Friday, May 27, 2011

No, Non, 没有, Keine, нет

It doesn't matter how you say it, NO in any language can be difficult for graceful women who sometimes confuse being kind with also being a pushover. Perhaps it's an attempt to be perfect, we want to be everything to everyone, putting our needs or obligations on the back burner to tend to another's. I have many times been guilt-ridden by not having enough hours in the day to do whatever I could to ease someone else's burden, often forgetting that I had many tasks and many loved ones that were waiting patiently for some of my time as well. This desire to multi-task to the point of collapse is draining, can cause resentment, and tends to result in a lot of half-done ventures that can leave us scrambling to figure out how to begin putting our own lives back together again.

Much of this multi-tasking can be contributed to technology; the cell phones, blackberries, tablets, laptops, and constant access to non-face to face communication means that we often have to come up with reasons why we can't do something, or have to utter that dreaded word "No," whose cousins "I can't" and "I'm not available at that time" tend to leave just as bitter a taste on our tongues. Perhaps we think that if they could peak through our window at that very moment, they would see that we were up to our necks in other obligations, but they can't, we don't want to appear lazy or unaccommodating, so we drop everything to do for another what they could often do for themselves.

What?!?! Do it themselves?!?! But they need me, they wouldn't do it correctly, and/or no one else could do it as well as me.

Aha! This is point #1. You're amazing. No seriously you are. You organize a million schedules, have the ability to make a dish on the fly that would rival the main course at French Laundry, and you smell nice too. However, there are times when it's important to let people handle their problems themselves. Of course, you can help guide them, but you have to remember that keeping others from learning how to manage tasks such as budgeting for and paying their bills, cleaning up after themselves or how to get from Point A to Point B, is not really helping them, it's hindering them. There are those in our society that really truly need help with these tasks (children, senior citizens, those with certain medical conditions) but in general, most people have the resources, brainpower (but perhaps lack of will power) to find ways to make their lives run. If they get stuck at Point A because they really didn't find a way to get to Point B without you dragging them there, perhaps Point B wasn't really that important. Start lovingly giving others the opportunity to solve their own problems and see if you find that, lo and behold, they really could do it.

But won't they dislike me if I say no, or that I'm not available to do it?

Point #2. If that loved one who wants you to help them move apartments for the 6th time, or who needs to borrow your car again, or who needs a dog sitter while they go to the lake is going to stop loving and caring about you if you say "No, I can't absorb your obligation," that's not the kind of love you wanted in the first place. Love in its highest form is unconditional, and having people that will only be kind to you if you pick up their slack and stop what you're doing to help them with crisis #4,873, is not really the kind of person you want around anyway. If these types stop coming around because you aren't their butler/trust fund/catch-all drawer, you might be better off.

*Bonus* Again, this will lovingly give the favor-asker the chance to re-evaluate their choices. If they are making decisions that don't fit into their lives and is making them have to constantly rely on others to manage it, maybe having to miss out or do without will be inspiration enough to make some changes.

Point #3. But you really like helping out. Okay, I understand this. Just make sure you have a point in mind where "No" is okay. If you're too exhausted from handling your sister-in-law to be a good parent to your children, it's time to say no. If you have done too much overtime at work and have no love left for your honey, it's time to say no. If everyone else's lives are running smoothly thanks to you, but you are down to the "ugly panties" and only have condiments in your refrigerator, it's time to say NO!!

There are incredible charities that really do need people with the giving, generous spirit that you have. Find one that you're passionate about to share your kindness and let it serve as a reminder to yourself that you are a good person, but also not one who will get in the way of a learning moment for another. If you see that helping another will really not take away from your life, happiness or well-being, for example watching that niece that you adore anyway, or helping prune a friend's garden that results in some exercise and delicious home-grown tomatoes, then by all means, chip in!

But if it doesn't, I give you my blessing and encouragement to say gracefully, politely, but firmly, "No."

1 comment:

  1. Saying no is one of the hardest things a woman can do, because we are raised to be sweet, nurturing and helpful (and maybe it's just in our nature) but when it totally drains us so that we can't be sweet, nurturing and loving, or feminine or happy, because we are wired and tired and exhausted, it's just not doing anyone any good. Great post!