DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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31 July 2007

Learning how to say NO


When my sons were in primary school, there was an anti-drug message aimed specifically at kids to say no to drugs. It was on T shirts, on TV, on billboards. The message was everywhere. And although that message didn't save everyone, it did save a lot of kids from a life defined by crime and the horrors of drug use.

At work yesterday I talked to a young man who I see every so often when he needs help with a bit of food. When he came in yesterday he was nervous and looked sick. After a few questions, he told me he'd been with "friends" on the weekend and had "shot up speed". For those of you not used to the terminology, he'd been injected with amphetamines. He'd since been to the doctor, was on antibiotics for an infected arm that he couldn't bend and would need a lot more treatment to get back to normal. I asked him why he did such a stupid thing and he told me it that he was with friends and didn't want to say no when they suggested it. But in the cold light of Monday morning, saying no seemed like a much better option to him, he just wished he'd been strong enough to say it when he needed to.

I told him he has to learn how to say no, and if he can't learn it, he has to say no to going out with these people. Luckily, the entire episode scared him a lot. I'm not sure he's scared enough to stay away from these people but after our talk about saying no, he certainly knows now that it's ok to say no, and often it's important for our own safety and health that we do say it.

It was really busy at the Centre yesterday. When I thought it was about 11am, I looked at the clock and it was 1.20pm. I decided to say no to taking a call and yes to a cup of tea. I try to pack a lot into those two days. I work as the co-ordinator, so I have that work to do but I also have a lot of people who come in to talk to me or ring up, so that adds to the work load. Yesterday my day was longer than normal as there was a two hour committee meeting at the end of the day. At that meeting, I agreed to take on a couple of extra things that I can do on the two days I work. I was also asked to be on a panel of three who will administer a community fund for local children. This I said no to. It would require that I work outside my two days and I'm not prepare to do that. I also said no to another request for my time, but gave them a solution so it was not a problem.

One of the skills you must learn when living simply, and even when you're not, is to say NO. If you say yes to everything you lessen the time you have to live the way you want to live. Simplifying isn't just cutting down on the clutter in your cupboards, it's also cutting the clutter in your day to day life. Saying no to some requests for your time and energy helps you to cut this clutter.

You have to make judgements about what you give yourself to and stick to your decision, even when you're pressured. Just like the young man earlier in the day, saying no is sometimes the intelligent and sensible thing to do. You do need to think about it beforehand though. Think carefully about the amount of time you have available and make conscious judgements about what you're comfortable doing and what will make your life more difficult. If you've thought about it beforehand, saying no when the question arises - no matter what the question is or who it comes from - makes the no word come out more easily. If you're prepared to say no, and not try to please everyone with yes, then it makes it easier.

It's impossible to please everyone and your first responsibility is to yourself and your family. You have to have enough energy and time for the things you've decided are important to you. So think about how to say no, think about what you've got time for, what is good for you and your family, and say no to the rest of it. And if you can do this, if you can say no in a polite but definite way, it will allow you to say YES to all those things that are significant and valuable.

11 comments:

  1. What an appropriate topic for me! I have a problem saying no! I thinks it's because I don't like to upset people but then I end up getting stressed out and anxious about certain things I should've said no to.

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  2. Another relevant topic. I am a natural nurturer and realised in the last few years that I needed to learn to say NO. I am still working on this and feel 40years old is far too old to learn this task. I too get stressed and anxious if I can't help some-one in need.
    Bella

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  3. I was just thinking about this today when my sister-in-law asked me to go to a water park tomorrow. I know the nice thing to do would be to say "yes"...but I for one, don't want to spend the money, and for two, know my boys have just as much fun playing in the hose in our backyard...so by saying no to her, I save money, don't have to drive anywhere, and get to enjoy another day at home. The last few months I have really been trying to simplify my life and learn to say no. Thanks for the reminder Rhonda Jean!

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  4. I've become pretty good at this, the more I do it the easier it becomes. I'm finding that I'm much more understanding now when someone says no to me too, I don't take it personally I just accept that it's not convenient or right for them at the time.
    I watched my best friend almost destroy her marriage because she couldn't say no to some of her "needy" friends who used emotional blackmail and took advantage of her desire to help people.

    Lenny

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  5. Love the last paragraph: "It's impossible to please everyone and your first responsibility is to yourself and your family. You have to have enough energy and time for the things you've decided are important to you. So think about how to say no, think about what you've got time for, what is good for you and your family, and say no to the rest of it. And if you can do this, if you can say no in a polite but definite way, it will allow you to say YES to all those things that are significant and valuable." == IN FACT, I'm printing it out and saving it in my journal......... the new school year is about to start and I'm such a people pleaser.

