Here’s another thing about me – I’m a pretty obedient person.
When my daughter Jess was younger she used to boss me around.
“Mum, I need a drink,” she’d say, as toddlers do.
“Yes, sure.” I’d groan, getting up from my extremely comfortable position on the couch or shutting down what I was working on and fulfilling her request immediately.
My husband Moz would tell me that I was supposed to be the parent, telling her what to do, and that when a three year old tells you to jump, you shouldn’t ask “how high?” on the way up. But obedience has always been my first response to an order and it probably always will be.
I needed to learn to put a filter in between that response and the requests of others.
I listened to a podcast interview last week with Jocelyn K Glei. It was talking about email anxiety and how to deal with your inbox. She mentioned an interesting concept. She said that some people are ‘guessers’ and others are ‘askers’.
Now, when askers need something, they ask for it. If they are visiting from another city and want to spend a month sleeping in your spare room, they ask. If they want someone to photograph their wedding, they ask. Implicit in the request is the confidence that you can say no at any time. They just throw the question to you, and expect you to say no if the task is too hard or not convenient at the moment.
However, guessers are not built like that. Guessers try to figure out if you are the best and most reasonable person to ask. They’ve tried to take everything into account, and they only ask if they think you’ll say yes.
Both of these personality types are fine. The problem is when an asker asks something of a guesser. Then the guesser feels very guilty about saying no to the request and often ends up doing something they really don’t want to do because they assume that it would be dreadful if they didn’t. They assume that they are the only one who can fulfil the request and that all other options have been tried.
You can guess what type of person I am.
I found the idea really freeing. The idea that I may not even be expected to answer all requests with a yes. That the asker might be just as happy for me to say no.
People don’t even need to ask me sometimes – I obey the call of technology without thinking.
When my phone rings I jump to answer it. Moz gets frustrated with me, especially at meal times.
“Just leave it,” he says, “you can ring back.”
Which is quite true, but leaving a ringing phone is incredibly difficult for me.
I’ve even answered the phone while sitting on the toilet. But only once. Never again. Believe me, it’s not a good idea.
I spent a long time trying to work out why I have this compulsion to answer every phone call. I think I’ve figured it out.
I only make a phone call when there is no other option. If I can text, I will text. If the conversation requires more words than are easy to text I will use messenger on my computer so that I can easily touch type. I only ring someone when I need an answer right now. Almost every phone call I make has a sense of urgency.
I need to remember that other people don’t work like that. Jess, for example, prefers to call than text. She will only text when there is no other option.
People are different in the way they approach these things, and this means that I don’t need to jump to answer whenever my phone rings. I need to prioritise.
I like to help people out. I like to answer their phone calls. I like to be able to solve their problems and give them a hand. But I cannot do that for every request that ends up in my email inbox. I can’t spend quality time with my family if I’m talking on the phone. I can’t fill up my life with everyone else’s priorities and put my own priorities on the bottom of the list.
I am not expected to fulfil every single request that is put to me and neither are you. I think that most people actually expect you to decide whether what they have asked is what you want/worth your time/necessary and to make a decision accordingly.
Total, instant, joyful obedience is only due to God and no one else.
How about you? Are you an asker, or a guesser? Are you able to leave your phone when it rings? How likely are you to respond with a yes when someone asks something of you?
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.
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