Thursday, April 10, 2008

On Saying "No"

I was talking with a client this past week about that very essential survival skill of saying "NO." It's just a tiny, two letter utterance, and for many of us it feels about as awful as gargling fire. We expect devastation, ruin and the need for rescue people to be summoned in our NO's wicked aftermath.

The trouble with saying no is that it most usually invites a lot more conversation, cajoling, sometimes whining, often conflict. And as introverts, we'll take collaboration, harmony, being off-stage any day of the week. It's so much easier to say yes, and be done it. Or, the alternative, which is to tell a big fat fib. And, then you have to make sure you remember it, in case there is, uh, follow-up about that alleged sherpa gig you pulled all summer. Which is why you couldn't join the rowing team.

Dawg, I hate the big fat fib stuff! Even though I have a great imagination, and could think of a gatrillion reasons that I can't do something. (Call me if you need some fresh material) But I just can't stomach the guilt that comes with it. Nor should I have to! I feel quite certain that I've spent the equivalent of an entire decade at events I don't want to be at, faking a lively interest. In my head, I'm picturing myself home alone with a book, a cat, and bucket of diet coke.

This next year for my birthday, I'm going to make this really cool party invitation where I ask everyone to stay home alone, without any talking, no electronics, and be quiet for three hours. (Gifts could be mailed to me.) 'Cos that's my idea of a fun time. And, it's so way past my turn--

Before writing and publication, I could get away with blowing my wad on things I didn't want to do, and the mandatory recovery period afterwards. So what if my spirit felt sucked dry-- I'd just sleep an extra two or three hours. Now, if I've got that kind of extra time, I need to be

It has turned into a simple math problem. I don't have enough minutes left in life to do things that don't serve my life purpose-- which is to be a good partner to my sidekick, write for kids, be a decent coach, and have lunch with Anne Lamott. That's all I can focus on. (Okay, there are seven other things, but you get my drift.)

Thing is, I'm actually an expert at saying no. Pretty much have a black belt in it. So do you! Every single time we say yes to something we don't want to do, we are saying an unequivocal NO to ourselves. NO to what we might have preferred to do. NO to what works better for us. NO to what we know we need to move our project or situation forward. NO to who we are as introverts.

This very succinct little word sets a good model for explanation. Be brief. "No thanks." "Sorry, I can't." "No, I've got other plans." Y ou really don't need to explain yourself more than that. Any more than the extravert would be expected to explain why the heck they need a lot of people coming over to their house on Friday night after being with people all day at work. A brief regret, wish them a good time, and change the subject.

Be very, very pleased with yourself. Swallow the scary aftertaste of the NO you just delivered, and focus on the big, juicy YES you just gave yourself. Strong work!

Now, this is where things get tricky. Having just empowered you all to let the N-word rip, now I've got to ask you to do something. Talk about your terrible timing! :-> But here I go anyway.

Please DO keep the responses coming about your favorite indies. In case you missed Monday's post, we'd love it if you'd send us the name/website/address of your favorite independent bookstore. We are getting ready to celebrate them. Thanks to all of you that have responded on and off-line. More, por favor!

Mary Hershey


Barbara O'Connor said...

I love this post! And I am SO coming to your birthday party....

Thanks for this reminder.

As for posting info about a favorite indie:

Ha! Kidding. Actually, I don't have one nearby.

Anonymous said...

I love your rationale for saying no sometimes- saving time to write. And I love that you have lunch with Anne Lamott. Her writing has been the saving grace of MY writing life more times than I can count.

One of my favorite indies...

Flying Pig Books
Shelburne, VT

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm giving you a few.

Favorite children's independent: Hicklebees in San Jose, Calfornia.

Wonderful general independent store: Bookshop Santa Cruz in, yes, Santa Cruz, California.

And, I don't know how you guys feel about used bookstores, but the BEST I've ever entered, with a HUGE kids' section is Logo's Used Books, also in Santa Cruz.

Can't wait to see the posts.

Mary Hershey said...

Yay, Barbara! I'm so glad you want to come to my birthday party.

Thanks, Kate! Yeah, Anne Lamott. Heart her much. (I'm quite certain she will call me one day if I keep blogging about wanting to have lunch with her.)

Becky-- my big brother works at Logos. You're right! Best children's section. I've found some gems there. Next time you go in-- look for him to say hi. He is the only non-Goth employee there. :-> Blonde hair, usually wearing a Hawaiin shirt.

Thanks for all the recommendations!


jama said...

Wow, I really needed to read this today! I wanted to say NO to three social events, but said yes out of obligation. Clearly, I need to work on my NOs. Thank you so much!

Love your birthday party idea, BTW.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic post! Thank you :).

Favorite Indie is in Canada -- can I post it anyway?

Toronto Women's Bookstore
73 Harbord Street
Toronto, ON M5S 1G4, Canada
(416) 922-8744


Anonymous said...

I can't believe your brother works there. So funny--the only non-goth! We often refer to the SC locals as PIBs (people in black!)

Anonymous said...

Oh ya, I've climbed those Himalayas quite a few times! But no more sherpa-ing for me!

Wild About Words said...

The other night, when I woke in the middle of the night filled with fear, I read Anne Lamott's Grace (Eventually) and everything was right again. Her book, Operating Instructions, got me through the first couple years of parenting angst. And Bird by Bird is a gem I return to again and again for writing (and life) wisdom.

I've bought her books at this indie: Books and Books in Coral Gables, FL. They have lots of author visits and a great open-air courtyard where they hold events.

All best,

Jennifer Thermes said...

Thank you for posting this-- it's actually quite timely right now! And I LOVE your blog...

My local indie closed a few years back, BUT... friends of mine opened one recently in Vermont:

Mystery on Main Street