Connecting with Eimear Zone on Establishing Boundaries

Connecting with Eimear Zone on Establishing Boundaries

Our 50th Episode comes out just in time for this very busy time of the year.  We reconnect with Eimear Zone on establishing boundaries as a key skill to not overwhelm ourselves and then burnout.  Eimear helps us unpack why it is so hard to communicate and set boundaries, how to provide an elegant NO that allows us to maintain respect for the relationship, the recipient and ourselves.  

You can reach out to Eimear via her website

and find her course on the Elegant No at

Credits: Raechel Sherwood for Original Score Composition.

YouTube Channel: Uncover The Human






Alex: Welcome to Uncover the Human where every conversation revolves around enhancing all the connections in our lives. 

Cristina: Whether that's with our families, co-workers or even ourselves. 

Alex: When we can be our authentic selves, magic happens.

Cristina: This is Cristina Amigoni. 

Alex: And this is Alex Cullimore. Let’s dive in.

Cristina: Let’s dive in. 

Alex: Let’s dive in. 

Group: “Authenticity means freedom.”

“Authenticity means going with your gut.”

“Authenticity is bringing 100% of yourself not just the parts you think people want to see, but all of you.”

“Being authentic means that you have integrity to yourself.”
 “It's the way our intuition is whispering something deep-rooted and true.”

“Authenticity is when you truly know yourself. You remember and connect to who you were before others told you who you should be.”

“It's transparency, relatability, no frills, no makeup, just being.”

Alex: And welcome to Uncover the Human. We are back in season 2 here and we have a returning guest, Eimear Zone. Welcome back to the show, Eimear. 

Eimear Zone: Thank you. It's lovely to be here with you both. 

Cristina: Hello, Eimear.

Eimear Zone: Hi, Cristina.

Alex: Great to have you back on. We got to talk to you a little bit about your book last time, The Little Book of Good Enough, and that's a great read. I would recommend it to anybody. You have a new course out this year called The Elegant No, and it's about one of the most important topics that comes up a lot in human living and just living as a human, boundaries. So everything that comes down to how to set boundaries, what to do with them. This is obviously something that a lot of us have encountered, even if we don't have the word for it. What made you think about this, Eimear? What's got you thinking about boundaries?

Eimear Zone: Yeah, I think it was just something that was naturally coming up in my work, and I just found I was constantly coaching in this area, where people were expressing discomfort in certain relationships. We would look at what that was about. Underneath that, you would find that there was a boundary that hadn't been set, that clearly needed to be set because the language was around, well, there was resentment. You'd find that's normally a clue, some simmering resentment in a relationship. Or else there was this feeling that one had to avoid conflict. Our relationship might be damaged if I say these certain things. So it was really that area, and I found that people weren't very well-equipped on how to deal with that. So it seems like fertile ground for me to create an offering, and that was the background of creating The Elegant No course.

Alex: I guess a great word for it too because that word elegant really comes across as – That's kind of the part that I feel like I struggle with and I've heard many people struggle with. I do feel like I want to say no to something or feeling pushed too far or something. How to say no to that without sounding like you're rejecting somebody or feeling like basically overstepping your own boundary, even if it happens that your boundary is the one that’s already being crossed.

Eimear Zone: Yeah, I think the NO – Some people even say, “Well, I have no problem with boundaries. I can say no.” Then you kind of dig in and look for the quality of the relationships that they have, and you kind of go, “Ooh!” We can all say no. Well, a lot of us can say no. But like, for me, I used to be super abrupt. I'll just be like, “No.” It's no. Or abrasive. It's effective at one level. The communication is received. Somebody knows what you're available for, what you're not available for, where the line is, what's acceptable, what's not acceptable. Relationship fallout. Then think about it from the work perspective. In the work environment, you're difficult, particularly as a woman. You're going to be difficult. Or, yeah, it's not a quality that people are going to really appreciate. 

