Monday, 24 November 2008

Learning To Say No

Since starting my journey towards a simpler life, one of things I’ve had to learn is to say “No” more often.

Once upon a time, no matter what people asked of me, if I was able to do it, I did. Rarely was there any real gratitude shown and all too often, when I asked for a favour myself, that person was either too busy or just unwilling for whatever reason. Not everybody was that way, obviously, but too many were.

The fact is, people will keep on taking whatever you offer them and all the helping out I was doing was starting to wear me down. I spent so much time and energy doing things for other people that I found myself increasingly unable to do the things that actually meant a lot to me. My life, it seemed, belonged to others.

Nowadays I’m much more inclined to say no although to start with it did feel pretty weird. I’d find myself having to offer reasons for not being able to help but the truth of the matter is, nobody has any right to demand another’s time and an excuse really isn’t necessary. If you’ve said no then you clearly have a reason and have every right to decide yourself whether you want to share that reason or not.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we shouldn’t extend a helping hand but we don’t need to say yes to everything that’s asked of us. The following are a few basic guidelines that I use now when deciding whether or not to say yes.

Who is this person?
Sounds like a strange question because in all likelihood, if you didn’t already know them, they wouldn’t be asking a favour of you, but what I mean by this is what kind of person are they? Would they be happy to help you out when you need it, or are they blood suckers who just keep on taking without ever giving much back in return? I don’t mean that they have to do the same kind of favours for you, or even of the same magnitude - everything depends on a person’s abilities etc - but if they don’t show willing often enough (or ever, for that matter), start saying no more often.

Am I comfortable doing this?
I’ve put my life in danger to help others out and while I was ok doing that because the situation was serious, that wouldn’t always be the case because there are some things I really cannot do because they’d either be irresponsible of me (what would have happened if I had been hurt - who would have looked after my family?) or just plain difficult. If I’m not comfortable doing something, then unless there’s really no other way and somebody’s life depended on it, I’d say no.

Should this person be asking this of me?
People who know us well should know our limitations but still I’m often asked to do something that’s beyond what anybody should really expect. Once upon a time, I’d have done my best to do it anyway but nowadays I just think that they ought not have asked in the first place and put me in a position where I feel I have to help and simply say no.

Could this person do this for him/herself?
One example of this was people constantly asking me for loans even though they had at least as much and often more coming in than I have. If I can budget and make my money last from one pay day to the next and save a bit too, then surely they can. By helping out with loans the whole time, I wasn’t really do them any favours so instead I offered to help them set up a budget, an offer that has been declined by each of those people who‘d regularly ask, so now I just say no. As they say “give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day, teach him to fish and you’ll feed him for a lifetime”.

How important is the favour?
There’s a big difference between getting out of bed at two in the morning to take somebody to the hospital because a loved one’s just been admitted with a serious illness and could die and picking somebody up from a night club because they've spent their taxi fair home. If I don’t really think the person should be asking the favour of me, then I say no.

What are my own priorities?
Do I have the time or energy to do this? How important is it compared with the plans I’d already made for my time? Can I afford to do it and, if not, are they able to pay themselves (or even willing to)? If I feel that my own priorities are more important - and this is one where I often fell down before because I put other people’s need (real or perceived) before myself all too often - then I say no.

Since starting to say no more often and give more consideration to my own needs instead, some people have stopped contacting me as much. Fine. I know where I stand with them now. Those who really care about me understand that you can’t always do everything for everybody and have started expecting less of me. I still help out when and how I can, but I don’t jump around like a puppet on a string anymore and am actually spending time helping myself instead.

Sharon J xx


Image Source: Tyla75


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Jade of the Jungle said...

A very useful post. I used to struggle to say no, especially in a work context as I am quite junior, but recently I've been putting my foot down a bit and am refusing to be handed the bollocky crap that my more senior colleagues can't be bothered to do themselves. I've started saying no and to be honest I think they respect me more for it!

I still struggle to say no to friends and family though

wombat064 said...

Learning to say No is one of the most valuable lessons in life..

Well Done Sharon !!!!!!


Richard said...

Good for you. I think you know my feelings on these people and I don't think I would even have been as tolerant as you've been.

L-Jay said...

I found that in Oz the only time people called us was when they wanted something. I must thank the person who invented - it certainly made it a lot easier to not even having to say no ;)

But in Norway people call just to have a chat - I like that much better!

Sharon Rose said...

Hi there-a really important lesson in life too. I do say no, maybe not as often as I'd like though.

livingmyrichlife said...

So true. Learning to say no has been the biggest stress-reducer. It become easier with time, but it was very difficult saying no at the beginning.

Cabbage Heart said...

Hi Sharon...It only took me 38 years to say NO and I am empowered with 2 simple little letters joined together and voiced sternly. Its amazing at how people are taken aback and the look on their face when I say NO is priceless. Like you can see their brain ticking over with thoughts of..." Eh? When did she learn that word?"... "Crackers! Have to do it myself now."

Priceless! Just Priceless!


Cabbage Heart said...

Oh I forgot....Enjoy your time-out will miss you

Sharon J said...

@ Jade. Well at least you've started at work, and that's a step in the right direction :)

@ Wombat. It is. That's something I've certaily discovered.

@ Richard. Some of the people yes, but it isn't just them, it's a general thing. If I can't do something then I can't and I'm not pushing myself any more. The blood suckers have definitely noticed a change in attitude from me though.

@ L-Jay. It's pretty much the same here and yes, I think Norwegians are more likely to call just for a chat rather than for a favour.

@ Sharon Rose. I still say yes now and then when I should have said no, but nowhere near as often as I used to.

@ Livingmyrichlife. Nice to see a new 'face'. You're certainly right about it being a stress reducer :)

@ Cabbage Heart. I don't usually find I need to be stern, I just say "sorry, but I can't" and leave it at that. If somebody asks why then I either say "because I have other things to do" or just leave it with "it doesn't matter why, I just can't" depending on who it is. Some people I still offer my excuse to though because they're not blood suckers, they're genuine people but who I'm not able to do a favour for at the time.

Green Change said...

I've found a qualified yes can be just as effective as a no. When someone needs something, you say "yes I can do it, but I don't have the free time until Thursday night". You're offering to help, just not right now. 9 times out of 10 they go off and find someone else who can help them right now.

I've also had funny looks when someone asks "can you fix my computer on Saturday?" and I answer "no problem, I'll do it while you're mowing my lawn". :-)