Shona Rowan

Shona Rowan, Author, The Psychology of Successful Women

Shona Rowan‘s number 1 Amazon best selling book The Psychology of Successful Women is based on her signature coaching course, the Career Acceleration Program for Women. It is a highly practical, results-focused program, specifically designed to equip women with the skills, strategies and mindsets needed to accelerate their careers, maximise success and thrive in the world of business.

The Psychology of Successful Women is a treasure trove of inspiration, practical advice and a perfectly engaging read. Shona’s personal and professional stories shared through the book illustrate her key messages with authenticity and humour. One of my favourite sections is Chapter 6: Boundaries, Assertiveness and People Pleasing, and here’s an excerpt from Shona’s book that really resonated.

EXCERPT FROM The Psychology of Successful Women

Many of the remarkable women I work with express challenges around boundaries, people pleasing and assertiveness. I know these challenges all too well as I spent many of my early years in business as a ‘people pleaser’ until I realised it wasn’t a sustainable or healthy way to be and I was starting to burn out. I would commit to more than I could physically handle and then end up exhausted or sick. I would say yes, when I really wanted to say no, because I wasn’t assertive, and I wanted everyone to like me.

I was raised to be nice, to help other people and to be kind. As one of four kids growing up, and the eldest of three sisters, I was used to thinking about and supporting others. Although I didn’t realise it consciously at the time, the very thought that someone might not like me, or perceive me as unhelpful or selfish, was feeding my people pleasing behaviour. I still have to watch out for this at times, both as a business owner and in my personal life.

“The only thing wrong with trying to please everyone is that there’s always at least one person who will remain unhappy. You.”
— Elizabeth Parker

Tools and techniques for conquering people pleasing tendencies

Clear boundaries and clear expectations

“You become yourself when you’re willing to create boundaries that promote and protect your emotional, mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing.”
— Nat Lue

Setting boundaries is a form of self-respect and self-care, but often we don’t make our boundaries or expectations clear. We must learn to ask for what we want and need and not fall into the trap of assuming that other people already know or can read our minds. How are you with clear and open communication of your boundaries? How do you manage expectations in your career or business?

I’ve had to work on this as a business owner and many of my clients say this is a development area for them. I’m sure we’ve all experienced situations where our boundaries were vague and things didn’t go to plan. Perhaps you agreed to something verbally, only to find that the parameters changed, and the expectations were then very different – classic ‘scope creep.’ Or perhaps someone committed to doing something and then they haven’t followed through? Leaving you to pick up the pieces?

Setting clear boundaries and discussing expectations upfront, preferably in writing, is a great way to minimise this. It also means if several people are involved in the project or communication, there is an email thread available to see what was agreed. This is something that I commit to in my business, and I encourage lots of my clients to do so as well. It also means there is less room for a genuine or innocent misunderstanding.

Assertive communication

“Saying no to one thing is saying yes to the possibility of another.”
— Ellie Roscher

Learn to say no with confidence and kindness. Here are some simple sentences you can use:

  • Thank you for thinking of me, but I don’t have the time right now.
  • I’m booked up for the next month. But feel free to circle back next month.
  • I don’t have capacity to help you with that at the moment.
  • Unfortunately, I’m overcommitted right now, but thanks for the opportunity.
  • Sorry – that doesn’t work with my other commitments, but perhaps another time?
  • No thank you, I can’t commit to that right now.

If you are used to saying yes all the time, you might feel guilty or strange saying no at first, but like most things, it gets easier with practice. Remember that if you don’t learn to honour your time and boundaries, other people probably won’t respect them either. Furthermore, repeatedly saying yes can lead to an overwhelming workload, and you could be at serious risk of burnout in the future – and that’s not good for anyone.

Reconnect with your wants and needs

Many of my clients are so good at sensing and empathising with what other people need that they can find themselves disconnected from their own needs and goals. Learn to reconnect with your physical and emotional needs. How are you feeling? Are you feeling exhausted or burnt out? Are you engaging in self-care? Are you saying yes to too many things? Are you feeling like you have been over-giving and are starting to feel resentful or unappreciated? If you don’t frequently reconnect with how you are feeling and what you need, things can start to unravel quite quickly.

Remember some of your basic human rights:

  • You have the right to be treated with respect
  • You have the right to express your feelings, opinions and beliefs
  • You have the right to say no without feeling guilty
  • You have the right to be listened to and taken seriously
  • You have the right to change your mind
  • You have the right to ask for what you want
  • You have the right to put yourself first sometimes
  • You have the right to set your own priorities
  • You have the right to refuse justification for your feelings or behaviours
  • You have the right to make mistakes and accept the responsibility for them


You are the female economy. Whether you are a female consumer, business owner or a woman in the workforce, you can create gender equality by choosing female led brands.

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Posted by Jade Collins - Femeconomy Director

Jade Collins has 20 years’ global experience in corporate executive Human Resources and management consulting roles in the Mining, Energy and Aerospace industries, leading large scale, complex multi-million-dollar change management programs. Jade finds the combination of her HR, Psychology and MBA qualifications and her leadership experience is invaluable for increasing gender equality in leadership across industries. Jade was a member of the Queensland Government's Strategic Advisory Group for the Toward Gender Parity: Women on Boards Initiative and the 2019 CQU Alumni of the Year for Social Impact for her work with Femeconomy.