Are you one of those charming people who never say ‘no’ to anyone? Are you one of those well-meaning, eager beavers always ready and willing to say ‘yes’ to help requests? I am. I am also one of the crazies who end up strained and stressed trying to figure out how to deliver on my many commitments.
Why do I say ‘yes’?
Very few things on earth bug me as much as a person with “alligator arms”; you know, the ones whose hands go slightly up in the air and are quick to say “that’s not my job”. Seriously, that behavior is so against my core I consider it borderline offensive.
I love the feeling of being helpful and to be honest, I love the feeling of being needed. I also understand that in the economy of interpersonal relationships, help and favors are a currency. We make deposits and withdrawals. We make investments, some yield good results, and in the best cases some give way to great friendships.
I always say ‘yes’ because I like to be liked, and we can all agree that most reasonable people like a helpful person. And here is reason #1: I like to say ‘yes’ because more often than not, helping leads to learning.
-El acomedido come lo que está escondido-
I grew up hearing this Spanish saying all the time. The helpful person eats what’s hidden. The translation reads funny but it means that special treats are reserved for those who go out of their way to help … there are delicacies only a helpful soul can savor.
Oh, but we must learn to say no.
What good are treats and delicacies if we are too overwhelmed to enjoy them? A person who likes to be liked can struggle with uttering a certain tiny word: no. We feel like we are letting someone down, or worse, we are missing out on the opportunity to razzle-dazzle.
In order to retain my sanity and for my ‘yes’ to hold its value, I’ve had to say ‘no’. This is important, we can say ‘yes’ all we want, but that little word can be devalued if we fail to deliver. If saying ‘no’ seems uncomfortable, imagine saying a ‘yes’ no one has faith in, ouch!
I have found a happy medium. Sometimes I can help, just not to the extent the requester is expecting. In these cases, I don’t say ‘no’. Why would I? There is some currency at stake and honestly, my inner helping hand wants to be raised high in the air like it just don’t care.
I take inventory of my ability to commit and simply tell the requester a magic and mighty phrase: HERE IS HOW I CAN HELP YOU.
It is a thing of beauty. Most reasonable people respond well to this offer because there is clarity, it tells them their request is not an inconvenience and I am very interested in being accommodating. Win-win.
Knowing how I can help others and being able to articulate it clearly has enabled me to be helpful in meaningful ways. I still overextend myself on occasion but definitely a lot less than I used to. Time is a luxury, one we must enjoy and share intentionally, deliberately.
I am off to enjoy the two most beautiful creatures on the face of my earth…my kids.