Balance Communication Managing Self Values

Saying “No” and modesty: What they have in common

Written by Paulette Pommells

“Thanks so much for this article. It was very timely. I am just about to start a new job on Monday … I do have a problem saying “no” and wonder if you have any other tips in that regard. Thanks for all your help, Coach!!”

My last article  generated questions, like the above, about learning to say “no” as a way to set boundaries at work. One technique that has surprisingly done well with my clients has to do with modesty.

As a coach who is interested in tailoring solutions to each client, I am always looking for ways to express myself in language that my clients understand. So when I began to work with lawyers who value modesty (yes, they do exist:), I was keen on learning new ways to frame their challenges.

One client, let’s call her Cathy, had trouble saying “no” at work. She had become so overwhelmed that she came to me to help her find a new, less stressful job. It became apparent to me though that if Cathy didn’t learn how to enforce her boundaries, no matter what job she took, she’d probably always be overworked.

While we worked on landing her a new job, I helped Cathy see how her value of modesty could help her to say “no.”

Modesty involves an accurate assessment of one’s abilities.

Cathy and I reasoned on this definition. She became empowered to see that modesty should motivate her to:

  1. First find out what would be required of her before accepting a new assignment.
  2. Take an honest evaluation of her circumstances and determine if she can take on more responsibility without neglecting more important things.

If after reflecting on these two aspects Cathy felt that she couldn’t in good conscience accept a new assignment, she’d be well within her rights to turn it down or recommend some else.

Cathy learned how to honour her value of modesty in challenging times, and while it’s not always easy for her, knowing that she’s honouring a value of hers is the final push she needs to courageously say “no!”

This leads me to another point. At the outset of this article, I said that this technique has surprisingly done well…

It was no surprise to me that it worked with Cathy and others who value modesty, but it is surprising to me that it works with my clients who don’t rank modesty as a value at all. I can provide all the practical reasons for why saying “no” makes sense (like I did in the last article), but there’s something about linking it to modesty that does it for people.

Was this true of you?

Do you know why?

About the author

Paulette Pommells

I am a certified coach with a creative approach to bring out the best of the 21st Century Lawyer! A 21st Century Lawyer myself, I was faced with a professional dilemma years ago: I had become a “successful” lawyer, and yet something didn't feel right. One day, I hired a career coach and realized how similar coaching is to the legal strategy process. I decided to share this breakthrough with every single lawyer. Today, Creative Choices™ is a sought-after technique by lawyers, law students and law firms when it comes to professional challenges of all kinds. You can learn more about this on my website or by emailing me at

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