Afraid to Say No? The Shaking Keeps You Steady


“This shaking keeps me steady, I should know.” – Theodore Roethke (from the poem The Waking)

I recently wrote about using this quote when trying to make a change. One change that I find most people long for when we talk about making changes in a team training is the ability to say “no” more often.

We perceive this word to be incredibly risky – saying no is like admitting that death exists. Technically yes it does, but let’s not bring it up, right?

Whenever we say no, we step into emptiness. We let go of one trapeze bar and soar through the darkness without a net not knowing if another bar will be waiting for us. So the question is, how comfortable are we with emptiness? Nature is very comfortable with it. In my walks in the woods, all the action has gone underground. The trees are still and bare, not seduced by the sun’s energy. They’re smart enough to say “no” to that false invitation and wait to open their leaves.

I’ve said yes to a number of musical situations recently that are way out of my comfort zone. I’m very happy I have. But another part of me is ready now to have the courage to say “no”. And instead say yes to some more space, openness, some rest, just like the trees.

But saying no is scary. Something in me shakes.

When I partner with this shaking, when I agree to shake, I calm down and become steady. When I fight against it, and wish for a safe haven, I just feel miserable.

Your unshakeable confidence in yourself to say no will correlate exactly to the extent that you can befriend the shaking.

(I recommend the book The Power of the Positive No by William Ury if you want help saying no.)

I also explore saying no in the team development training Resiliency: Five Keys to Success – Leverage the five principles of resiliency – engagement, efficiency, endurance, flexibility, and loving the game – for peak work performance and enjoyment.

This post is part of Quixote Consulting’s 40 Days to Change For Good training activity that creates a successful forty-day blueprint to lead a change that lasts.

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