Saturday, 10 March 2018

Learning to say No

At this moment there is a social event I have chosen not to attend.  I've known about it for a month and two weeks ago I realised that I didn't actually want to go.  I'm not a fan of parties, even when they are low key, although having said that I sometimes do enjoy them.  In this case it's a group of people to whom I have little attachment, some are people I like, others I am indifferent about and a few I dislike.  Also, there are a few whose children I dislike and the common ingredient here is our children despite the fact that all of them are now adults.  I worried for a week just how I would get out of this event .  I said to Jim, with great anxiety in my voice, "I don't want to go to this thing."  And his reply was simply, "Well then don't."

Being an over-thinker one of the best qualities I can find in a partner is someone who can knock me off that track and Jim is great at this.  I realised he was right, and that I didn't have to go.  I had no obligation to and no desire to so why do it?  One person I am close to is attending and I didn't really want to admit to her that I didn't want to go.  I didn't want to say to her, 'I don't really care much about these people.'   But why did I think I had to say these things to her anyhow?  I complicate things by tending to believe I must explain everything I do.  It's not always a warped sense of obligation although sometimes it is.  Sometimes it's just me being too thorough.  Not everything needs an explanation despite the fact that I tend to like explanations for everything. 

Two things I know:

I don't owe an explanation
Most people don't care and don't want to hear one

It is just fine to say no, although it's probably better most of the time to use a small set of slightly more friendly sounding words.  If I am too blunt and perhaps rude sounding I might be closing doors of opportunity.  There is also no need to be rude enough to cause offense or hurt any feelings.  It's not necessary to say "I am not attending because I don't really like you."  Most children are taught that if they are refusing something offered they can say a polite "No, thanks" without having to add "I really don't like your cookies."  Somewhere in the learning of this lesson I seem to have developed the idea that I needed to invent some sort of lie, such as "No, thanks, I am too full to eat cookies."   I would be likely to add even more, explaining how I'd just eaten a meal or was on a diet, because my simply not wanting to do something never seemed good enough.  

What that means is I believe my own wants and needs are not valid!  They are so invalid they must be explained, cushioned with little lies to avoid causing offense because some other person's need to be told their cookies are delicious trumps my need to not eat any.

Being someone who has to think these things through I have realised there are some simple statements that I should remember and use.  I don't have to say an abrupt NO but I can significantly shorten my response. 

I won't be able to make it.
I won't be able to do that this time.
No thanks, not right now.
Thank you, but I can't at the moment. 

I am quite capable of saying No to salespeople or telemarketers, but socially it's more difficult.  I messaged my friend this morning and told her I didn't think I would make it to the event tonight.  She responded saying it was too bad so I felt obligated to say more.  However, I managed to keep it brief and cheerful, said I have been exhausted all week, which is true, and that I had some things I needed to do today which would tire me out more and that was also true.  Sitting at home now, knowing the party is under way, I know I made the right choice.  It's 7:40pm and I'm going to bed soon.  Faking my way through small talk with people I have little attachment to just isn't something I have the energy to do and even if I didn't live with an energy-sapping chronic illness why would I want to give up time I could spend reading in bed?

I  had a date with a good friend today and she told me how she has come to realise that she is a better person if she has balance in her life.  For her this means time to pursue her favourite physical activities, socialise with the people most important to her,  take a class, attend her book club, and that she needs to mostly work part time in order to do this.  If we can afford it we owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to be at our best and any one of us could die tomorrow.  It's a luxury to even think about this work-life balance issue and it's a luxury to be able to say NO to some things in life.  My friend told me that she has just figured out that she is damn well going to take advantage of this luxury and I am fully supporting her decision.   I could spend all day feeling guilty about the privileges and luxuries I have in my life, but I'm setting that habit aside too.  

For now, I'm practicing my No and getting better at it all the time.


  1. I wonder if the weight of collective togetherness adds pressure to our response. Is the fact that a lot of people have made the effort to be at a certain place and time more likely to make us feel pressure to go?
    I think it does for me. Makes me feel the odd one out, even if I don't really want to spend my energy like this.
    I think our chronic illnesses have made us much more in tune with our energy resources. Other people squander energy all over the place, even if they don't really want to do something!
    These are my random thoughts at 4am...xo Jazzy Jack

    1. Random thoughts at 4am must always be written down. That's my motto anyhow. I think people have different levels of energy, our maximum output looks different, and also differing abilities regarding how and where we apply that energy. I used to feel guilt about saying I had no energy for one thing but then doing something else. I feel less guilt now, though it's still a bit of a struggle. I would think that if I'd said no to someone I would then be a bad person if I painted or went for a walk. I suspect simmering resentment over not doing what I wanted to do while trying to please everyone else would be what would truly make me a bad person.

      I think that for me this 'pressure to go' thing comes from wondering if my dislike of or disinterest in some people might actually show and then I will have enemies. LOL I am too tired to cope with enemies. Your INFJness is perhaps making you feel badly about effort others have put in and the fact that they place importance on this event and you are rejecting it. My INTJness is more concerned that if people know I don't like them that much I will have to deal with that and I like my life to be easier. I can't actually and honestly claim to be worried about anyone's feelings, only the consequences to myself because INTJs are cold robots of course. ;-) xoxo
      Hope you get some sleep! xoxo

  2. Jim gave you a sound advice. If you don't want to go, just don't. I think us women can be too considerate of everything and everyone except ourselves, so sometimes hearing a guy's opinion/view on situation can actually help simplify things for us.

    Small talk tired me endlessly. I don't like parties. I like people, I like long talks, I like dinners with friends (with a limited amount of people I know well).... no parties for me, not if I can help it.

    1. I agree. One thing I love about no longer having a career is not feeling obligated to attend work related parties. Jim is very good at advice. He generally sets me straight when I over-think things. xo


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