last time and you did such an amazing job.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:09:07  
Yeah, and by sweet talk, this feels like manipulation.

Marsha Clark  1:09:12  
I have the visual image of a like a fish hook in my mouth, you know, pulling me along. Yeah, reeling me in, so to speak. So it can feel that way. And I, I know it's hard sometimes depending on patterns, but but let's give the person the benefit of the doubt and say they really are trying to compliment you and to influence you to come back and lead the big project, the next big project or you know, a repeat kind of annual cycle project. So, first of all, remember that you can use the delay response of saying I'll review your schedule and current commitments to get back to them. So it's a temporary No. And, you know, if you do have time but you know you don't want to do it, give yourself and them some space and you know, so giving yourself time to be thoughtful and intentional, right? Then, once you have reviewed your commitments and have made the decision not to lead the project again, you can respond with something like, you know, I've had an opportunity, and this is language so I want our listeners to get this, I've had an opportunity to look at my current workload and commitments, and I've decided not to take on this initiative. Not I can't, not I, you know, any of that. I've decided not to take on this initiative. And then this is where your alternative solution comes in. You go on to further say, I do have a recommendation for someone that I think can offer great leadership to this initiative and for whom it could be a great developmental assignment. And so, person asking me, whoever you might select, I also want to offer that I'm happy to turn over my notes and share my thoughts with them. And lastly, I'll also be available for 30 days to answer any questions the initiative leader might have.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:11:01  
That's so awesome. I just love that everybody needs to write that down and put it... exactly. But it provides a solution also. It's not just No and then you're walking away from it either. So you make some really important points around this example in the book that I think are really worth emphasizing here. So first, you establish that you are clear about taking your current commitment seriously. Yes. Second, you offer a helpful alternative. Third, you stress that this is a developmental opportunity for someone else, which I think is huge. Yes. And then fourth, you set yet another boundary by being available for 30 days to assist in transition.

Marsha Clark  1:11:48  
Right. And I really want to emphasize that 30 days. It's really important. You know, as I as I shared in the book, I've experienced personally and heard as a coach from others that I had the courage to say no but then I ended up doing the roll anyway, and yet I get zero credit or recognition for doing that. And so again, we're back to the 100% lose, lose proposition for ourselves. So in this scenario, follow through on what you said you'd do. Turn over your notes, remind the new initiative leader when the 30 days are up.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:12:22  
And put it on your calendar. Set an alarm.

Marsha Clark  1:12:26  
And you send a note to them and say I know it's 30 days, maybe you do it at 28 days and so you know, quite last minute, let them know it's their call to make or that they can find that info. So if they call you back, so this, I don't want to get ahead of myself. So if that person does continue coming back to you, you know, at 62 days at 134 days, you know, whatever it is, then let them know that it's their call to make, you know, I don't have any input on that. Or that they can find the information in the notes you passed along. And that was the purpose of offering, it's just that if they don't want to look at it doesn't mean it's your problem to solve. (Exactly.) So because if you keep giving them the answers, guess what? They'll keep coming to you with questions. So it's another yet another, we teach people how to treat us moment. And if they ask and you keep saying yes, they're gonna keep asking you and I can just tell you count on it, take it to the bank. So it can be tough to stick to your boundaries. And listeners and Wendi and Marsha, we can do this. Yeah, you know. And so at the end of the initiative, this is another important piece, congratulate them on their good work.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:13:34  
I love that. So as we're wrapping up, what final thoughts would you like to share with our listeners today, Marsha?

Marsha Clark  1:13:41  
So here, I've got three. So first is one of my favorite questions around setting boundaries  that someone gave me many years ago, and ask yourself this question before you say yes. Can I continue to do this? Meaning can I say yes to a task or project with love in my heart? Now isn't that a great question? No resentment, no guilt, no blame, judgment. I have love in my heart as I complete the task or activities that are being requested of me. Maybe you love hosting that holiday dinner at your house. If you do year after year after year with love in your heart, then I say go for it. I'm not telling you not to do it. I'm just saying can you do it with love in your heart. Asking. And the second is to remind our listeners, you know that definition of insanity, right? Which is doing the same thing you've always done over and over again expecting somehow to get a different result. So in the case of setting and maintaining boundaries, you can't keep saying yes and taking on unwanted work yet expect or hope that others are going to miraculously stop asking.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:14:54  
Oh great point. Because where's their initiative to stop asking? None.

Marsha Clark  1:14:59  
Right, so and then the last thought is that the more often you're successful at setting and maintaining boundaries, the easier it will get. And I just want to make this promise to our listeners, it will get easier.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:15:11  
Yes, yes. Wow, Marsha, I this is one of those episodes that I think we're all going to need to listen to a couple of different times to let it all soak in, write down the quotes. Like you literally gave us, here's your verbiage plan for how you can respond to these people. So I'm going to encourage our listeners to please you know, go back, hit pause, write this down, type it up, keep it in a note somewhere for yourself so you can refer back to it.

Marsha Clark  1:15:41  
Well, thank you, Wendi. You know, you've helped guide us through this process. So I appreciate that tremendously. And we've taken a pretty deep dive and, and I do hope our leaders will will really take time to soak it all in. And there's one other person I want to give credit to here. And that's Mark Sacks. And I give him credit in the book, and I want to give him credit on this podcast. He was my master's program practicum advisor. And he is the one who many years ago now introduced the topic of setting and maintaining boundaries. So some of the information I shared with you adapted from his work. And it was an opening that I had not been able to name before I saw his work. And then it opened up all kinds of avenues, challenges, but also opened up a door for how to work with because I do see setting and maintaining boundaries as harder for women to do. I just want to give him that shout out. And as I say, it just started me on a whole other path of an important topic.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:16:58  
Exactly. Exactly. Well, thank you, Marsha. Thank you, listeners, for joining us today on our journey of authentic powerful leadership. Please download, subscribe and share this podcast. Please share this podcast with your other leaders in your life, be they young women, college graduates, you know your daughters, your sons, your male colleagues, wherever they like to listen to podcasts, and please visit Marsha's website at We've got links to all the tools, other resources we talked about today, and subscribe to her email list to stay up to date on everything in Marsha's world. And of course, you can always get the book off of Marsha's website "Embracing Your Power" and magnets.

Marsha Clark  1:17:47  
And I'll autograph the book. So I too want to thank our listeners because we did cover a lot of material today and I hope they find it useful. We always like hearing from you. And I think this one in particular that you know our closing comment, we need to support one another in these kinds of things and help each other stay strong and encourage each other in this way. So as always, here's to women supporting women!

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