For me, a core value is connection. So where that used – I used to be incredibly inelegant in how I communicated a boundary and I think that was – So I really understand when people are feeling this difficulty that it's either very meek, and conciliatory, or an abrasive sort of no. That there is so much space to create a communication when we want to establish a boundary, when we want to say, “No, I'm not available for that.” But in a way that is elegant, that allows you to be anchored into your truth, calm, connected, not offensive. It's possible to be open while you're saying no to somebody, even in the midst of them having a lot of emotions about that, maybe being disappointed.

Alex: You brought up that if you set boundaries, often, especially as women, you'll be called difficult. That brings up a really interesting dynamic of boundaries, is that power dynamic. Anytime, maybe employee, employer, or if there's a decision that or a feeling that women can be called difficult or can have whatever label thrown, it comes from a position of privilege and power. That becomes an extra layer of difficulty in setting a boundary. It's interesting to hear you bring that one up especially because that, I think, is one of the first things people kind of run up against is, “Well, what my relationship with this person, either I've been conciliatory up to this point, or I feel like I'm an employee and I don't have the ability to say no to something coming down from a boss or whatever.” But I just wonder if you could talk a little bit about that because that's a super interesting facet of this.

Eimear Zone: Yeah. I think that's what I get a lot is the “I’m at work. It's my boss. I can't say no because they determine my review and my trajectory in this organization”. So there's a lot of fear there, but it is a fear of somebody going to the most catastrophic, worst case outcome, if they were to state what their needs were. That is really what you're doing when you're setting a boundary, you're stating, “This is what I need and this is what I want. So this is what I'm saying yes to and this is what I need to say no to.”

I think, also, we forget that the other person, whether there is a power differential or not, is a whole functioning human being just like us. We are capable of connecting with them and having an engaged conversation where we speak our truth and do so in a way that can have a different outcome. There are many other potential outcomes, rather than the catastrophic one. So when you look at saying an elegant no, it really is anchored into values. It's very well thought out and it is a considered approach. So you're saying, “Really, this is what I'm available for and why. And this is what I'm not available for and why.” So it's not like, “No. I don't want to take that responsibility,” or it's well-thought-out and it's grounded. 

So when there is this power differential, what I teach people about in the course is really to get out of their worst case scenario story in their head and start really zooming out and taking a different perspective. What's another possibility here? What is the opportunity for connection and growth in this conversation with this individual? What can I say yes to? How can the no that I'm going to deliver be a win also? I mean, that sounds a little bit of a stretch to some people initially. But if we're saying yes to everything all the time, we're probably spreading ourselves way too thin and not producing quality work. 

So when I've coached people specifically on delivering a no to a boss, we have looked at what are the corporate values, personal values. What are the needs of the position and the needs of the individual and really taking that all into consideration and having those woven into the framework of how we deliver that no. What you want, ultimately, from the communication is that the other party, although they may be disappointed that they didn't get what they thought that they wanted, is that they come away from that interaction feeling that they were respected. That somebody gave their considered attention to the topic. Maybe they have a job to think about something else. Maybe they were asking something unreasonable and maybe they're going to take a different approach. 

But I think in most healthy organizations, a manager, somebody further up in the hierarchy is maybe looking for somebody who's going to push back and be able to say, “This is a priority. This isn't a priority. This is what I can be available for because I do really great quality work. And I can only work this many hours.” It shows that somebody is really engaged, I think, in their job and in the organization. 

Cristina: There's definitely an element of the people pleasing when we don't say no elegantly or set the boundaries. In my experience, even with clients, it's just about explaining and providing the communication. So there's a – I've seen a tendency when clients call upset or ask for something to just say, “Yes, we'll do it and we'll do it. We'll be ready tomorrow,” when it's something that will take four or five weeks. I wouldn't even say even push back. But every time I've explained what it would take to meet their expectation or to meet their request, even if the request is – That's just not going to happen. It's not possible. They just appreciate it. They appreciate that there's communication. They appreciate going through the process of I’ve been heard, and that's all I really wanted. Did I want that feature? Yes. Can I do without? Most likely. So let's work together and figure out how to have a workaround or an alternative. 

But I've really been met with a whole meltdown or rejection or anything that it's very negative when there is that explanation. Not just, no, it's not possible. No. How about we actually figure out what's going on first because sometimes even their request is not really what they need. 

