Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying yes too quickly and not saying no soon enough. ~Josh Billings
I am a pleaser. I have said yes all of my life. No was not part of my vocabulary. Yes gave me some happiness but much stress in the process. Yes, I used to be a YES person. I never said no. I said yes to everything, not just one request, and had conflicting obligations and little time for myself. I did anything (legal and moral, that is) that was asked of me. I ran around like a crazy woman trying to take care of all the needs and requests of my family, friends, job, church, and community organizations. I did not want to disappoint anyone. I would shortchange myself before anyone else. I don’t know if it was more because I wanted people to like me or if I was just too good-hearted. At any rate, I was stressed to the max.
Charm is a way of getting the answer yes without asking a clear question. ~Albert Camus
I have been “conned” many times into doing things I really truly never wanted or intended to do. I have been manipulated and coerced by guilt to lead Cub Scout dens and coach soccer teams. I have been talked into heading PTA and church committees and moms groups and giving speeches and presentations. I even once had a pastor who asked me to chair a committee, and I replied that I wouldn’t do it because I had done it a few years previous and thought it would be good for someone else to have the opportunity. Yes, I was almost as sly as he was with words. He came back a few days later and asked me to chair another committee of a different name but sounded distinctly like the first one. I asked him to tell me about the committee. It was the very same committee! He changed the name to try to trick me into it. Yes, he did! And I called him out on it, and he just started laughing because he knew he’d been caught. Did I chair it? No, however, he did get me to do another one.
My children learned quickly that I am an easy sell. First they’d try to catch me off guard when I wasn’t clearly listening and if that didn’t work they’d pull out the big guns. The fluttering of puppy dog eyes and sweet whining “pleases”. Then they pulled out the childish charm. They watched carefully and chose their words wisely. They learned to omit what would bring a no from me and sugar coat to force a yes from me when they knew I was going to say no. Often, they won, but much to their dismay, there were times that I refused to give in.
Every time I ever asked to do something growing up, my mother always told me to ask my father. When I asked him he told me to ask my mother. I quickly learned to go to one of them and tell them that the other said it was alright but to ask him/her as well. I leaned quickly that process bought a whole lot more yeses than the other method.
A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble. ~Mohandas Gandhi
When I was in therapy after my hold up, my therapist asked me why I ran myself ragged for other people, for things that gave me minimal if any pleasure or benefit at all. I replied that I couldn’t possibly tell anyone no. She told me that for my own health I needed to learn to say no and not have any guilt for it. My hesitant yeses turned into no that I eventually gave into. After much practice of saying no and still giving in, I tried once sticking to my decision. I found everybody lived through it and they still liked me. Learning to say no and stick with it was the most liberating and stress reducing lesson I’ve ever learned.
Now when someone asks me to do something, if my heart feels like I want to, I’ll say yes. If my gut tell me no, I say no and will not allow discussion. If I’m hesitant, I’ll allow dialogue and ask for time to make my decision. By approaching requests this way, I permit myself to stick to my convictions. Since limiting my yeses, I’ve taken away the negativity and placed them in a positive spectrum.
However, like everything else in my life, the honesty of my yeses is still a work in progress. You can be assured that most of the time I say yes, I really mean it. Sometimes, I’m still too softhearted. And part of me might still just want you to like me.