A friend, relative or co-worker makes an unreasonable or for that matter a reasonable demand and even though all your brain cells are screaming at decibels that bats can hear, you hear the word ‘Yes’ pop out your mouth. If that’s you then you suffer from the malady called ‘wanting to please.’ You want to shove the yes back from wherever it popped out from your addled sense of being a do-gooder, but it’s too late and you are committed.
Those who suffer with this sickness, render themselves incapable of saying ‘No’ when they should. There are many predicaments that they find themselves in thanks to not using this small word that is only two letters and should be the easiest to utter, right? Wrong, for it is a small word loaded with heavy ramifications. You suffer the guilt of letting down, hurting or angering someone.
My better half was riddled with this disease early in our marriage. To my consternation he would by Wednesday have committed to at least 3 lunches and 4 dinners for the weekend. Now I wouldn’t mind hopping from one lunch to another on a Saturday and then again a leisurely one on Sunday and I could also do two dinners on Saturday but two on Sunday would be a bit of a stretch the next day being a working one. Where the telling of this tale becomes a tad bit complicated is that ‘I’ was the one who was expected to provide the lunches and the dinners all on the same Saturday. Now stretching myself really and I mean really thin I could pull off the cooking and the baking, I am pretty competent in that department even though I do say so myself. Learning from one Saturday when I did try to make it work the problem besides my exhausted self was that the guests would be so diverse, making the afternoon and then the evening not only tedious but rather very awkward as well. Following that one disaster, on Fridays when enlightened by well-meaning friends or relatives calling to confirm that they would indeed be coming to enjoy my well put together parties, I had to do the nasty task of uninviting at least a few. People would call him up, invite themselves over and he just couldn’t say NO. You can imagine the kind of rows that we would have over the issue till he resolved the situation to his own liking. Still unable to say ‘No’ he would tell people ‘I’ll ask her to call you back.’ That is when I discovered I too suffered from the same malady. He only had to tell me that so and so called and I would start hyperventilating about returning the call. Then I would further go and call up so and so and hear how long it had been since we last caught up (2 weekends back) and how I was such a great host and blah, blah, blah. Needless to say I would be slaving away in a hot kitchen on my well-earned Saturday. The only wise thing I did was I did not call up the other so and so who would have also called. I always wondered if I was the last of the hosts in my ‘small’ world since I was never invited anywhere.
At work too the same inability to say No landed me with extra work that the co-worker so sweetly asked me to help her with. In my head would be the thought “Oh really, and I have all the time in the world and nowhere to go but do your bit of the task also.” And the mouth would open and out popped the dreaded, “Yes, sure you go ahead and take care, let me know if I can do any more.” The brain would later berate me, “Seriously? Offering more help!!”
There are many more incidents far too many that cannot be shared so publically else I will lose the few friends I have left. This made us realize that the inability to say No cost both of us many difficulties due to our prioritizing other people’s needs before ours. Learning the hard way we made some rules that once implemented did result in uttering the No a lot simpler. Here are some, one will do at a time but in extreme cases I’ve needed to pull out all stops and use all at once too.
- Take a deep breath when a request is made, helps buy time and lets you think before you put your own head in the noose. Think about your Priorities – committing to this person will take away time that you need to spend with my family.
- Ask questions about what is being asked, pretend you are looking for more clarity which discourages some.
- Distract with rambling about the different tasks that you have on that day and how you may be able to fit their ask into the calendar but you’re not sure when, you’ll try and blah, blah, blah.
- Don’t begin by saying sorry, be polite but firm. It’s a good thing to be nice but remember there’s a difference in being nice and being a pushover.
- Be honest. 99% of the time it works.
- Then there are some sweetly persistent people who will just reason with everything you say and try to wheedle a yes out of you. Cut the phone and switch it off. Later you can say you dropped your phone from the balcony and it shattered into a million pieces. Don’t have a balcony? The tub or even the bog will do to destroy the phone. No one is coming to check if that actually happened.
Whatever you need to do to say this very difficult word remember that, By saying yes when you need to say No, you cripple the most important relationship in your life: the relationship between you and you. – Nea Joy