Eimear Zone: Yeah, and it's that thoughtful response. I think we are habituated to people pleasing if we are conflict-avoidant. We miss the opportunity of disagreements – When we have a disagreement, we illuminate differences, and that's really powerful, healthy, and useful. I think just being in consensus all the time is not a signal that we are having a deep connection. I think it's probably a red flag. We don't really want consensus. We want a difference of opinions so that we can have depth to a conversation and we can understand different perspectives.

People pleasing is – A lot of people don't like that term. Then some people I've had, they automatically just identify themselves as, “Oh, I'm a people pleaser.” Other people are saying, “Oh, I don't really identify that as all. But then I'm a little bit conflict-avoidant,” and I'm like, “Oh, yeah.” Pretty much similar behavior. It’s slightly different labels. I think it boils down to people maybe when they were younger. It just wasn't safe to disagree. It wasn't seeing anger in somebody else or disappointing somebody else is something to be avoided because it did not feel good, and they take that into adulthood. It's never really excavated or updated, that fear. It’s like what would it feel like to disappoint somebody? 

But if we – I think if you go around people pleasing and avoiding conflict, you are in the business of self-abandonment. You're abandoning parts of yourself all the time. You're kind of safety checking all the time. It’s like, “What's it okay to feel based on taking the temperature of the room for what other people are feeling or doing?” In an organization, you are not going to get the value that you hired, if somebody is behaving in that way. I mean, it's the enemy of creativity. It’s the enemy of authenticity at its core. It’s a denial of the truth of who you are. 

I know you guys love Brene Brown as well, and she had this quote on this topic. It was like, “Only when we truly believe that we are enough can we say like enough, can we set a boundary.” So it's so interwoven this belief that you in your whole, you in your truth and in the fullness of your being is enough. That you can bring that and you can disagree and you can say no and you can set the boundaries that allow you to show up fully and also respect the other individual. I think when you set a boundary, it's also a deep form of respect in a relationship. It's me honoring you as well. I'm setting an expectation for you and I'm giving you clarity as well. So there's that perspective, which people can find can be an invitation to a shift that before maybe they found a little bit difficult. 

Cristina: Brene Brown actually has two concepts that I kind of recite as disciplines as much as I can, and one is the clear is kind, unclear is unkind. Not setting the boundaries, not saying the no with a communication is unkind because silence is unkind. Not saying yes when you don't mean it is unkind because then it causes conflict. Now, going deeper in a connection because there are no boundaries or you're avoiding conflict, it's unkind. It's not clear. You'll always end up with this kind of unknown where you don't know where you stand. Like you said, like you walk in a room and you have to take the temperature before figuring out how to show up. That's unkind from the receiving end and the giving end. 

Also, the other concept that I actually use as a meditation piece formation is living BIG, and by big is setting boundaries, so I can show up with integrity to my values and generosity with my being in time. But the boundaries have to be in place. 

Eimear Zone: That's powerful. I love that you share that.

Cristina: Yeah. I think for many of us will come into adulthood from obviously very different experiences growing up. So some of us will be more habituated and feel more comfortable speaking that truth, and other people just don't. They can just find themselves even on a path well into their careers where they were doing it to please other people, to conform, because they thought they should, because they didn't want to rock the boat. They didn't want to step outside what was going to be sort of validated. For people like that then who come well into middle age and just not having ever set a clear boundary that they can do very well in life, but it just feels unstable in its foundation at times because you don't hold the ground. It's like somebody else holds the ground. When you're not bringing the full truth of who you are into any relationship, how solid is that foundation? What's the quality of that relationship, if you're not bringing your whole truth to it? 

Eimear Zone: I do this work with people, and we're looking for them to really gain that confidence and to own their truth and to be able to create boundaries, to maintain them, and to speak them. Often, it's like really, really new for them to even check in with themselves and say, “Oh, what is it? What is my truth? What is it that I really want because I'm not used to being connected to that?” That can be very unsettling for people to sit with that discomfort of not really knowing. 