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  6. i love reading your blog.. don't have any thing to contribute but enjoyment of what you write.. am temped to get out the plastic bags and start to budget that way ..it is a great idea have been thinking about it since you wrote it.. thanks and happy week margie

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  7. As I have gotten older I have gotten better at saying no...especially at work. My family are first these days and making that adjustment has taken a few years, but thye are what is really important to me. No amount of money will buy more time with them, once they grow older so I intend to enjoy spending time with them as they grow up :)

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  8. I would always say yes, to anything anyone ever asked and it caused me a lot of stress and anxiety because I felt like I just couldn't "be mean" and say no. Now I have children of my own, and am a bit older, I don't seem to have a problem with saying "no." I've also cleared a lot of people out of my life that loved taking advantage of my weakness and never contributed anything to the relationship themselves. Great post.

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  9. Ah, yes... This post and another makes me think a little birdy may have flown by and told you some of my ongoing struggles...

    This one in particular! So a long-winded comment yet again; I apologize! Good therapy though.

    I used to be very much a "YES" person as a rule, but have found the need to learn to use the word "no" the older I get...

    I have this "friend" (actually more than one, it's several...) who want me to come work with them on a regular basis for free and have asked me on many the occasion.

    Ego stroking, they say it is because they need ME in particular to be their friend to talk to as they work. "It would make such a difference," they say.

    When I suggest, instead of a commitment of several days per week working for them, I just drop in sometime say "hi" and see how it's going, they say, "Oh no, you don't understand, I'd be too busy!"

    But I do understand, because I'm busy with and desire my own life too. I think that stands true for most everyone. Perhaps these requestors have gotten the wrong impression because I make a point to drop everything each time they stop by so I can pay full attention to them. Perhaps they think I have nothing else to do?

    Looking back on it, I do see more clearly, that the requests are unreasonable. It is the free labor and supportive ear they are after to keep their businesses afloat, not my "friendship" as they think.

    It's like when volunteering for local events and then realizing you're just a body or a number to the people who have asked, not a true and accepted member of the community. These requests are perhaps more reasonable, but if you feel unappreciated -- or even resented -- then they are not.

    We aspire be nice people and good citizens, but sometimes wind up feeling that everyone just wants a piece of us, and while flattering, there sadly just isn't enough to go around. After awhile, the bucket becomes empty and it needs refilling somehow.

    So, feel terrible but again practice saying a polite (and hopefully graceful!) no. And then deal with the overwhelming guilt that goes along with that. Despite feeling bad about it, this practice is important and it becomes easier over time. Or so I'm told!

    Because as you said,

    "It's impossible to please everyone and your first responsibility is to yourself and your family. You have to have enough energy and time for the things you've decided are important to you."

    Thank you, Rhonda Jean.

    (This is Wildside)

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  10. Just had to write because of the quotation on my desk calendar page for today: "Learn how to say no. Don't let your mouth overload your back." (Anonymous)
    I got a chuckle reading this. Since I moved to northern Idaho, and still work full-time, I don't HAVE a lot of free time. I haven't gotten involved in the community too much because I spend as much time with my daughters & their families as I can, esp. those 3 grandsons. They're still young (ages 3, 4, & 11 yrs), and still WANT to spend time with their ole Gran.
    BY the time they're teenagers, with busy lives, I'll be retired & can 'fit' around their schedules a little more easily. And I'll have more time then to 'give back' & get involved in other things, too.

    Carla in North Idaho (thinking seriously about starting my own blog...

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  11. ali and bella, I think a lot of us learn when we're young that we should be agreeable and it takes us a while to realise that there are times when we need to put ourselves first. I think it came to me about 20 years ago when I was around 40. And bella, it does get easier. Hugs to you both.

    Good steward, another nice thing to do would be to invite your SIL over with her children for backyard water play. Suggest she bring half a picnic. : )

    Wise words, Lenny. It is easier the more you do it and also if you've already thought about it and are prepared.

    Jessica, it's good to have those visual reminders. Good luck with your new school year.

    Margie, thank you for commenting. Try the bags, it really does work well. Don't forget to let me know how you go with it.

    Lisa, how right you are when you say no amount of money will buy more time. I'm glad you're putting your family first. I know it's difficult to do sometimes.

    farm mom, I think some people take advantage if they see a small weakness and they are usually the same ones, who you rightly pointed out, never contribute anything.

    wildside, I love your long comments. I see these comments as part of a continuing conversation. It's a bit boring if I'm the only one talking.
    I smiled as I read your comment. Some people are nicely manipulative and often we are duped into thinking they can't do without us. But you know - "the requests are unreasonable. It is the free labor and supportive ear they are after to keep their businesses afloat, not my "friendship" as they think." Adding sugar coating to a request might make it look more enticing but it doesn't change what it is. And it does get easier, so keep at it.
    BTW, a little birdy did tell me she knows you, but only that. So don't worry, sweetie, your secrets are safe until you tell them. : )

    Carla, you have your priorities right. You'll never get back that time you spend with your grandies. It's precious, builds memories and gives your grandsons the gift of you. I love that quote too. : )

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