This is the story of how I visited the same frozen yogurt shop twice in a matter of 3 hours.

What does an embarrassing froyo addiction have to do with saying no, you ask? Allow me to explain:

At one point in my not so distant past, I stepped down from a position that, by all accounts, I should have been madly in love with. On paper, it was the social media job of my dreams, but over time, I realized it was not helping me achieve my goals – in the office, in my career, or in my intellectual life – like I had thought. After many anxiety-filled nights, a bit of re-strategizing in the office, and some heart-to-hearts, I realized that the position was not taking me in the direction I wanted to go.

I was left with a decision: I could wait it out and hope for the best, or I could take action and step down.

Now, I am not the world’s most assertive person. Let me paint you a picture: I could never pick a favorite color as a girl because I didn’t want to hurt the other colors’ feelings (true story). Same thing with my impressive stuffed animal collection. I’m quiet and what you’d call an introvert. I am slow to anger, and am told I have the patience of a saint (working retail, you better believe I can withstand some pretty vicious yelling). Ask anyone who knows me, and I’d be willing to bet they’d remark on how I’m too nice.

But here I was, faced with a reality that made me miserable and actually took away from what I wanted to achieve and an alternative that made me feel like a failure. And then I did something that terrified me: I said no.

When you reach that last precipice, where you’ve tried everything in your power to find a solution, to make the situation work, to compromise, only to realize things just aren’t working out, what do you do? How do you gracefully step down without offending anyone, or burning bridges? How does one even begin to say “no”?

  1. Map out your goals. Walking into your boss’s office, calmly stating, “I resign”, about-facing and walking out the door may not be a full-scale ungraceful attack, but it’s far from classy. Have in mind what you want to say beforehand, so that you can calmly express your concerns to your higher-ups. What exactly is the issue at hand? What is your ultimate goal? Are you resigning? Are you willing to compromise? What needs to change for that to happen?
  2. Leave emotion out of it. It’s easy to get caught up in your frustration, but venting to your boss isn’t going to leave a good impression, nor is it likely to get you the results you’re looking for. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be honest about your feelings, but there’s a big difference between saying “I don’t feel that we are on the same page” and verbally attacking someone and putting them down. It never hurts to practice your spiel with a close friend, or even to yourself so that you’re not taken by surprise and turn into a crying/yelling/word-vomit-y mess.
  3. Be assertive. Remember, there’s a difference between being aggressive and being assertive. Discuss the matter at hand calmly, and don’t point fingers. However, you made a plan for a reason, so stand up for yourself and stick to it. If you don’t feel the proposed solutions are in your best interest or align with your goals, don’t feel pressured to compromise and instead, stick to your plan.
  4. Don’t burn bridges. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying before, but it couldn’t be more true/truer. No matter what the situation, be polite and levelheaded. You never know when those connections might come in handy in the future.
  5. Acceptance. Saying no does not equal failure. Let me quote a real gem of Dad-wisdom here: “A quitter never wins, but only an idiot never quits”. Will you come across challenges throughout your life? Yes. Will you persevere through difficult situations? Sure you will. But there comes a time when the stress you are under is not positive, motivation, or even healthy. Pouring energy into something that’s only draining yours, is not worth it in the end.

Let me tell you a little secret: It’s okay to say no. Saying no doesn’t mean you’ve given up, or haven’t tried your hardest. It certainly doesn’t mean that you’re a failure. Often, it takes more courage to stand up and say “No, this isn’t what I’m looking for”, than to suffer through something that is of no benefit to you. That’s not to say it’s okay to throw in the towel in any challenging situation, but if it’s causing you more stress than happiness, it might be time to step back and re-evaluate what’s best for you and your goals.

Little ol’ me – the too nice Kristin who still can’t really pick a favorite color – said no. I did something that still terrifies me when I think back on it; I stood up for myself. Not in a mean way or an aggressive way, but I took a good, hard look at what was best for me at the time, and stood by my decision.

The next logical thing to do? Stop for frozen yogurt, duh. I took a page out of Kam’s book and grabbed a fruit-and-brownie-topped tart froyo to celebrate my little victory. Shy and soft-spoken me stood up for myself, said no, and kept it classy in the process. If that’s not a victory worth celebrating, I don’t know what is. So much so that I went back a few hours later and had some more.

And I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m now doing something that makes me happy. What makes me even happier is knowing that I chose to take the steps that led me to this point.

Do you know someone who could use a little pep talk? Tweet this post to them or send them an email of encouragement!