Alex: That makes sense is why resentment would be one of the first cues that maybe boundaries are being stepped on. Your resentment is withholding something. You've got something there that is unspoken. It's kind of coming out as underground anger and it's interesting to hear you talk about owning the truth of that. How do you help people with the truth, and how would you suggest people go about this basically? Do you feel that discomfort with even asking the first question of like what I want from this?

Eimear Zone: Well, I think anytime you feel discomfort in a relationship, or you feel a fear that if I spoke, if I gave voice and articulated my needs and wants in this relationship, I feel that this relationship might be damaged or might disappear. That's a sign that there's a boundary that hasn't been said, or people who are getting that automatic yes and then the simmering resentment, but they feel like they're just trapped in this cycle of yes. I think it really is for understanding what that connection is of what you really do want, sometimes it just takes space, first of all, to acknowledge and for it to be okay that you don't know.

Often we rush to fill in a space like that, going on, “Maybe it's this. Maybe it's that. I should know. It’s so uncomfortable not to know. For God's sake, what age am I? I've been doing this for however long. I should know. It's embarrassing.” So I think you just have to give yourself permission to get curious, and to recognize that you are many things, and that maybe your work here is to explore what are the things that you would enjoy experimenting with? Or we're not just one thing. We're not just one profession. Or we're so much more. I think it's hard for people sometimes to accept that freedom and to step into that. It’s very powerful to think, well, what might I want to maybe I can just experiment with that for a while.

That's why we have that big resignation now. People are kind of going, “What do I want?” They all realize what they didn't want. Not quite sure about what they do want. But there's this openness now to maybe we'll explore that or there's an explosion of people in their side hustle. They’re kind of going, “Oh, try a bit of this.” Or maybe my side hustle might become my full-time hustle. So I think it's giving yourself that permission and getting comfortable with the discomfort of not knowing. Because before maybe, when you haven't been setting a boundary, you've had the certainty of the discomfort of the resentment. You've had that certainty of feeling bad. Now, you're trading long-term discomfort, which was certain for the short-term discomfort maybe of the uncertainty of being in more than exploration mode. So, yeah, it's really allowing yourself the opportunity to step into more of a creative space and to, again, like Brene says, I'm enough. I'm worth that exploration that you're bringing curiosity to this and experimenting. It should be fun. 

Cristina: Well, I find that, as you mentioned, conflict as being a key part of deeper connections and true connections really. It's also a big part of trust building and the elegant no and the boundaries as well. Because when you're constantly met with a yes, and you know that's impossible for somebody to always say yes, then you're wondering. That's when – You and I talked about trust recently, like what percentage of trust can you possibly have for a person that always says yes when you know at some point the other shoe is going to drop. At that point, then it's going to be this big mountain of built up resentment, built up whatever was being held back. It becomes a big deal. It becomes personal, a personal no because it was missing the whole time an impersonal boundary. I find that it's a lot easier when it happens as you go along, even something like feedback, which is a no in a way. 


I recently wrote an article I sent to a friend to review, and she literally tore the whole thing apart. I mean, I don't think there was a single sentence that didn't have a common saying, “Take this out. Rewrite it. Change it.” After the first initial,  “Oh, my God. I'm not good enough.” I was like, “Wait, actually, I trust her more now.” First of all, I trust her more and I appreciated and I was able to separate myself and my worth from something I wrote fast without proofreading and just sent it on to be like, “Now, there's a deeper connection. I changed what I needed to change. I found I made the corrections. And now I can trust that whatever I say, whatever I do, I will hear the truth.” Truth is the basis of trust. Without that, there is no trust. 

Eimear Zone: What a gift though. What a gift from that friend that they took that time, and they really honored you in that way to be that truthful with you. I think, yeah, when it comes to speaking your truth, it is respectful to do so. I think when we overstep and we people please and we're just trying to be compliant in that way, so not rock the boat, we don't bring our full truth to these relationships and we're really infantilizing on a level the other person. I am overstepping your boundary, even though maybe you didn't set it by kind of going in and maybe over giving or over helping or over accommodating to make you comfortable. I'm feeling uncomfortable but I'm just over giving and over helping so that everything will be perfect or okay or you'll like me or it won't rock the boat. When I do that, I think I dishonor you as an equal human being. That's a powerful perspective to take. 

