Learn to Say No

Posted by Dianne on Mar 9, 2014 in Blog | Tags:, , | Comments Off on Learn to Say No

You can do some good and you can avoid some evil. You cannot
do all the good that needs to be done in the world and
you cannot avoid all the evil that will befall you.
~ Rev. Henry Beck

 Here is a tip that I learned from a two-year-old: Learn to say “No.” One of the first words most people learn, “No” can do for you now what it did for you when you were two—give you some control. It is easy to be overwhelmed by all the demands on our time, talents, and resources both at work and in your personal life. You can also be influenced to do things that are not in your best interest when people appeal to your sense of duty.

A very bright young college student, majoring in engineering, excelled in her studies but was very unhappy. She finally revealed she didn’t want to be an engineer. She admitted being persuaded to major in engineering by the many messages she had heard from well-meaning advisors.

“People told me, ‘We need more Americans in engineering, we are falling behind other countries.’ They said, ‘We need more women in engineering. It shouldn’t be a male-only field.’ So I thought that if I ‘could’ do it, I ‘should’ do it.”

She changed her major to music, using another talent with which she was blessed. She still worked hard and excelled in her studies but enjoyed college much more. Choosing a major is only one area where you can get pressured into doing things you ought to refuse. There are many sources of unreasonable pressure.

Consider the high expectations that often accompany the responsibilities and commitments on our plates. Volunteering is a good thing. But, as beneficial as volunteering is, it is easy to overdo. Some people who volunteer get sucked into volunteering for everything. Mothers seem to be especially vulnerable. Many children’s activities depend on volunteers, from school to sports teams, to religion or Sunday school classes, to scouting. If your child participates, you will be asked to volunteer.

It’s OK to say “No” to some of those volunteer requests. If you have more than one child and each child has several activities, you understand how demands on your time can get out of hand. You not only are required to transport your children to all those activities, but you will be asked to help with many of them. You could spend so many hours volunteering that your happiness would be beaten down by exhaustion.

A very wise man, Rev. John Catoir, presented the keynote address to a volunteer organization to which I belonged. He shared the quotation by Rev. Henry Beck that began this article. The words “You cannot do all the good that needs to be done in the world” have stayed with me ever since. He went on to explain that generous people who are eager to help others sometimes begin to do more than their share because they see so many worthy causes. Keep in mind that as worthy as any cause is, you can’t personally fix everything.

Catoir recommended doing only those good deeds that you can do joyfully. Permission to skip some of the worthy volunteer activities takes a lot of pressure and guilt off one’s shoulders. Similarly, when considering your response to a new career opportunity, you need to be realistic about the work-life balance that allows you to be happy and effective at work. Accepting greater responsibilities won’t further you career if you find yourself unable to deliver on expectations.

How do you go about saying “No?” Take a page from my Uncle Pat’s book. He was a man of many talents and always willing to help in the community. But even Pat had his limits. Being pressured to serve as an election judge, he explained that he had no vacation days left and couldn’t take the day off work.

“But we need you!” the caller protested. “There’s no one else who can take your place!”

Pat was unconvinced. “I could step out in front of a bus tomorrow and be long gone before the election. What would you do then?” he asked.

“Well, in that case, I guess we would have to get somebody else,” the caller reluctantly admitted.

“That’s the answer!” Pat was triumphant. “Get the guy you’d get if I died!”

The next time you find yourself with a full plate and someone asks you to do one more thing, think of Uncle Pat. Then say, “I’m so sorry – you’ll have to get the guy you’d get if I died.”

[Caution: Don’t try this line on a boss with no sense of humor.]


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