When we were young, particularly during those Terrible Twos, we learned to stand our ground and not yield to every request that came our way. We turned our noses at anything green on our plates. We ran the other way when it was bedtime, bath time, or homework time. We refused to make our bed and put our toys away.
We said no.
As we got older, something happened and we began to accept things that our toddler selves would never have tolerated. We tried new foods and learned that maybe we were wrong about what we originally rejected. We stuck to the daily routine of sleep, bathing, and work schedules, whether we liked them or not. We washed dishes, dusted furniture, and vacuumed, even if we hated every minute.
We stopped saying no.
When people ask us for something, we feel inclined to say yes over and over. We commit ourselves when we don’t want to commit. We say sure when we would rather decline. We feel there is no way out of it.
When did we become a society of Yes Men and Women? And how the hell do we get out of it?
I am completely guilty of extending myself to people when I don’t want to, of saying yes when I should have said no. Over the years, I have leant money, attended social events, and allowed myself to be taken advantage of by the people I care about. Sometimes, it works out in my favor. I have met some awesome people by going out when I would have rather stayed in for the night, creating memories that I can treasure long after the fun is over. I have been fortunate to have favors returned when I’ve needed help. But there are times when the money was never paid back or the good deeds only went one way that have darkened my memories of people and times.
And yet, when pressed to participate again, I usually say yes.
The thing is, I enjoy helping other people even if I feel obligated to do so. When someone knows they can rely on me for a late night chat or to do anything I can to make an event special, I feel good knowing that others know they can count on me to lift their spirits and get stuff done. I like being known as a dependable person who always follows through on commitments.
This steadfast reliability has earned me a lot of fast friends and I am often surprised at how close people feel they are to me as quickly as they do. However, I embrace that feeling (however fleeting it may be) because who wouldn’t want to be liked? A lot of times, our fear of being disliked makes us commit when we are not in a position, either mentally, financially, or physically, to do so. But rather than disappoint the asker, we disappoint ourselves by pushing aside our feelings and pressing forward. We decide that our discomfort is worth less than the awkwardness of refusal, thereby putting the feelings of others above our own.
When will we realize that it is ok to say no?
People are understanding when you have to decline an invitation or a request for whatever reason we have. Maybe the thought of an afternoon spent uncomfortably ooh-ing and aww-ing over miniature outfits and receiving blankets at a baby shower makes you break out in hives. Maybe you had a great time on that first date, but didn’t feel the romantic connection to take part in a follow-up evening. Maybe you are so overloaded with work that you cannot take on a new tasking. Sometimes, it’s in everyone’s best interest to just say no.
Though I am by no means a master of the N-word, I do try to utilize those two little letters when something is really important to me. It may take me—and possibly you—some time to build up the courage to utter the word with a little more frequency, but I know that when I do, it will be for the right reasons.
So let’s all say yes to no.