Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Learning to say no

My three-year-old has it right. If I ask him if he wants to do something or if he could help me with something, he will think about if for a second, then say yes if he wants to and no if he does not. Brilliant! He is not worrying about putting me out, only about putting himself out and if he wants to do it. The thought does not cross his mind that I will think less of him for saying no, or that anyone could think less of him. For anything. He's Sam. It's Sam's world so why should he do anything he doesn't want to? He is assertive and confident. He is a Sam-pleaser, not a people-pleaser.

If you are a people-pleaser, as I am, then you'll understand the difficulty of saying no. You want to make people happy, to do the right thing, to help out when someone asks but, let's face it, most of all you want people to like you and think you are nice. So, you say yes when you want to say no or, as I do, say you will think about it and then, only after finding a good excuse or a legitimate reason, you say no. If you can't think of a good excuse or find a legitimate reason, you say yes, even if you hate it. I do this. I am terrible with this.

But that is not my biggest problem. No, I always, always go above and beyond. My husband and I were talking about this last night and he said "if someone asked you 'could you hold this cup of coffee for me while I blow my nose', you would hold the coffee then offer to make them some soup for their cold." (Weird example because when has he ever known me to make soup? I suppose I might offer to heat up a can of chicken noodle.) And I know he is right. I do this. I just don't say yes to people, I volunteer for extra duties. I always go above and beyond what is asked of me.

Part of it is that I am super-empathetic. I try to avoid hearing sad stories of people or animals because I dwell on them and find myself wondering how I can help out and what I would do in a similar situation. I take the 'do unto others' thing farther and try to do unto them more than what I would expect for myself. I try to make everything bad go away for people, whether it be their stress, anxiety, pain, or illness, I try to make everything right. And you know that's a task doomed to fail.

The good news is I am getting better. I have recently said no a few times and even answered quickly on a couple of occasions, only giving it a moment of thought before saying it. And I have stopped myself several times from the above and beyond thing. I consciously do it because I will later tell my husband that I almost offered to do something extra but did not. Maybe it is because I am a lot busier and have to maximize my time. Maybe it is because more people are asking more of me and I have to say no or, as my mom says, I will have too much on my plate. Maybe it is because I am getting older and I realize how much time I am wasting on this whole process or how much stress I put myself under by thinking about it too long and too hard, analyzing all the possibilities and the after-effects. Or maybe I have come to accept that, more than likely, saying no won't make someone who likes you stop liking you and saying yes will not make someone who does not like you think any better of you (except that you are a sucker just as they suspected all along).

I think saying no is the sign of a healthy person. It shows you have enough respect for yourself to know what you are capable of, what your limitations are and how important your time is. So, I am going to keep doing it because the truth is that it kind of feels good to say no, move on and let go. Sure, I may apologize for it and may over explain my reasons, but I can say the word. I can. And I will. But if someone really needs me, I will be there if I can at all. That's just the way I am.

Next step, learning not to apologize so much—for supposed slights I fear others may have felt from something innocent I said, for asking something of someone else, and even for saying no.

So, no, and I am not sorry about it. There.


Post a Comment

<< Home