The Power of “No” and the sucker’s choice
Although we don’t treat it like it, “no” can be a complete sentence. But if you’re one of the many people (women especially) overwhelmed by the number of requests coming your way but who still have a hard time saying “no,” then “No” as a complete sentence is a foreign concept.
You’d think that as we get older saying no would get easier. And while for some of us it does, for many of us our reluctance to say “no” – even in the cases which cry out for an all caps “NO!” boils down to not wanting to seem unkind or uncaring. Bottom line, we want people, even unlikeable, unkind and uncaring people, to like us and say nice things about us. And then there’s the fact that when most people ask for our help or a favor, it’s because they probably genuinely need it and telling them no would put them in a bind. But what if telling them yes puts you in one? And, what happens when people ask you to do things you don’t think they should have asked you to do in the first place? Do you still say yes? Maybe you shouldn’t.
If people with a history of borrowing money and never repaying it ask you for a loan, it’s probably in your best interest to say no. If you’ve got the funds to give and you genuinely want to, then give away. But understand that there’s a good chance you’ll never see that money again. Liz Pulliam Weston at MSN Money suggests that when you’re approached by a friend or family member for a loan, you first take a moment to think. She suggests even saying “I need a moment” and walking away to process the request. She also cautions against making a “suckers choice.” The suckers choice is the one you guilt yourself into making after having the “I have to give her a loan, or she’ll never speak to me again!” conversation with yourself. Taking a moment to think through the request and all your choices, including saying no, will allow you to make wiser decisions.
But what if the request isn’t about money? What if it’s about volunteering, helping out a friend with her kids or helping a colleague with that special project at work? Only a real scrooge would say no to those requests right? Wrong. The truth is only you know all the things you’re juggling right now, and you owe it to whomever’s making the request of your time and efforts to be honest with them. By agreeing to do something you neither have the time, resources, or desire to do, you shortchange yourself and the person you’re supposed to be helping. You also begin to build a level of resentment against the person or people who made the request.
If you still find saying the word “No” too difficult, try modifying it a bit. Christine Louise Hohlbaum, author of The Power of Slow: 101 Ways to Save Time in Our 24/7 World, suggests saying you have an overlapping commitment. Another way to say no without actually saying no, “I’m so sorry, there’s just no room in my schedule for that right now.” The one piece of advice that’s common regardless of the request is making your decision public. In other words, if you don’t want to do it, but don’t make your decision clear to the person making the request, you open yourself up for misunderstandings and you might end up doing the very thing you didn’t want to do in the first place.
As women at forty we’re at the point where we should be beyond making the sucker’s choice. Are we? When was the last time you made a sucker’s choice, and will you do it again? Those of you who have no problem saying no, please share your advice and tips with the rest of us who still struggle with it a bit. Leave your advice in the comment section or email us at email@example.com.