The other person I am not responsible for. When I speak my truth, I am not responsible for your feelings and your emotions in response to that. Those are yours. When I take responsibility for those, I feel like that is an intrusion on you as an individual. That infantilizes you. That disrespects you as an adult on a level. My job is only my emotions and my feelings or my responses. Those are mine, and yours are yours. I think even though somebody might want them, they just want you to make them comfortable. You are – I think the psychologist’s or the philosopher’s name is Adler, and I can't think of his first name. The basis of his philosophy is contained in two books that I think were best sellers, and one of them was called the Courage to be Disliked. I forget the other one, but they were on the theme. 

Adler's core philosophy was you can't intrude on somebody else's work. Their work is to become a whole human being and to engage in the full experience of their life. If you go around trying to over accommodate and over give and please them and avoid conflict with them and manage their emotions through your behavior, you are intruding on their work. So when it comes to speaking your truth and trust, I think it's about trusting yourself as well and trusting that and owning all of who you are and knowing that somebody else's response to you, as long as you're anchored in, you've checked in with yourself, you're valued-aligned, that that's enough. 

The other person, kind of these conditional relationships where I can only – It has to be a harmonious relationship. Like you said, it's harmonious all the time. Somebody's lying. Somebody's not showing up their truthful self. There's no such – I've been married 22 years. That is a very good relationship. Is it always harmonious? God no. Or else we wouldn't be showing up truthfully as the individual. You have to respect the whole individual, the other person, and allow them to respond and grow in response to your behavior as well. But don't go around fixing people. Or you'll end up in the divorce pool. It's a great way to waste your time and feel really dissatisfied and frustrated. But off you go. What a big waste of time. 

Yeah, they say that. You'll never change somebody. They may grow with you, if you integrate a relationship with somebody who will want you to grow, and you will contribute to their growth also, but it's two individuals and owning that full space.

Alex: I like your framing of it as a dishonor not to set these boundaries because it really does drive home the idea that if you are invested in this relationship, you’re invested in this other person, work, personal, whatever, this other relationship you have. You value their time and their success, whether that's in business or just as a person. You value it enough to give them the bad news, to give them the thing that would seem like bad news, or to set that boundary, or to let them know that this is not working, or this is working because you want them to succeed enough. There has been a good amount of trust generally for that to be received well, but it doesn't mean that you – It’s still a form of honoring that relationship and that person to actually deliver that information. 

Eimear Zone: Yeah, I mean, absolutely. I think it is about that kind of respect and honoring the individual. That's why it's so important that you are in integrity with your own values. So when you show up in that way, it sets the scene for a much more productive conversation. I think when it comes to – You can have the why I need the boundary and you could already to set it. Where people fall down is the actual articulation, which they really struggle with because it all sounds great. Isn’t that what we said? Yeah, absolutely. I'm living my truth, and I'm respecting you and everything. But, God, I have no idea how to actually say it. People squirm at the idea of delivering the bad news or making somebody else feel uncomfortable. It makes them feel uncomfortable. So in the end, something sort of mashed up and garbled comes out. That's why I think it's super important to practice it, really to practice it. 

So when I coach on this, unless it’s a little bit for my own amusement, but the first round that we do it when somebody goes, “Oh, yeah, I think I have – Yeah, yeah, sure. I’ll write it down.” Everything is, “Yeah, let's just practice it now.” I just set them up and then they go. It's like a car crash. Nine times out of 10, it is like, “Oh, actually, that didn't sound very good. Did it? Oh, I got completely lost. I went down a rabbit hole.” They're practically apologizing sometimes, “If you don't mind, possibly, it wouldn't be a bother. Well –” They're agreeing to all sorts of things. It's all in a monologue, and I'm like, “Oh, my God. No.” It takes preparation if you're not used to it. 

