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  • Ricka Robb Kohnstamm

How might saying "no" help you create room for "yes"?

I am swirling in boundary work this week... so many people are swept up in a tsunami of messy, mucky, complicated situations at home and at work, in relationship with parents, with children, with partners.

I love boundary work.

Love, love, love.

It is liberating and it builds important muscles. Boundaries create safety and are critical for healthy relationships and organizations.


Boundary work is VERY difficult.

Why? For many reasons, one being our learned reluctance to say "no" because of the stories we create about what will happen if we do.

  • If I say "no" to my partners, am I a failure? They seem to expect me to be able to do all of this and I can't. If I say "no", they will think I have failed them.

  • If I say "no" to my parents, will I hurt them? They want to be with me all of the time and I need space to breathe. If I say "no", they will think I am rejecting them.

  • If I say "no" to my administration, will they fire me? They continue to pile on an unreasonable schedule and expect me to push everything aside for them, and it's hurting my other relationships. If I say "no", they will probably fire me.

  • If I say "no" to my child, am a bad mom? I don't want to drop my commitments to myself in order to drive my child, at the last moment, across town. If I say "no", my child will think I am selfish and unsupportive.

  • If I say "no" to myself, how will I find comfort? If I decide not to eat that piece of pie in the fridge, how will I fill that empty space in my heart? If I say "no", I will feel empty.

How might learning to say "no" help you create room for saying "yes"?

When you are ready to practice shifting the story you create, consider these examples...

  • When I say "no" to my partners, I am demonstrating strong leadership by modeling realistic parameters on our work days. When I am choose to say "no", I am saying "yes" to considering other ways to engage with work and that is a win/win.

  • When I say "no" to my parents, I am getting clear with myself about what I need and modeling healthy family boundaries, which I know they didn't have growing up. When I choose to say "no" , I am saying "yes" to respecting my time, as well as theirs, and I am supporting my ability to show up more genuinely when we are together.

  • When I say "no" to my administration, I am defining for myself what is most important to me. When I choose to say "no", I am saying "yes" to my children and their piano recitals and dance performances, and "yes" to the parent that I have committed to being.

  • When I say "no" to my child, I am helping her learn that she is part of a bigger family and community and her needs are important and so are others'. When I choose to say "no", I am saying "yes" to respect for others' time, including my own, and that helps me be in healthier relationship with her, free of resentment.

  • When I say "no" to myself, I am reminding myself that there are many ways to find comfort and that I have choice. When I choose to say "no" to the stale old left-over-mostly-yucky pie in the fridge, I am saying "yes" to my goal of lowering inflammation in my body, to feeling strong and healthy, to remembering that it is a privilege to have choice.

How does that feel?

Actions, aligned with values, support optimal health.


Hello, I'm Ricka.

Ricka Kohnstamm Executive & Physician Coach Profile Photo

I'm a Nationally Board Certified (NBC-HWC) Integrative Health and Wellbeing Coach. I specialize in working with physician leaders, corporate leaders, non-profit executives and their families to navigate complex work and personal issues so they can strengthen their relationships, heal, and feel hopeful about the future again. 



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