Rather bafflingly this week, I accepted an invitation because the person offering would not take ‘No’ for an answer.
Baffling because, up until this week, I would have said my ability to say ‘No’ was in good shape. A super power honed after a lot of painful years because, like many people, it was not something I found easy to say.
But, caught off guard, I ran to several excuses – none of which were heard – as to why I couldn’t oblige this person. I said ‘No’ at least ten times.
Henry Cloud is attributed as saying:
“People only change when the pain of staying where they are is greater than the pain of change itself.”
Pain? My inability in the past to say ‘No’ had me enduring tedious dinners, meetings, parties and a billion holiday snaps. (Like the evening a colleague asked me to sit through hours of his family’s safari and hunting footage. A long night where I silently prayed my colleague would take one of his rifles and shoot me.)
After that pain, there was a period when I would say ‘No,’… sort of. I’d make up a kick-arse excuse why I couldn’t do something, but would then buckle when my problem was ‘fixed’ for me.
“Oh, that. Don’t worry, Mel, I’ll get so-and-so’s daughter to babysit the kids. She could use the money and you could use a night out. Problem solved!”
“Er, okay, then.”
Lots of years of doing things I didn’t want to do, feeling angry with myself for doing them, and then bellyaching about the whole thing to my sister.
I reverted to this same behaviour again this week in the face of someone who just plain wore me down, frankly. My flawed thinking was that to continue to say ‘No’ would have been impolite! Forget the impoliteness of someone pushing their agenda until they got their way.
I walked away wondering what more I could have said or done to have been heard. Moreover, why I had run to excuses rather than just take affirmative (or non-affirmative) action. For now, let’s blame it on a too busy week and being caught off guard. But next time?
Next time I’ll remember the script which had previously been my saviour; the ‘excuse’ no-one can ‘fix’ in order to get their way, and which would definitely have served me well this week:
“No, thank you, I don’t want to do that.”