So in The Elegant No, I give examples of elegant no’s and then I show people the framework for how you will write your own elegant no and say, “Write it down, and then practice it,” so that you own it. It sounds like you're going and just kind of go, “And there it is,” and off you run. But it's about really feeling connected and anchored into it. I think that's also part of showing that respect and honoring the other individual when you are delivering, when you are setting a boundary. That it isn't something rushed or thoughtless. It is very thoughtful. Then, obviously, the other person's reaction may be positive, it may be negative. Then there are things that you can do if it doesn't go well. 

Cristina: I like that there's an assumption that it's bad news, except that we put that judgment of being scared, or fearful, or nervous, or avoiding the bad news. But how do you know it's bad news for the receiving end? You don't know that, even something as simple as a canceled session. What if that person actually just stayed up all night because they had a sick kid and you canceled their session? It may be bad news. You think it's bad news, and it may be the best news that could have gotten that morning, is to have an extra hour to be able to shower. But you don't know that. Yeah, I'm a big proponent of no news is bad news. Communication – It's communication. It's connection. It's believing the relationship is more important than whatever just happened. 

Eimear Zone: Yeah, we tend to mind read and think we're excellent in telling the future, which of course we're not. Either we’re completely connected into that space where somebody is in that moment when we're giving them this news, and we don't. I think that's really important, is to kind of tap into that energy so it could go really well. It could go really well. Really, when the intention is to enhance a relationship through how you're showing up, and that you're speaking your truth, and you're honoring the other person, and it is with a view to a very constructive conversation and something that will build and grow the relationship. It is a reflection of a mature relationship that you can have that conversation at all. 

Then there are some times when it does go pear-shaped. Somebody is not going to like it, particularly if you've been a yes person in this relationship for a long time, and this is the very first time. That can be tricky. So that's why it's so important to really be clear on what's mine, what's my responsibility, and what's their responsibility, which is their reactions and their responses. Then there's also what I will accept and what I will not accept in the conversation, as regards to somebody's behavior. 

But really, there's some really common things that can help that is just really – That I coach people on, which is to have an anchor phrase, which is really helpful, which is just a singular phrase that you are really connected into that tends to be valued-aligned, which might be something like depending on the no that you're giving or the boundary that you're forming. Like I have a commitment to my family, and I'm no longer going to be working on weekends. That could be your anchor fade. I made a commitment to my family that I'm no longer available to work on weekends. You might be in the middle of delivered your elegant no, and then you're in the conversation. You're feeling a bit shaky and you just anchor into that one. I made a commitment to my family that I'm no longer. Just the repetition of an anchor phrase and you treat it like a broken record. It helps people who are a little bit nervous in these conversations just to literally drop anchor into that and feel calm. 

The other person will respond, nine times out of 10, just to the calm repetition of your statement of where you are. It's not that you're always going to get everything that you want, but it is a powerful tool in a communication that may turn a little bit fractious or may not go the way that you want, or that you're a bit nervous entering. It gives you something to ground and center yourself with. 

Cristina: That's a wonderful advice. 

Alex: Practice is a great idea. As I think about what you're saying earlier, Cristina, about when you have to deliver bad news to a client or something, the explanation ends up helping so much. Then to go back to what you’re saying, Eimear, practicing what you are going to say so that you have that explanation a little more ready, I mean, I think we've all probably been in either a conversation, in a relationship, or in a meeting, in a business setting where there's just two parties going back and forth on like we should do X. No, we should do Y. No, we should do X. No, we should do Y. There's no actual ground until somebody finally says, “I see what you want to do and why. But here's why I think X is better,” and they actually explained what they understand about Y. Suddenly, they are heard. Suddenly, they're understood. Suddenly, the entire tone changes, and everybody can move in a different direction. That preparation and that explanation ends up being such an important part of, “Hey, this is how I see it. This is why I see it this way.” 

That also allows it to be like, “Hey, I'm laying my cards a little bit more on the table, and this is why I think this is important. If there's something that I'm missing here, now you have a chance to more accurately identify that. If I happen to be overstepping and creating my own boundary, well, great. But here's why I think it's important.” So either I can hold fast to that. Or you can say, “Hey, actually, I don't see it the same way.” 

