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Have you ever ended up at a party, event, voluntary activity, sitting in restaurant with some folks, on a camping trip, vacation, etc. and all of a sudden . . . realize you didn't want to be there? Maybe you're sitting in your own home around your kitchen table entertaining and that same realization struck you. Why are these people here and why are you doing this?
Dumb question, right? Of course you have. So have I and so has just about everyone I know. So, here is another dumb question. Why are you there?
Maybe you like the people you're with, but you just don't really want to be at this event or sharing this time with these (and maybe any other) people at this particular moment in time.
So, how did it come about that you're in this less than comfortable situation? Actually, the answer is simple. You didn't learn how to use one of the simplest words in the English (or most) language . . . NO! Come on. Admit it! You don't like to say no and you don't want to disappoint people.
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Well, that's this week's tip for simplifying your life. You must simply learn how to effectively, while not in a negative or mean spirited way, say, “Thank you (for the opportunity), but no.”
Why Is It Such A Problem To Say No?
Like so many things we are conditioned to from our earliest age, we are taught to say yes. Most little children get it right when they are very young and just learning to communicate. They become very proficient with the word “No.” But, our parents and other adults refuse to take no for an answer. So, little by little, we're conditioned to respond in the affirmative because we don't want to be objectionable or negative or disappoint our family, friends, employers, teachers, religious leaders, social group leaders and so on.
There is another factor that seems to be playing out in our lives, too. My son just made me familiar with an acronym. It has likely found its way into our vernacular from the world of text abbreviating like BTW, OMG, LOL, LMAO, WTF and so many more. This one is FoMO. It means “fear of missing out.” That's right! We say yes and go to things not because we actually want to go to whatever the event is, but because we fear we'll miss out on something.
We allow FoMO, like many other things, to take, what often turns out to be, an irrational control of our time and life. This doesn't need to mean everything you want to do may have some irrational motivation. It simply means that if we already have a problem with saying “No,” it's likely we'll be more inclined to say “Yes” to things we'll eventually realize weren't all that important nor was our attendance or involvement truly required.
Let me cite one example. High school and college class reunions are a typical conundrum. Do you say yes when you receive an invitation? Or do you say no? If you happen to still live in the same town or very nearby where you went to high school or college, perhaps attending a reunion is a reasonable consideration. It is probably nothing more than a pleasant night out to revisit with a few people you enjoyed going to school with.
But, think about it. The few people you wanted to remain in contact with, you have. You may see each other from time to time or chat on the phone, pass messages on Facebook or stay in contact in some other way.
What about all the other people? It would appear pretty obvious that if you haven't gone out of your way to seek them out or them you, then there is probably no real relationship there. But, if you live a great distance away or, perhaps, you're going to be on a vacation or business trip, why would you schedule your life around that reunion. Is it really to meet up with people you don't really know anymore (if you ever really knew them back then)? Do you really care about them and their lives? I'm asking you to be honest with yourself.
Or, is it FoMO? Are you afraid you'll miss something? Will they talk about you behind your back? Will some of them look way better than you? Will some of them be worse off or have aged badly? The answer is probably yes to all of the previously mentioned questions. But, so what? Is any of that going to change your life? Are you going so you can feel sorry for someone else? Are you going to gloat?
I went to my 40th high school reunion. We had a large class. It was in the range of 800 originally. Only about 110 people actually showed up. Sure, it was nice to see some of the folks again. All of the aforementioned questions were answered, except, probably, if I hadn't attended, no one would have been talking or even asking about me. And, while it was nice to see the people I actually knew (only a relatively small percentage of the 110 people), the most interesting people were those who had left our hometown and lived all over the U.S. Their life stories held the most interest. The people who had remained in our hometown or home area seemed to be talking about the same things we talked about 40 years earlier.
The 50th reunion was held 2½ years ago. It was on the same weekend, as the 40th, Thanksgiving. Actually, it was a dinner about three hours long on Black Friday evening. For the local people, it wasn't a big issue. But, for those of us who had to travel, it meant shortening plans we might have had with family and friends. It also meant traveling on one of the busiest travel weekends of the year and correspondingly, most expensive travel weekends. I chose not to attend. Frankly, I left the 40th anniversary disappointed. FoMO just wasn't a motivator for me this time. The same would be true for a college reunion or grad school reunion.
