Just Say No . . . So You Can Say Yes

Most of us need to say ‘no’ to most of the requests we receive, so that we can say a committed ‘yes’ to a few. It seems to me that it is usually ignorance, arrogance, or fear that drives us to overcommit: ignorance of our limitations, arrogance that denies those limitations, or fear of people’s responses if we don’t say ‘yes.’

As I heard a wise woman say last night, much of the time we explain too much when we do say ‘no.’ There is usually nothing wrong with just saying ‘no’ and leaving it at that. The first time I did that was on the phone with a telemarketer, and I surprised myself and her, who apparently had no prepared script to respond to someone simply saying ‘no’ without excuse. This particular telemarketer, by the way, was from a charity – a good charity, one with which I have no qualms. I said ‘no,’ and nothing else, and she said, ‘Oh. . . well, thank you. Goodbye.’

There are, thankfully, scads and scads of good charities and organizations, causes and movements out there, and no one person can or should possibly commit or give to all, most, or even a significant fraction of them. We do better when we identify the causes we are most passionate about, the tasks we are most suited to accomplish, and say a big ‘yes’ to one or two of them; remembering that these commitments are in addition to the everyday ones we already seek to faithfully keep – our everyday work, care of ourselves and our families, and time with our friends, to name a few.

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