Eimear Zone: Yeah, and I think the context is really important as well when we think about the degree to which we’ll give an explanation, or you require more of an explanation for a no in certain situations. But often people pleasers will go overboard on getting an explanation for their no. I would coach somebody to be very succinct and to the point when they are giving their no because the no can get weakened the more detail we get, “Well, I feel like I can't say no because, because, because.” Then you have to think about your audience. So it depends on the context in your audience how much of the rationale or the reasoning are they actually needing. Or that could be quite private for you. It could be like, “I'm no longer available.” It could be a family matter, right? I'm no longer available to look after your kids on the weekend. I'm prioritizing myself. The other party might be saying, “Oh, why, you've been doing it for the last six months. I really rely on you. This is ridiculous, and how am I supposed to –” Are you going to explain to them and justify why you're no longer doing them this favor? 

People can get wrapped into sometimes giving an explanation, and the context will determine. Obviously, in a work environment, there'll be a little – You'll kind of pat it out a little bit more on the explanation, particularly if it's to your boss rather than a teammate. In your personal life, you want to keep that really compact. Actually, I often say, “You don't need to explain it.” Just like this is the value that you're anchoring into. This is what you're saying yes to. This is the no, and it's constructed so that it feels something that you can deliver very confidently, and it should feel easy. It should feel easy when you do it a few times. It's never justification. It's never over-explained. 

Cristina: What are some other ways to construct the elegant no?

Eimear Zone: It really is grounded into what you're saying yes to initially that requires no. That can be a general sort of value that you have, like the person who's saying no to working on the weekends. It can be like family time comes first to the weekend. My children are young, and my wife and I have decided it is important for us to spend time together. I'm not going to be able to take on any projects that require me to travel over the weekend or to work on the weekend. The other part of an elegant no is sort of what you are available for, to sort of sandwich it in a little bit. I'm quite happy to take on projects that require longer hours during the weekdays, and I will make myself available for those. It's a full style. 

I think when you set yourself, when you construct an elegant no very clearly with this one available for, this is the yes that I'm saying to, which is a values line choice that requires the no, which requires me to say this is what I'm available for. That requires me to say no to this. I’m not available for this because it conflicts with this. This Yes. Then the other part is this is what I can offer. 

Some elegant no’s can be very short, particularly if you have a family member that you maybe have a contentious relationship with. For example, if you have a contentious relationship with a sibling, and you do no longer want them to come and visit you. Perhaps the scenario is that this is a real situation where somebody didn't want a family member to visit anymore because they parented their children when they arrived. So it was a friend who would come and would be disciplining her children. Despite a number of, “Please don't do that. Please don't do that,” the behavior hadn't changed. So it came down to a conversation where the boundary was set very clearly, “I choose how I parent my children and what's okay and what's not okay for them. You are not to discipline my children or to correct their behavior in any way when you're in my house or when you're around my children. No. You're very welcome to spend time with me and to come to our house if you honor that.” That's a full stop after that. 

This is just saying somebody should walk away from a communication of an elegant no and be absolutely clear on what you said is not acceptable, what you're available for and what you're not available for. If you go into sort of fluffing it out and kind of putting in a bit detail like, “Remember that time when you did that thing, and I felt really offended?” There are times for those conversations, but that's not a boundary setting conversation. That's not you delivering an elegant no. That you could end up in all sorts of places in that conversation. When you set that boundary, you say, “This is what's important to me, my relationship with my children. I'm in charge here. You don't do that.” That behavior is just clear and concise. That person knows that if they're ever around your child and they correct your child or they discipline your child, that they have stepped over the boundary. That's the way the other party should walk away from any conversation that you have where you've delivered an elegant no. You should be absolutely clear about what's not okay, almost okay. Like it's okay to come visit. It's okay to play with them. But it's never okay to discipline them.

Cristina: That’s a really good example. That something that comes up just do you have just general that's a great boundary idea, like this one is where I draw the line. Going through the course, I love this setup of like this is what I'm saying yes to as well as what I'm saying no to. There's an extent to which this is if something can work, like the work example, like the I will work weekdays. That's fine. Or I can work the occasional late work night as well. I just cannot work weekends. 

