When Is Saying “No” Going To Get Easier?

There are two voice mails on my phone that are haunting me. Both from the same person. Her voice is kind and professional. Her request is reasonable. Hell, I’m almost flattered to be the recipient of her calls.

But instead of dealing with the President of the Parent Association’s request in a straightforward, honest manner, I am thinking up excuses because simply saying that I can’t chair the committee for the end of school celebration feels harder than I’m up for right now.  It feels harder than all the hard things I have ever done rolled up together (and that list includes quitting caffeine, cleaning out my closet, and a visit to a prison while 8 months pregnant).

Here are the excuses I’m considering:

  • I’m having surgery that week.
  • I’m illiterate and won’t be able to fulfill the duties that presumably including reading.
  • My parole officer won’t let me chair committees.
  • Ever since I saw Clint Eastwood do that thing with the empty chair at the RNC, I have a thing about chairs. All chairs. So I can’t chair.
  • I’m too power-hungry to let myself to stop with this one school event– if I take this role, next stop is world domination.

Really, I am sure she just wants a yes or no. And if I am compelled to give her an excuse, the truth should work just fine. New job and already over-extended is reason enough to decline.  Moreover, it’s a 2-year gig, and we are changing schools.

This is a total no brainer but that hasn’t stopped me from hiding from her calls for over a week and thinking about the excuses. I am afraid she won’t like me or she’ll think I am lazy or she’ll think I am a selfish, self-centered person (is she really wrong if she goes there?).  As I think about this on a slightly deeper level, I can see that I am afraid to say no because I don’t think I deserve to protect myself and my time.  Funny, I thought once I started working again, this part would be easy.  Right? Like now I have a jay OH bee and I can’t be volunteering and chaperoning and saying yes, when it makes no sense for me, family or the people I am saying yes to.

So I’m going to call her back any second now and tell her the truth. And I’m going to do it in front of my kids so maybe they will learn faster than I have that it’s ok to say no (and leave your imaginary parole officer out of the conversation).

PS: Please don’t forward her a link to my blog just in case I go with my illiteracy excuse.


41 thoughts on “When Is Saying “No” Going To Get Easier?

  1. Don’t know if this is helpful or not–if not, just ignore me–but one of the most freeing things I ever learned was that I could just say no without an excuse, you know? Sorry, just can’t do it. I think a lot of times my avoidance and guilt has a lot to do with my trying to find an excuse that seems “good enough” when really the main excuse is that I just can’t/won’t/don’t want to.

    Anyway, good luck. I know all about phone call apprehension. It’s a bitch.

    • My therapist has encouraged me for YEARS to say no without the attendant excuse which is just all about shame anyway. You’re totally right. “I’m not going to be able to do it this time. Thanks for asking.” Why am I shaking?

      On Mon, Mar 11, 2013 at 10:39 AM, Outlaw Mama

  2. Switching schools makes “No” a no-brainer. You can just do the stuff you like that makes you and/or your kid happy (like I did lunchroom duty until my kids said I didn’t have to anymore. Bye bye Salisbury steak gravy hands!).
    In reality, No is the hardest!! Especially at school but we are in a sacramental relationship with ours, so I’m pretty sure there is the possible consequence of burning in hell. And I also want people to like me. And think I’m smart. And together. And as cool as my Facebook persona.
    Learning that I could say no without any excuse at all was liberating. Do I practice it every time? Hell no. 🙂
    The truth. It’s the best.

    • I love the word sacramental, though in the context of schools, I don’t need more pressure about going to HELL! I’m going to do it. I swear. Any second now.

      On Mon, Mar 11, 2013 at 10:42 AM, Outlaw Mama

  3. I learned this one the hard way. No is a complete sentence. It is. It’s nice to say, “I’m so flattered, but I can’t do that. But thank you for thinking of me!” just to be nice…but really “no thanks” is okay by itself. Since I learned this (seriously only in the past 3 years or so) I have been SO. MUCH. HAPPIER. Good luck!! –Lisa Ps. I’d go with the world domination option if you want to go the other way, though.

  4. A few years ago I was trying to say no to something – I can’t remember what – and fumbling through an excuse that may or may not have been made up. And the person I was talking to said to me “no is a perfectly acceptable response.” And it was like a light bulb going on in my head. It had never occurred to me to just say no, and leave it at that.

  5. Ugh – I hate these situations and how hard I make them. Of course you deserve to protect your time and your energy but it may be easier to pretend you lost your phone, change your number and never speak of it again. 😉 Or I’ll call her and pretend I’m you. Easy peasy.

  6. I was going to say that this is the kind of scenario where I think it’s perfectly acceptable to tell a little lie. I was going to suggest you say something like, “I totally would, but I’m just way too busy right now with a new job…” And maybe some other similarish stuff. But turns out that’s the TRUTH, so…

  7. I have gotten myself into trouble so many times trying to come up with reasons why I can’t do something. Now I just say no, way easier than trying to remember what line I came up with to avoid whatever task. And I think it is really important to teach your kids to be choosy about how they spend their time!

  8. I am the Queen of No right now. Too much going on in life to make an excuse, just “No. I can’t do that by ___.” or “No, I won’t be able to commit the time to this right now.” Of course, it mostly because of hubby’s current terrible decisions, so saying “No” comes easily — at the moment. It usually doesn’t, but dang! Put me in a situation where I’m choosing between X and my kids and I’ll grow a spine for them, plus an entire suit of armor and a force field.

  9. I had a neighbour once who, when asked to provide pies for the curling bonspiel (small, rural Canadian community), said, “Hell, I don’t even bake pies for my own family, why would I bake them for you?” I always envied her cajones.

  10. I’m sitting here tapping my fingers thinking, “She still hasn’t called, I know it.” I was like that recently. Had a valid reason but still couldn’t bring myself to make the call. I did it by email, the declination, finally and DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMN THAT FELT GOOD.

    • Omg. It’s a little miracle right here. I just grabbed the school directory to get the email. So you’re right– I haven’t done it but will soon.

      And I’ve seen a mighty cute picture of kindergarten you floating around!!!

  11. Pingback: Repeat after me, “No” | Long Days, Short Years

  12. I was just going to say email! You send it at midnight, when you’re already up doing the thirty-two things you didn’t finish even without chairing a committee, and write something about “haven’t had time to return your calls but wanted to thank you for thinking of me; can’t do it.”

    Email solves a lot of problems.

  13. I’m so late to this one. Do you bloggers love when I clean up my inbox?
    But I couldn’t resist. Remember that post you wrote about what people think of you being none of your business? So yeah, just say no.
    I am not good at no either. I find myself saying maybe or I wish I could, which leads to texts and emails and calls where I eventually have to fess up and I wonder if they are thinking I was going to say no all along, which I was. Also, I hope no one on the PTA with me reads that 🙂

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