Monday, 24 November 2008
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