Tuesday, January 18, 2011

When I Say No, I Mean It…I Think.

 By Mary Alford-Carman

Ever wonder how many times you say yes when you mean no? In “Hovering–It Does a Waistline Good,” I wrote that I would try to learn to say no. So far I’m flailing. I’ve said yes to watching a neighbor’s dog, yes to helping at Mother’s Morning Out (which means I won’t get out), and I’ve said yes to working on two projects that I simply don’t have time for. I did say no about going to the Harvest Day lunch at my son’s daycare, and I felt like a heel.

Why do I do this? I’ve found that when I say no, I’m almost immediately asked why I can’t. At my age, do I really need to explain? What is it about women in general that we feel we have to be so accommodating? Why do we feel guilty when we say no, and for heaven’s sake, when we say no, how do we handle the ones who bully us into giving an explanation as to why?


  1. I'm sorry, Mary, but that's just rude! You wrote " I’ve found that when I say no, I’m almost immediately asked why I can’t." That they would ask why is rude rude RUDE! Try pulling on your steel magnolia panties, stare at them for a moment until they come to a complete stop and you have their full attention, blink owlishly for effect, and then say "I believe I just said that I am unable to do that at this time." This points out (without overtly pointing out) that you don't bloody well HAVE to justify yourself to anyone; if you say "no" then the reasons are irrelevant; the answer is "no" and it's final.

    Now ask me if I do this myself? No. But I will! I will! The VERY next time someone asks me to do something... ;-9

    "I give myself such good advice, but I very seldom follow it." -- Alice in Wonderland.

  2. One more thought on that:
    1) They have every right to TRY to get what they want (which is why they try to bully you; to get what THEY want, which may not be in line with what YOU want). Please note this, because it's important: THEY HAVE AN EQUAL RIGHT TO FAIL IN THIS ATTEMPT, particularly when it means attempting to manipulate another person (whom they think can be manipulated -- and what does that say about that person's view of the relationship in the first place?)
    2) You're allowed TO GET what YOU want. (By doing what's right for you, when it's right for you and letting everyone else deal with their own life crises/challenges/attempts to shovel it off onto someone else's plate/etc.)

  3. You are far from alone in this "affliction"! It seems to be a part of the makeup of most women. That being said, one of the best classes I ever took was on assertiveness training and one of the golden rules of being assertive is that you owe no one an explanation...EVER. The problem for us remains that we need to live with the discomfort of the silence and figure out how to keep our mouths shut. I like LJDecker's suggestion - she's absolutely right! The burden should rest on the questioner - the one who has no right to the information they are requesting. Now I shall go and practice the good advice I've just given!

  4. I seem to have no problem saying no. Somewhere along the line of time, most of my people-pleasing tendencies have been routed out of me. Self-respect perhaps? Or maybe, frankly, my dear, I just don't give a damn. Yeh, that could be it. WTF.

  5. My problem is not the no, it's always been the excuse, err explanation part. I have always struggled with how much to explain and only in the last few years have I adopted the following:"Never explain. Your friends don't need it and your enemies won't believe it." Now if I can only remember that the next time I'm asked to do something. Which I suspect will be in approximately one hour when I go to our sons school for a meeting. Wish me luck.

  6. I really like the entire "they have the right to ask, and I have the right to decline." I've slowly started leaving out the explaination, I've also been know to point over their shoulder and yell "What's that?" and when they turn, I leave...okay, I did it once and I just couldn't help myself. Not mature, I know, but I was fed up. I'll use the "my right to decline" as my new mantra. Thanks all.

  7. I'll post I've said yes to so much, we're raised as good southern girls to say yes...but then I've watched what other women do, they can say no without guilt....Hmmm...So if I don't really care, I'll say yes. If it's something I can't do or if I really need a day home or just don't care for the offer, I'm learning I can say no.
    When my children ask me questions where the answers are yes or no, and when I say "no" they wish to argue the point...I say to them, "why ask me if I can't say no." OK now into my life, you asked, I answered, and no I don't owe you an explanation unless I wish to give one. If you insist on one fine, I'll treat you like an unwanted phone call...
    Remember I'm the woman that tells telemarketers that I have a)died b) don't live here, just robbing the place c) sorry I'm just her husband's girlfriend d) I'm in the middle of sex right now do you have a number I can call you back at....and I have more

    Bottom line I can blow off strangers but being caught in the headlights by the other school moms...not so fast sometimes...practice I'm sure will make for perfection...then to say no without the guilt...And yes Mary I've said yes to help others while missing my child's event. It stunk and I won't continue it either.
    And I've found if I do it nice...Sorry I can't help with that but let me know for the next event, maybe I'll be available.


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