Sometimes Mondays
Unraveling, or . . . You Can't Always Get What You Want

About Saying No

"You can be a good person with a kind heart and still say no."

All my life, I have managed to get myself into things I had no business getting myself into. Things that actually made me miserable and anxious and stressed.

Would you serve. . . 
We're looking for a co-chair. . . 
Can you help. . . 
Will you sew. . . 
Can we count on you . . . 
Would you adopt . . .
Can you just look at this . . . 

Every time, I should have said NO.  Nicely.  Firmly.  With a smile.

But I didn't.  

And every time I ended up feeling bad and resentful.  I dreaded the task I'd committed to doing, and couldn't wait for whatever it was to be finished.  A drain on my time and my energy -- and a stumbling block to my doing things I actually wanted to be doing.


In my year of focus, I've decided it's time for me to really think about what I want to be doing.  Which means I need to avoid getting sucked into those things I don't want to be doing.

But this is so much harder than it sounds.  Because it's usually nice people - people we like and generally want to support - asking us to do the things we really don't want to do.  So there is a sense of obligation there.  And that not-wanting-to-disappoint thing.  And it's awkward to say no.  It's just easier to say yes, y'know?  (Just this once, you tell yourself.)  

This year, one of my goals is to learn to say no -- without feeling bad about it.

I need to be in the driver's seat of my own life.  I need to focus on the things I'm really interested and excited about.  I really need to get comfortable saying no.  I need to remind myself . . . if I can't say Hell Yeah about something, I need to say NO.

Last week, I was invited to a kick-off meeting for a very cool initiative launching here in Michigan.  The invitation sounded like a chance to learn more about the initiative, and possibly get involved in some way.  I'm very interested in voting rights, generally, so I wanted to learn more, and when I told Tom where I was going, he decided to come along.

It didn't take long for us to understand that the meeting was not quite what we thought it was going to be.  Instead of learning about the initiative and being presented with ways we might choose to get involved, it turned out to be recruitment and training for a petition drive.

Uh-oh.  I was uncomfortable right away.  My introvert alarm bells were in emergency-perimeters-have-been-breached mode.  Because asking strangers to sign a petition is a bridge too far when it comes to my personal comfort zone.  I sat there in the meeting, feeling completely pressured and mentally thinking through how I could get signatures on a petition without actually ringing any doorbells, wondering what Tom was thinking . . .  and sort of wanting to throw up.

This was definitely not a Hell Yeah thing for me.  But it clearly was for everyone else in the room!  (Pressure.  Pressure.  Pressure.)  The alarm bells in my head kept going off -- but I felt trapped; like . . . I knew I'd be going home with a clipboard and a set of petitions and a pit in my stomach.

But then Tom leaned over and said, "Is this what you thought this meeting was going to be?"

And something clicked.
Because it wasn't.  
And I didn't want to do this -- and neither did Tom.
This was not a Hell Yeah for either of us!

I took a deep breath, raised my hand, and asked if there were other ways for people to get involved.

Why, no, they said.
Right now we just need signatures, they said.

And I said . . . No.  
I'm sorry, I said.
We can't do this right now, I said. 

And then we left.

I was polite and I was nice.  We were pretty conspicuous and it felt a little weird to leave.  But we didn't come home with petitions -- and that was what really mattered.

I said no.  
(And I'm still a nice person!)




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I love this! I was lucky to have a grandmother who set a fine example for me. She taught me that "No is a complete sentence" long before Oprah was saying it, and she also encouraged me find my own balance between Yes and No. I say No a lot, and lots of family members disagree, but we do need to be in charge of our own lives and how we spend our most valuable resource - time. (And yes, you are a VERY nice person!)


Yay for you!! Well done. Like Bonny, I say no when I need/want to. A friend at work seems unable to say no and, as a consequence, hasn't been to yoga for months (because "friends" keep demanding her time that particular night). I'm trying to teach her that she has a choice and that it is ok to say no.

The more you practice, the easier it becomes.


Only the nicest persons say no - didn't you know that? And, good for you - saying no is difficult, especially for women. Silly, but true. I am so proud of you for keeping your focus!! XO


Good for you! I have always struggled with saying "No" and for the past year have been working on changing that. My niece told me that many women have trouble saying "No" and feel that they have to come up with valid excuse (not just any excuse) when they do. I recently had a friend ask me to sew cushions for her barstools, a job that I could do, but one that would make me miserable, so I declined, even after she offered me money...phew!


WINNER! This is inspiring to me, thanks for sharing.


I have found that the biggest obstacle to saying no is the need to explain. Once you can get rid of that, it's much easier. Explanations never help. Someone suggested saying "Sorry but that doesn't work for me." This is good because it gives you a few words to say without actually explaining or excusing, and you can just stop there, and then repeat if necessary. I'm glad you didn't get involved in carrying petitions around.

Cheryl S.

Good for you!


Good job Kym and Tom! I feel we are similar in our thought process here...and it's not easy!


Good for you!! Life is too short to spend time doing things we don't enjoy, believe in, find fun, learn, or any of the things that mean spending time doing it is ENJOYABLE!!!


OMG, Hallelujah for you guys!! This is so great!


You go, girl! It’s difficult to back out but solife affirming!


HELL YEAH! You are the boss of you. I'm glad Tom was with you for support. You are one of the NICEST people I know and knowing what your limits are, and knowing NO is all you need to say, means you are wise, too!


GOOD for you! It must have felt super awkward and scary to ask that question and then leave but really, who cares? You probably didn't know anyone there anyway and you did the RIGHT THING for you!


Good for you! I think the older I get the easier it is to say "no" without feeling guilty. Time is precious and we should all get to make the best choices for ourselves.


Yes - you are a nice person and an honest one. Well done


Example is one of the strongest influences. Next time I am in a similar situation I will think of you and how you handled this one. I think it will help a lot. Chloe


Well done! Just fighting the same battle and the "Hell Yeah"" is stuck in my head now. So thank you and keep saying NO!


HOORAY for you and Tom! Saying no is the very best way to say YES!


You are absolutely a nice person! (I needed to read this because I am trying to recruit people to do door-to-door canvassing and make phone calls... and most people do not want to do that. Gotta remember that if there is too much pressure or if I make people too uncomfortable, they may just leave the organization altogether, and that is the last thing I want.)

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