Personally, I prefer to go out of my way to find the people I'm most interested in reconnecting with and becoming reacquainted. I've had this opportunity with a substantial number of people. Some of those connections have turned out to be really positive and we keep in touch. Some have not weathered the test of time. That's the way life is. How about you? How have your experiences been?
Some other examples include: dinner parties, poker nights, girls' nights out, helping someone move to a new home because they asked, self-invited house guests, wedding and baby showers, Avon, Mary Kay, Tupperware and similar demonstration parties. If you have friends and family, are employed, belong to any kinds of religious and social organizations and so on, I'm sure you have lots of invitations or opportunities. The question is, do you have to say yes? Do you really have to go? Whose life is being imposed on and to what end?
Remember, I'm not suggesting you shouldn't have or don't want to have a social life or be involved or help others. I'm simply suggesting, there seems to be some kind of unwritten rule that says the more you say yes, the more invitations and “opportunities” arise and if you've said yes to this one, you seem to feel obligated to accept that one.
Saying no may be very difficult for some people because they've never said no. They've even accepted multiple invitations for the same day. I can raise my hand to that situation. Talk about stressing myself out and having a lousy time all day long because I was living my life by everyone else's clock. Saying no will take a concerted effort and practice. Perhaps, for the first time in your life, you'll actually be putting your own interests above those of others.
There are a few people who can be very abrupt and firm and just make a plain and simple one word or three word statement – i.e. “No!” or “No, thank you.” or sometimes, “Thank you, no.” You may not be comfortable with that direct approach, though it's often the best.
Here's what is important. How valuable is your time and your life to you? Remember, your time is priceless. When you say yes to any of the seemingly unlimited requests for your time and attendance, regardless of what the event or circumstance, you are literally granting the individual or organization some of you priceless time and life for FREE!
Before you say yes to anything, there are a couple quick responses that can get you off the hook temporarily or completely. The first is, “Let me get back to you.” This gives you a reprieve so you can let them down easily. The second is, “Thank you, but I already have plans for the (period of time). And, DO NOT say, “maybe another time.” That will be read as keep inviting me to participate in something I really don't want to participate in.
Don't feel guilty about doing this. Remember, whoever it is just made an imposition on your time and life. What would you rather be doing at that time? Spending time with your spouse or significant other? Spending time with family? Spending time with a good author while you sit in front of your fireplace reading his or her book? You don't actually owe, the party that invited you to give them some of your priceless time for free, any explanation.
You can have a list of ready made excuses (and, yes, I know I tell people to not make excuses, but this is an exception). If you told them you'd get back to them, simply call them and thank them, again, for the invitation or opportunity, but give them a non-specific excuse. Again, you don't owe them an explanation. You are not 16 years old going on on a date and telling your mother why you want to stay out past curfew.
And, by the way, if you have plans to sit back, relax and read a good book, that qualifies as “plans for the time.” If you want to go to bed early that night, that qualifies, too. If you and your spouse, significant other, child/children plan to go to Chuck E Cheese at that time, that also qualifies as “plans.” Anything that you plan to do for yourself qualifies as “having plans,” including playing solitaire on your computer and catching up with email or Facebook. You get the picture.
Believe it or not, the Declaration of Independence covered your right to plan to use your time and say “No” to other things when it talked about your “unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is – Simply say “NO!” Tip #26 in 52 Weeks to a Simpler Life is to learn one word, NO, and liberally apply it to simplify your life.
If you're afraid you'll offend people, eliminate that from your thoughts. If anything is offensive it would be anyone who believes that you don't have the right to choose how you spend your priceless time and life. Of course, when you choose to partake of an invitation or opportunity you are choosing to freely give the gift of your time to the person, people or organization, whatever the circumstances may be. Don't hold that over their head. Just go with the full intention of enjoying yourself. But, if you feel more obligated than freely participatory, than you should feel no remorse or negative feelings about choosing not to participate. If someone holds it against you, then maybe that person or organization really isn't a friend or doesn't value your time. Their choice.
Live free and be happy. EH