February 10, 2015

I Can't Say .........

Sometimes Betty and I feel a little like Ado Annie, the character in Oklahoma. There is a particular word she has trouble saying in situations where it would be in her best interest to use it. For those familiar with the musical/movie and the song I must quickly add that Ado Annie's non-use of the word is in an entirely different context than ours. But, the word, "No," is a toughie.

Betty will readily admit that she has a terrible time saying "no" to someone who asks her to help with some project, short term or on-going. If no one volunteers, heads turn to Betty. She feels compelled to be the one to step up and help. Even if she doesn't particularly like the chore involved, finds it stressful and time-consuming, and knows it will cause problems, she still says "yes." Even when she tells those involved she can't continue without help and someone to replace her, if they don't find another person to take the load Betty continues to perform the function.

I am right there beside her. I have been faced with exactly the same situations where I want to say, "enough is enough. I am done." Yet, because there is no viable alternative I continue plugging away. While I think I have gotten somewhat better over the years, saying "no" or walking away from a situation where others will be affected in a negative way is still tough for me.


I know you will advise us that if the organization or situation can't figure out how to replace Betty or me that becomes their problem. If driven to the edge of the cliff they will figure out a solution to keep things functioning, or fall over the edge. If not enough folks care to step up and volunteer then maybe it is time for things to end or change.


That sounds so logical, yet it doesn't work for us. Our personalities are such that walking away just isn't us. We mentally just can't do it. Even if our own well-being would improve with a change, we can't.

I am sure you can relate to this at some point in your life. Your child's classroom needs a volunteer for a field trip: you'd rather have root canal than go to the worm farm for the day but not enough others agree to go so you sign up. Work on a project is behind so you go in on a Saturday or Sunday to help out. Your neighbor, the one who borrowed the saw, lawn mower, drill, and hammer and kept them, needs help with a chore or maybe a ride to the doctor's office. You don't even think about the tools that never came home - you help.

There can be a strong argument made that in not saying "no" to others in need you are showing true love, compassion, or empathy. Based on my recent post on Romans 12, you have gifts that you are supposed to use. To not do so is selfish.

Even so, how do you say "no" when you really feel it is time to move on but without hurting others and ignoring the full use of your skills and talents?

Ado Annie couldn't figure it out, and neither can we. So, we keep saying "Yes."




29 comments:

  1. Bob, I feel your and Betty's pain! I have been where you are, and it doesn't feel good. Most of my adult life, I struggled with always being nice, and I assumed I simply had to say yes whenever asked to help. Then ten years ago, when we moved, I decided to change my ways. I actually practiced how to say "no" and nearly perfected it. When people approached me, I listened, then made eye contact, smiled and said, "thank you for asking me, but I have to decline." That's all. If I said, "...sorry...." or "maybe another time..." then it was like I opened the door to their cajoling. The biggest challenge was telling myself that it was okay to say "no." In fact, it's the only choice for me if I truly do not want to do something. Otherwise, I get resentful and frustrated with myself and those asking for help. I'm kinda funny, but I seldom mind making financial contributions, but I'm getting more selective with how I spend my time. Guess at this age I'm aware of the clock ticking. I encourage you and Betty to work together and even try doing some role playing so it becomes easier to say no.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One thing I must assure myself of is the motivation for refusing to do something: is it due to laziness or that something may be inconvenient, or do I really not want to be involved.

      I am getting better at saying "No" without a full justification. As you note, giving reasons for the refusal tends to leave the door ajar.

      Delete
  2. The consolation prize will be loads of people at your funeral?
    I like to choose my volunteer time and then put all of my effort into the endeavor. My first year I started to write down " talk to Jen" or "play" in my planner- so when it was open I could
    say, " sorry, booked". Now I can just say no. But, I admit, I am not involved in the community like you are.

    My parents labeled all of their tools in Magic marker- large. In general it worked.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hah......I hadn't thought of that! Of course, at my own funeral I probably won't care much.

      I like the "sorry, booked" line. It is a little underhanded, but effective in those situations where refusing is tough.

      Delete
  3. I had to laugh. I subscribe to two blogs...just two. I read yours this morning and then went to the next one which said: Robert Greene’s 20th Law of Power is: Do Not Commit to Anyone. Apply it?
    Watch out for it? Ignore it? What works best for you today? Must be something in the air.

    I swing to wide extremes on this one. I over-commit and do things I'd rather not for exactly the reasons you and Betty do. Then I stiffen my spine, say no and become uninvolved until I wake up one day and discover I've become sinfully, slothfully lazy. I'm still struggling to find a happy medium.

    But I've mastered the art of getting uninvolved. What I have learned, is to give the NO some lead time. For example, tell them in October that you're resigning or cutting back at the end of the year. And then you have to follow through. (Like in parenting...if you don't keep your word in disciplining your children, your children become hellions.) When they know you really mean it when you say you're done, they aren't so complacent about not replacing you. If you've shown, by past actions, that you say you're leaving but keep staying....well. It's not really their problem then.

