I find saying no so incredibly hard. I don’t like to let people down. I don’t want to be a disappointment.
Actually, when I was a kid and my parents wanted to discipline me, all they had to say was, “I’m so disappointed in you” and that was it. I was in my bedroom crying. True story. Up until the age of, let’s say, 20 and married.
So when I started putting boundaries around my life this year I had to do two things. I had to allow myself to put the boundaries in place, and I had to reward myself for saying no.
Firstly, I had to allow myself:
I knew things were changing this year. I wanted a year with more time to do the writing I felt God was calling me to do. I wanted to feel less tiredness, less stretched. I read wonderful books like Margin, and The Best Yes, and I knew that in order to do what I was called to do, I would need to say no to some things.
To allow this to happen I designated 2017 as The Year of Saying NO to Everything.
This year I was allowed to say no. This year, I didn’t have to feel like everything was my responsibility – it was actually my responsibility to say no. I didn’t need to come up with reasons or excuses to back out. I didn’t need to ask myself whether or not I should decline the invitation.
This was The Year of Saying No.
One afternoon I found that it was just so helpful to have the decision made ahead of time.
You see, I was working with an amazing woman who had heaps of energy and just LOVED social occasions. She is the kind of person that organises team-building activities. The kind of person that enjoys get-to-know-you games. And she was eager to build our work team into a coherent whole.
One of the first things that she suggested was that we all go to an escape room together. I don’t know if you know about escape rooms. They are really popular right now. The idea is that six of you get shut in a room, locked in together, and you have to solve problems to find a way out. It’s group work that you are literally locked in to.
The whole idea is comparable to my idea of hell. Really. Wouldn’t like to do it even with my best friends. Can’t we just go out for coffee and a chat? If you really like the puzzles we could design them ourselves.
But this was not all. She wanted to include our spouses in this experience (we hadn’t even met the spouses) and then pick numbers from a hat so that we had two randomly divided groups, and then go into separate rooms, with these strangers, and race each other to get out first.
Now, like I said, these rooms are incredibly popular and they may well be your idea of a good time. I think her suggestion was a good idea. But it was not for me. And so I wanted to say no.
Instead of saying no, I said I’d check with Moz. And I did. I said, “Hun, if going into one of these rooms is the deepest desire of your heart, then this is when we’ll do it. Otherwise, let’s just not go.”
So that was a no.
On the same day as the invitation to the escape room, this lovely lady also invited me to her fundraiser. Now I think this woman is incredible. She is working, raising two kids, and then in her “spare time” she organises this HUGE fundraiser day. It’s a high tea. The ladies dress up and have delicious foods and there are competitions and music and goodness knows what. It’s huge. She got on the local evening news with this one.
Of course she wants everyone to go. It’s important to her. It’s important full stop. So she asked me, and I said no.
“Why not?” she said.
Oh boy. What an awful situation. Why not? What excuse can I find? Am I too busy? Not really. Did I already have something else on? No. Did I want to go? Not on your nelly.
But I had an answer. I had already decided.
“Because this is my year of saying no to everything,” says I.
It was decided.
Now I know that every year can’t be the year of saying no to everything. But I figure I need the practice. So this year is the practice year. Perhaps after I get better at setting boundaries I will just be able to say no and then if asked “why not?” I will be able to think of some excuse like “It’s just not for me.” Or “I just don’t think it’s right, right now.”
In The Best Yes Lisa Terkeurst has some great statements to give to soften your answer of no:
“While my heart wants me to say yes, the reality of my time makes this a no.”
“I’m sorry but I can’t give it the attention it deserves.”
“This is one of those seasons when I must decline lovely invitations. But thank you for thinking of me.”
All of these are much more gracious than my blurted answer. Maybe I need more practice.
I am saying no to things this year in order to spend more time on my writing. This post is part of a series I am writing about what I have learned about saying no. I’d love to have you join me on this journey. If you want to make sure you never miss a post, you can sign up on WordPress and the post will be sent to your email address every week without fail.
As well as this blog, I am also writing a cosy mystery and it’s coming to the pointy end now. If you would like to hear more about the writing process, and see the cover reveal, drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll add you to my newsletter list. The newsletters are chatty, with a writing-focus, and come out monthly so they won’t clog your in-box.
You’ll notice some special art in this series. If you want to see more of it you can find the artist on instagram @deteor42