Thursday, March 13, 2014

Why is it so hard to say no?

A firmly voiced opinion by Mary Jane Maffini

Why is that plaintive cry so often heard? It's so hard to say no.

After all these years, why do I still find it hard to peer over the towering inbox that sometimes defines my life and utter a firm but polite 'sorry, but I can't' to the latest request?  

I know that a lot of women also have this problem.  I imagine some non-women have it too. I think we are used to helping people and want to.  The trouble is, many of us feel guilty if we can't.   It's hard to learn to be selective and to choose how we spend our time.

We choose to say no to cats

This week,  I was fuming because I gave up some needed evening  "down time" to do a project on someone else’s ‘urgent’ timetable only to have it double and triple in time needed. But deep down, I know I could have saved myself and my blood pressure if I’d just said no. It was up to me to safeguard my personal time.

Over the years, I’ve tried a number of ways to refuse requests. Some are very gentle fibs: “Oh I’d just love to, but I am having my appendix out on (insert date here).  

Others are quite effective:  “I can’t but let me give you some names of people who might be able to.” (Sorry for you, my friends, but, yes, I will throw you under the bus if I need to deflect a request.) 

I have learned to say that I have a deadline that prevents it or that my calendar is full or that I am already overcommitted.  You’d think that would do the trick.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting turning your back on your friends and family when they need a hand or rejecting every new idea that comes along. We all need to help others and try new things.

But there are some people with their own agendas who just can’t take no for an answer. They didn't get where they are today by accepting our weaselly rejections.

Not too long ago, I had to turn down a friend’s request because I had too many commitments. Instead of simply saying, “I understand’, she gave me an earful because it was high time I learned to say no.

Of course, I had  just said no. To her.  And that’s another thing I’ve learned: the people who tend to inform you that you need to learn to say no, never mean say no to them. 

In the end, we have to make our own choices of where to put our time and effort.  For me, that's a tough lesson to learn. 

But we never say no to treats or new outfits!

And so my lovelies, shall we form a support group right here and now? Feel free to say no to that, but if you want to you can post a comment with advice or a story about making a big fat NO! count in your life.

I’d love to hear about it.  Yes, I would.

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