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.

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