    Pam's advice for saying no in the first place is excellent. Practice. It gets easier.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You have mentioned one of the sticky issues in all this: becoming too self-absorbed and ending up lazy and disconnected. When I am able to say "No" I have to be quite confident my reasons are legitimate.

      The lead time approach is effective - if you follow through. Betty has been in that situation recently and finally drew a line in the sand: "in May I am done whether you have a replacement or not. I will be more that happy to train someone else, but May is the end of the line."

      Of course, being Betty, she said it with much more compassion and grace than that, but she made it clear there is a permanent disconnect. It was very hard for her, but she has learned that a "soft" deadline doesn't work in this situation.

      Delete
  4. I agree with Pam. If you say yes then feel resentful and frustrated toward yourself and the people you agreed to help - well, that just seems like a lose/lose situation. Can you really give 100% when you're feeling frustrated and resentful? In your Feb 4th post, you talked about reviewing the areas of retirement. Does this not boil down to time management - what percentage of your time are you willing to allot to volunteerism?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, it does, Mona. Time management and taking on tasks that both satisfy me and contribute to others are the tough choices that must be made. Couple that with my word for 2015,move, and I hope to show improvement this year.

      Delete
  5. Bob, I've spent a number of years as a Marriage & Family Therapist at the West Valley College Health Center. I taught full-time as a Communications professor for 38 years at the college and in both fields I learned that every time you rescue someone, you can make that individual a little weaker and a little more dependent upon you.
    So, there are times saying "No" to someone or some organization can actually encourage or force that person or group to become more responsible, responsive, stronger, and less dependent upon others. That's just my opinion, but it's worth considering.
    Thank you for your inspiring and encouraging words in every post. You are a gift.
    Randy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is so much easier for many of us to let someone else do the heavy lifting. But, as you say, that can reinforce a mindset of dependency. There are times and circumstances where I believe my skills are able to help make someone's life better and I must subjugate some of my own convenience.

      But, when the situation is more codependent my participation may very well be harmful in the long run.

      Thanks, Randy, for your kind words.

      Delete
  6. Someone once told me that instead of saying "no", say "no, thank you" instead! It's somehow easier to turn down an opportunity than refuse a request. I tried it and it actually works. Go figure!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Have you considered that you might be saying no to yourself? That being the hero all the time doesn't allow anyone to do things for you or for you to examine what you need to do for yourself?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have never thought of it in that way.

      Delete
  8. I spent so much of my life taking care of others before myself I have made a promise, to ME, to only do what I truly want to do. Dave has to be busy all the time, I don't. I am enjoying time to write, read, and just be. I feel like I've paid my dues and this is my reward. It doesn't feel selfish to me at all.
    b

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am kind of a blend in terms of activity: I love my private time but if I am not out "doing" I can get antsy. I like being involved with others. The trick to not be over-involved, and say "no" when appropriate.

      Delete
  9. This is is probably not a solution for you, Part of my solution is to say yes to one or two big things that are important to me, and no to all the other little things, even though many are in fact little things, I am a chairman of one group, and I work for another within my church and homeless issues. I say no to everything else. I cannot help with the silent auction although I may contribute. I cannot host coffee hour although I will bring food. I cannot usher or read. I am happy to help in the occasional emergency but I know my limits. I also have a terrible time saying no. I also mark myself as "busy" and simply say so, as well as giving the lead in time. I will not be feeding the homeless in April, I will be gone. Everyone else will have to organize the food that month. Having said that, the things that I do that are non church, non outreach activities are mainly groups of retirees who have their own commitments and travel desires.

    I do also occasionally have limits issues with those groups I say yes to, however, I made it clear when I stepped up that I did travel on occasion and so on and so forth.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Betty and I do use the RV as a convenient excuse at times. After all, if we aren't here we are unavailable. For a time I was quite over-committed to various church things but have cut out two within the last year which helps.

      I would like to become active again with Meals on Wheels, but something else will have to go.

      Delete
  10. I've found that the older I've gotten the easier it is for me to say no. After spending 40 years doing what other people wanted me to do (parents, wives, children, bosses), and also knowing there's a limited amount of time left, I've become more jealous of my days and hours. So I focus my volunteer time on something that I find rewarding and valuable, which for me is volunteering at our local community college.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I admit I have gotten better at saying no in some situations. One of the hardest for me was walking away from my prison ministry work. Changes in personnel and organizational structure, coupled with the requirement of a once a month 7 hour round trip drive to spend 60 minutes with some fellows inside a state prison made the continuation not right for me. I had regrets for almost a year, but in the end knew it was the right choice for me.

      Delete
  11. Hello from the "other Pam" who has just gotten around to reading your blog because I'm over-committed again-- what a perfect post! I do notice that like some other folks over-committing goes in cycles for me. I get better at not volunteering (I am unfortunately one of those folks who often doesn't need to say no because she volunteers BEFORE being asked. sigh) but then I see something that I think is important and I step up.