One thing that helped me, my perspective change on boundaries, was something I heard a while back, which was they had kind of interviewed some fairly famous people. I think Russell Brand is one of them, who are known to be fairly compassionate, nice people, just to be that are well. They're established essentially as being nice as part of their ethos as a person. They asked him, “Well, how does this happen? What do you think of when you think about being compassionate, being nice?” The answer was always that they had strong boundaries, because they've got their own limits. They'll keep them up. It allows them to have so much more energy to do the things that are important, like being compassionate to other people, and things like work, like if I've set the boundary that I'm not going to be working on the weekends. Imagine what like – 

You can either force the person to work on the weekends, at which point they're probably just going to quit. Or you can allow that to be more of a dialogue of like, “Okay, great. Yeah, that makes sense.” Understand that, “Yes, if they reserve that time, and they can recharge on doing something that's important to them, they're probably going to be better on the days, the weekdays, whatever else they're doing.” This is a preservation of the energy you have to deliver, whether it's as an employee, or in a relationship, or any other space. You're saying, “This is draining me. I can't do this anymore.”I have to protect that because I can then use that energy somewhere else. 

Eimear Zone: Yeah, that's so, so important, isn't it? That you only have so much, and it's so depleting. So draining to be feeling that resentment or to be outside of your truth and your power in a situation, just enduring the discomfort of a situation that requires a boundary but when isn't there. It takes away from all of the things that you want to say and that yes to when you fail to say that elegant no to place that boundary, and to carve out that space where you can show up more powerfully or in every area of your life. 

Cristina: Or we could all use the practice and the understanding on how to create our elegant no. So where can people find your course and learn about it? 

Eimear Zone: I'm sure we'll drop the links in the show notes. But you can find me on and you can find me on Instagram @eimearzonecoach. Then the links there, you'll find a direct link to the Elegant No. It's a really short, impactful course that takes you through the process, has a comprehensive workbook that takes you step by step through clarifying your yes, articulating what you want to say no to, and then providing the framework and giving you examples of how you actually build that no. Then there is the kind of what if everything doesn't go to plan Eimear section for how you can handle and prepare for the unexpected. Yeah, a combination of short videos and a comprehensive workbook. 

Cristina: Excellent. Thank you. 

Eimear Zone: Thank you. 

Cristina: Wonderful conversation as always.

Eimear Zone: I enjoy being with you guys. 

Cristina: Yes, thank you for coming back. Lots to learn, and ponder, and think through. 

Alex: Well, thank you so much for this conversation. And thank you everybody for listening at home.


Cristina: Thank you for listening to Uncover the Human, a Siamo podcast. 

Alex: Special thanks to our podcast operations wizard, Jake Lara; and our score creator, Raechel Sherwood. 

Cristina: If you have enjoyed this episode, please share, review and subscribe. You can find our episodes wherever you listen to podcasts. 

Alex: We would love to hear from you with feedback, topic ideas or questions. You can reach us at podcast, or at our website,, LinkedIn, Instagram or Facebook. We Are Siamo is spelled W-E A-R-E S-I-A-M-O.

Cristina: Until next time, listen to yourself, listen to others and always uncover the human.


Eimear ZoneProfile Photo

Eimear Zone

Confidence Coach | Author | Voracious Reader | Coach to Creatives, Leaders and Entrepreneurs

Eimear is a Confidence Coach and author of "The Little Book of Good Enough" - an impact focused guide to help readers quieten their inner critic, release themselves from the depletion of self-doubt, and ultimately own their worth. In her coaching she takes a "values first" approach to help clients uncover what they truly want to be about in life before digging in, throwing rocket fuel on the spark of their passion, helping them build the “challenge over comfort” muscle, and a pathway to their full potential.

Eimear is a native of Dublin, Ireland and now lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with her husband and 3 teenage children. She’s an avid runner and ran her first marathon in 2019 to celebrate turning 50 and is currently toying with the idea of an Iron(wo)man.