The Joy and Relief from Saying No: How I Learned to Stop Worrying When Turning People Down
A few weeks ago, I got a request:
Your aunt’s birthday dinner is next next Monday. Are you going?
Not thinking much about my busy schedule, I instantly reply, “yes.” After all, it didn’t seem like it’d take too much time away. Perhaps 1–2 hours at most?
But then the following week came and I had another request.
Do you think it’s possible for you to take me to the airport on ________ (this date)? And pick me up on ________ (this date)?
Before my finger could tap the pre-programmed response of “sure” on my phone’s text editor, my mind had already begun to swell up from the stress of having to do one extra thing in my schedule. For diverting my attention, yet again, to something that would postpone my long-term goals.
It’s difficult, you see, to choose between something you think would be nice to do (celebrate my aunt’s birthday or drive my sister to/from the airport) vs something you genuinely want to do or accomplish that you believe will make a tremendous difference in your life, or someone else’s life.
Obviously, you don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings by giving them the impression that you don’t care about them enough to go out of your way for them. But then again, you also don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you’re always overwhelmed with a gazillion events and tasks where you can no longer focus 100% of your attention on the things that truly matter to you.
So where do you draw the line?
How do you decide what you should do in this seemingly sticky situation?
Well, there’re a few questions I have thought of that make rejecting invitations and events much easier than it really is.
- Will rejecting their invitation or request hurt them? In such a way that they would feel depressed, angry or distressed?
- Can they find someone or something else to aid or accompany them? (Basically, do they need your presence?)
I realize that by breaking down any concerns you might have (about rejecting someone’s invite or request) through these two questions, it makes you realize that in most cases, what you end up saying to them won’t matter.
People are very flexible if things don’t go their way. They will find an alternative solution or cope with whatever is in front of them. Heck, they might even forget about you when they’re in the middle of doing what they had planned to do.
So, don’t feel bad if you feel like saying “no” to someone’s invitation or request because sometimes we all need our own time to do what we truly believe is meaningful to our lives.
In my case, that’d be growing my garden.
Writing articles about self-growth based on my experiences.
And taking care of my pet chicken.
I might not have as much time to accept everyone’s invitation or request, but at least I’ll know that I have respected my own time, doing what I feel will help me grow into a better person, which inevitably will help me help others on a much wider scale.