    The point for me to remember, which was mentioned above, is that when I say yes to all these other things, I am not saying yes to my health and basic issues with taking care of our home. Since I managed to get a miserable virus (although not the flu) in January, that was a stark reminder again that without my health a satisfying retirement will be harder to achieve. I have no excuse at this time; my issues are lifestyle choices.
    I'm thinking about setting time limits on some of my large time-demanding commitments; like I'll try to wrap up the large time commitment on this particular project by May or June. One thing that has helped me (because I have a reputation, especially in my family for ALWAYS saying yes) is tracking how many things I say "no" to --- that reminds me how much I'm not committing to (which also reminds other folks that I am progressing!)

    I do find that sometimes I second guess myself & regret not following through on a project I think is worthwhile; I just have to remember that as a friend once commented, "I love to volunteer for lots of organizations, but when I do, the infrastructure of MY life falls apart!" That saying helps keep at least some of my volunteering in line.

    pam

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You have made the very important point that we need to say "Yes" to our own health and well-being, too. There must be limits our every part of our life suffers, but sometimes it is just so hard to turn someone else down!

      Feel better, Pam. Betty and I are coming through your town in late August on our RV trip. I certainly hope we can get together.

      Delete
  12. Like what Tom Sightings said, I have realized since my heart attack in 2011 that there is limited time. This has made it MUCH easier to say no to things, and to choose carefully what I say yes to. I don't want to get in a rush again like in my teaching days when I had barely enough time to microwave a frozen dinner before leaving to participate in something "important". Now I am much better at guarding my time. But occasionally I still feel guilty about not doing "more" for others.
    Rin

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A heart attack, or other major health issue, can certainly get your attention, can't it.

      Sometimes I have to say no to things to do: a concert to attend, a movie that sounds fascinating, a book reading...it isn't always saying no to volunteer situations. But as the clock ticks it is still hard to tell myself I don't need to be busy all the time.

      Delete
  13. Many of my valley friends were worried I would be bored when we moved to a small mountain town.NOT SO! I am learning I HAVE TO say No to a few things or else I will not have time to be retired!! LOL!!!!! In a small town there is a lot of interdependency ,I am finding.. and so the Senior Center needs volunteers for meals delivery, organizing the lunch dining room, pot lucks, take seniors down to Payson for doctor's appts. or for groceries,etc. The women my age in my neighborhood take turns hosting a monthly Wine and Whine evening, so I am in the rotation for that (my turn in March..).. there are FREE CLASSES at Gila Comm.college if you are 55+.There is ZUMBA on Tuesdays and Thursdays at one of the local churches, the Fiddlers Jam Session free concert once a month;the library always needs volunteers.There are a few FIRE PREVENTION fundraisers that are VERY important up here..they need help every Spring and Summer. There is a Hiking Trail building and maintenance group who always welcome assistance with the trails . TIME MANAGEMENT has become more improtant than when I worked two jobs in the valley!!! Saying NO and organizing Life so I am doing a lot of what fulfills me as well as giving back to my community, is an ongoing challenge! I've been a bit TOO busy in this first year of retirement.. butI had to taste test it all!! I now say No to a few things I can't fit in. So I can have some of that precious "down time" to read, meditate, listen to music by the fireplace... I still feel a
    little guilty I can't help EVERYONE who asks or go to ALL the classes my friends want to take down in Payson.. but, Bob, it's a great thing to have so many options isn't it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You may have scared me away from the Strawberry/Pine area..Heavens that is a lot going on in an area with probably no more than 4,000 full time residents, and all of it sounds fun or interesting. I would probably over-commit, too.But, yes, it is great to have so many choices.

      Delete
  14. I had this problem until I was diagnosed 16 years ago with a cancer that had a poor prognosis (20% 5-year survival rate). My doctor told me that having cancer would provide me with an opportunity to figure out what was important to me and to stop letting other people set my priorities, and he was right. I started telling people that I didn't feel I could take on a task as stressful as X until I had been cancer free for at least five years. What happened next was a revelation: people simply rolled over and played dead. No one gave me any of the lines I had so often caved in to: "But if you can't do it, I don't know who we'll get." or "But no one else will do this as well as you." Turned out I wasn't indispensable, after all; people were just too lazy to develop other talent if it was easy to get me to say yes. And the problem with me being unable to say 'no' was that I ended up not doing anything to the best of my ability, which left me feeling lousy. -Jean

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sorry you had to go through such a nerve-wracking situation with the cancer, but I gather you have put that behind you. It was a tough way to learn a lesson about priorities and doing what you needed to do, but I appreciate your sharing an important story about making choices. It speaks loudly to all of us.

      Delete
  15. Yes,Bob,I continue to be amazed at how MUCH there is to do up here.Who knew!! It is easy to over commit!! But it's better than the other problem .. of "nothing to do.." It's a small community but a busy one.On the other hand, it would be easy to stay on the deck in the middle of the woods and not see ANYONE, but that wouldn't be fun at all!!!!

    ReplyDelete

Inappropriate comments will be deleted