Someone told me this morning that the word ‘No’ is a complete sentence.
Whatever … I didn’t really care grammatically if it was or wasn’t. My mind was drifting to the day that was beginning to unfold in front of me. There were too many things to do and not enough time.
This someone pressed on and elaborated further … obviously recognizing my distraction.
“If someone asks you for your time, commitment or efforts, you can just say ‘No’. You don’t have to offer an excuse, explanation or justification. ‘No’ is a complete answer. You don’t owe the other person an explanation … ‘No’ is enough.”
Okay, now you have my attention. I know that I can say ‘No’ but the ‘ah-ha’ that hit me was that I rarely do. When I do decline, I offer up a detailed report that justifies my answer.
Last night was a perfect example.
Some woman: “We are short on bake sale volunteers. Are you available for a couple of hours this evening to help the 4th graders with their booth?”
Me: “I have this meeting but I am fairly sure I can change it. Go ahead and put me down for the 5 to 7 shift.”
Some woman: “Perfect, I will put you on the list. Thank you so much!”
Me: “No problem.”
Well there is a problem. I had plans to meet up with a friend after work for some appetizers and drinks. Immediately my mind says … you can’t pick cocktails over helping little children sell their cookies and cupcakes in order to go to choir camp.
So I call my friend and ask her if she can push our meeting out a couple of hours (I can’t say no to her either) and try to shove both activities into one evening. I am fully aware of the consequences of my decision … home late, late dinner for my own kids, late bedtimes … the list goes on. Yet I suck it up for a woman I don’t know other than through classroom emails.
Do I always bend over backward to help and please other people? I think for just a moment even though I already know the answer. Yes, I always do. My motto is “If I Can, I Do”.
It’s not that I don’t want to help others, it’s just that I can’t sustain this pattern of always being able to help. I hate saying no and at my personal expense, I don’t. When I am absolutely forced to, I provide the person that I am “letting down”, a novel of reasons for my inability to provide.
How many times have I planned to just lie on the couch and have a date with Netflix only to give away this time to a request made by friends and family?
More times that I can count and I always feel cheated afterward.
The thought of actually saying ‘No’ to some of these requests has sparked something in me but I know that a change like this is a journey. Years spent rearranging my time for others is not easily reversed. In all reality, it is very difficult to say ‘No’ because I feel guilty … I feel selfish when I do. Changing this thought pattern is the key.
In hindsight, my conversation should have been something like this.
Some woman: “We are short on bake sale volunteers. Are you available a couple of hours this evening to help the 4th graders with their booth?”
Me: “I’m sorry, I am not available tonight.”
Me: “I already have plans, sorry about that.”
Or just simply …
Saying ‘No’ in this respect is so much more than keeping your schedule in check. It is a declaration of the importance of your time. It’s a declaration of the importance of you.