Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Can you say No?

Some people have a problem saying or hearing the word NO. I think it is the first word children say, either because they hear it so often or because it is short and easy to say. So why is it, that people have such a problem with it later in life? My mother, God bless her, had a problem with that word. Her favorite phrase was, "We'll see." That just put off the inevitable, but she didn't get into trouble with it. I didn't follow her example. In fact, it drives me crazy when people aren't honest about wanting to say NO, so they just lead you on until it is too late to make other plans, or you've moved on only to find out later something else was about to happen.

So here's how I'd do it--how to say NO.

1. To a request to bake a cake for a fund raiser/good cause. I say, "NO, if you needed a pie, I'd gladly help out, but I don't do cakes. If you'll accept store-bought or bakery, I'll do it." I never say, "Let me get back to you on that." I'm 67 years old and I think I should know the answer to this one--you'll love my pie, and pass on my cake.

2. To a request to join yet another organization. I say, "NO, I already belong to two small groups and that's about my limit. I don't want to add anything else to my calendar." However, I do say YES if it's a short term task with a beginning and end in sight, but that has to be clarified. Also, I can spot "empire building" from 50 yards, so don't even ask if that's your intent.

3. To a request for a dinner date with my husband for Thursday if we already have plans for Friday and Sunday. I say "NO, sweety, those extra calories don't bother you one bit, but I don't want them." I'm probably the only wife who says NO to a dinner out, but you gotta do what you gotta do, or else walk an extra 5 miles a day!

4. To a request for a donation. I say, "NO, we tithe to our church and contribute to several community organizations we believe in. We have met our limit for this year."

5. To a request to help in my professional area of expertise. I say "NO, I believe that level of support deserves an employee and not a volunteer. Have you considered hiring someone?"

6. To a request to join a committee. I usually say NO, but there are exceptions. You don't ever want to appoint me Chair, because I'll dissolve the committee.

7. To a request to borrow money. Usually this is NO, but we have helped out our children occasionally, and other relatives if we know they haven't been irresponsible. My parents loaned us the downpayment for our first house, loaned me money to finish college and financed a car for us, so I had help, too--in my early 20s. Dad would set up payments with interest. However, don't ever loan money that you can't offer as a gift, or you might be disappointed and don't use it as a means to control behavior. The relationship is more important than the money. You just create hard feelings by making people indebted to you. Once we gave money to one of my husband's relatives because we knew a loan was out of the questions--he would have never paid it back.

8. To a request to babysit or help in the church nursery. Can't think that any one would ask this today, but in the past, I always caught a cold. Babies and toddlers are crawling with germs for which I have no immunity. Wording this NO is tricky, however, or you do sound like a meany. Honesty would be best so they can call the next name on the list.

My mother did give me some advice on saying NO, although I don't usually follow it. She suggested, in her dear, nonconfrontational way, that I at least look like I'm thinking about the request before I say NO.

When my daughter was in elementary school, the teacher sent home a grade report that said something to the effect that she had an overdeveloped sense of NO. Good girl. A woman after my own heart.


Crafty Green Poet said...

Being able to say NO graciously is a very important talent. Thanks for sharing your advice!

Linda Jones said...

I love number 6. After a meeting today, my sentiments exactly!
I also find it hard to say yes at times and