This week I have the pleasure of responding directly to a question that someone recently sent me:
I was recently having a conversation with my sister about how to gracefully bow out of a situation when we know we need to give ourselves time to re-energize.
I specifically want to find ways to say “no” in a powerful, yet gentle way that helps the other person understand that my asking for time to myself isn’t a rejection. I want to communicate it in a way that helps me hold my ground in not feeling guilty about saying no.
What too often happens to me is that I am uncomfortable with asking and so I wait until I am overwhelmed and then react by lashing out saying “I can’t handle this anymore! Just give me some time.” It is no longer graceful and often still makes me feel guilty for the way that I am communicating it as well as for the way I am taking that needed time out.
I’m hoping that many of you can relate, because I absolutely can.
Here’s what’s helped me:
I am most able to Gracefully Bow Out (isn’t that a gorgeous intention?) when …
- I give myself permission to know what I am needing. In this case, spaciousness, choicefulness, rest, self-care, acting with integrity, care for both people etc.
- I don’t see the other person as doing anything wrong (if I am thinking that they talk too much, for example, or are too needy, then those thoughts will create barriers to gracefulness!) Instead, I focus on what need they are trying to meet in that moment.
- I know deeply that asking for what I am needing, benefits us BOTH. It’s a gift to both of us if I can talk – proactively and kindly – about what I am needing.
- I am willing to be transparent about my own limits (ex. I have run out of steam, I am unable to keep focused, I am feeling activated and it’s preventing me from being present in the way I’d like to be right now)
- I can suggest a proposed alternative that includes the other person’s possible needs and preferences
Here are some examples that you can adapt to specific circumstances:
- I’m beginning to lose track of the content of what we are discussing. I want to be more fully present to this conversation because it is important to me/you are important to me. Could we take a break, and pick up here again [name a concrete moment in the future]?
- I am beginning to space out as we are talking. This conversation is really important/meaningful to me, and I’m noticing I need some time to digest where we are at right now – could we take a break and come back to this [concrete moment in future]?
- I love that you are asking to process this with me further – I totally want to be there for you, but if we keep talking right now you aren’t going to get the best of me. Let’s take a break, give me some time to re-boot, and come back to this when I am fresh and able to support you more fully.
And, if you want to speak more directly to your fear that they might think you are rejecting them, you could even say:
- I think I am running out of energy for talking right now, and I am reluctant to tell you this because I worry that you will feel bad. I want to re-energize before we go on, and also reassure you that you are important to me – how is that landing on you?
I love your questions because they stretch my own learning, growth and curiosity. They also represent your commitment to self-empowerment and creating more positive influence and well-being in the world. Keep them coming!