Sometimes I have to learn lessons the hard way.  I have always been sort of a people pleaser.  A lot of it went right out of the window when I became a parent.  It kind of has to as a sort of sanity measure.  If I were concerned at every bad look I got from passersby at a screaming tantrum, I’d be as insecure as any Hollywood actress. But I still battle my inner desire to say “Yes,” at every request.  I’m conquering it…one sly comment at a time.

The greatest way to make sure your “give a damn is busted,” as my mom says, is to be constantly bombarded by impossible requests from irrational people.  It rarely ever happens this way, as most people tend to have a radar of how far they can push you before you lose it over cream in their coffee, or some other innocent request.   Most often, it’s the slow prodding, pushing, and manipulating that can happen over time, much to our own destruction.  We don’t realize we’ve become “Yes men” (or women,) until it’s too late and we’re having a meltdown in the pet store after the clerk asked us if we’d like to donate to the Humane Society.  “What more do you want from me?!?!”

The prime candidates for people who ask too much from us, (unknowingly or otherwise,) are either people close to us, such as family members, or people in positions of authority, such as church leadership, and employers.  Most often, these people are innocent in their demands of our time, and have no idea what other projects or responsibilities we have going through our hectic week.  That is why; it is our very own responsibility to learn how to say no. 

Throw away the ideas you have that it’s rude, or selfish or snotty.   Saying no is just as important to say to our colleagues as it is to our toddlers.  It teaches social boundaries and limits the amount of money you will spend in later years in therapy or the loony bin.

So I came to my breaking point, (or should I say breakthrough point) after having three and a half months worth of house guests back to back.  There were only a couple nights in between visitors, and sometimes not even that.  As I faced the final visitor, I noticed the cheerfulness of my “good mornings” waning with the burnt toast and cold coffee.  It wasn’t his fault.  I only had myself to blame.  I didn’t say no.  Looking back, there were so many ways I could have said it that would have been thoughtful, rational, and non-confrontational.  Let me share with you some wonderful ways to say no without actually saying N-O, just in case you struggle with it as I have in the past:

Thanks but I don’t think that will work for me.

Maybe some other time.

I have my hands (schedule) full currently.

I won’t be able to do that in a timely fashion.

Sorry.  Good luck with that.

Of course you can always do the whole “No,” in another language if it’s easier for you.  Here are some to get you started.

Nu (Greek)

Mam (Uganda)

Bobo (Cameroon)

Na (Old English)

Non (French)

Nein (German)

Nei (Icelandic)

Non (Latin)

Naw (Scotts)

Nyet (Russian)

It’s best not to offer excuses of why you won’t or can’t do something.  Just shake your head and let them feel that you really just aren’t going to budge.  Stay firm at this point.  Don’t fidget or feel uncomfortable.  Just stand there and feel the peace that comes with saying no.  Trust me this is much better than acting like you can’t speak English and running to the nearest bus stop out of town.  I know it can be a little scarier with family members that may not have the healthiest relationship pattern, or expectation.  But I dare you to try it next time your mom asks you to cater your sister’s wedding.  Just say, “No,” without offering explanations or apologies.  Watch what happens.

Then let me know, cause I’m dying to find out what she says.