Saying no

I am one of those people who says yes to everything, until one person too many asks and then I lose my temper and explode. Or whimper, anyway. Over the last few years I’ve become the slightest bit more assertive, but at the current trajectory, I should reach emotional maturity by time I turn 100. So I asked my Miss Demeanors if they had difficulty saying no. Robin: No (see what I did there?). Seriously, “no” is not a problem for me. My first instinct is usually to overextend myself when I get enthusiastic but I’ve learned to pick and choose quality over quantity. It’s better and healthier for me to put my passion and energy into fewer endeavors and knock them out of the park rather than risk half-assing something that will come back to haunt me. I’m perfectly comfortable “being the bad guy” for a moment rather than regretting a squandered opportunity for a lifetime. And, honestly, it’s rare that “no” makes me “the bad guy.” “No” doesn’t always mean “never.” It often means “not right now.” Tracee: I don’t have a problem using that particular two letter word. Part of this comes from years running large organizations highly dependent on volunteer help – I had to listen to my fair share of Nos. When I turn someone down I try to be specific so they will know that No means No, or No means Later or No means maybe a Yes if my assignment was different. I try to respect the No, and that means saying it with respect. That said, I don’t think that a No requires an explanation. As my mother would say “No, but thank you for asking.” End of story. When the time is right, it might turn into a yes! After all, for all things there is a time. Paula: I may paste what Robin has to say on my refrigerator LOL I read somewhere that you should spend the first part of your career saying yes to everything and then when you reach a certain level of success, it’s time to start saying no to everything. I still say yes more often than I should, but I’m getting better. Cate: I am horrible at saying no. Case in point: I am cooking a turkey for the second grade class for thanksgiving and my edit/rewrite is due at the end of the month. I also agreed to read and blurb someone’s book. I have problems. Michele: You do realize you’re asking a woman who one year ago today agreed to cochair a conference for writers and readers and who just came home from it. I don’t need the sign with Robin’s quote on my refrigerator. I need to crawl into the refrigerator and hide. I’m learning to say no and I’m selective about what I say yes to. On the other hand, saying yes means you have full life. Remember that quote, if you want something done, ask a busy person. I say yes a lot because I want to. Alexia: My ability to say “no” depends on the situation. I find it much harder to say no to friends than I do at work. I used to be afraid to say no to anyone. I wanted to be the “nice” girl who everyone liked, the indispensable Janie-on-the-spot. During my second year of residency (I remember the moment: standing near the elevators after a particularly crappy day on my 2nd pediatrics rotation.) I realized that always saying yes was getting me nowhere. People didn’t appreciate me; they took advantage of me. They interpreted niceness as weakness and went in for the kill. And at the end of the day, they still didn’t like me. No one likes their doormat. Uses it, sure. Likes it? Not so much. At that moment my animal brain woke up and said, “Screw nice. Let’s talk survival. These people aren’t your friends and won’t become your friends. Since they’re going to dislike you anyway, let them dislike you for not being a pushover. Have the spine to stand up for your own interests.” Magic happened. I’d pay money to see the expression on the face of someone who assumed I’d acquiesce (translation: roll over and play dead) when I asserted myself and said no to their plan, then explained the good reason I said no, and offered a better, more balanced alternative. Friends are different. I actually want to accommodate my friends’ requests because they’re my friends and that’s what you do for friends. Saying no is hard so I take the sneaky way out and pretend I didn’t get the message (phone call, email, text, etc). Avoidance: the preferred technique of passive aggressives, cowards, and people with boundary issues everywhere.Oddly, with family it’s a bit easier to say no. Probably because they’re stuck with me. Bwahahaha. Alison: I don’t like to say no to anyone, but I’m learning that it’s not only a necessary life skill, it’s a critical one. I’ve spent too many years saying yes to things I didn’t want to do, doing those things well, and being resentful. Now, I try my best to determine whether I’ll actually enjoy whatever it is that is being asked of me. If the answer is no, I say no if I can (familial obligations excepted). With close friends, I’ll give an honest explanation: “I’d love to help out with your charity project right now, but with my daughter applying to college, I just can’t take anything else on.” Otherwise, I find that a simple, “I’m sorry, I just can’t devote the time this deserves right now” works just fine.Now, if only I didn’t feel guilty after I said no, I think I might be on my way to good mental health. Tracee: Guilt after saying no is better than guilt after saying yes! 

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