How to Say No (Or rather, Why We Say Yes)

Can I see a show of hands from my Yes Gals? (Don’t worry, I won’t sign you up for anything!)

GIRLS. (And guys.) Is it just me or are we really seeing each other lately? We are speaking our truths and holding safe space for one another and good stuff is happening. (Tangentially, I love to write for the “me-too-moments”. Thanks for speaking up and saying “Me too!” It gives me so much joy.)

I think my last post hit a few of you in the feels. I’m not surprised because high tide rises all ships and I’m in constant awe of the amazing folks around me. We’re an unstoppable group. But maybe it’s not what we are doing, but why we do it that’s left some of us with a long list of to-dos and a short list of joys.

You are speaking out to me and saying “My relationships are not benefiting from the way I spend my time.” (MINE EITHER).
You are saying, “I have goals I can’t get to because I’m too busy with residual commitments.” (ME TOO).
You are saying, “Why aren’t I spending more time drinking on my patio?” (I DON’T KNOW.)

I have been in countless meetings, pen in hand, eyes averted, repeating to myself “Do not sign up. Do not sign up. Do not sign up.” It works about 40% of the time. I wrote about making space back in February and candidly, I’ve been struggling with it for a long time. How can we learn to deal?

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I think it might pay us to ask ourselves, why do we say “yes” so often anyway?

I don’t presume to speak for us all, Yes Gals, but here are my sneaking suspicions:

1. We want to be liked. I prefer to be seen as a reliable, interesting, well-rounded woman. With clever ideas. And a delicious brownie recipe. Who always wears nice shoes. The more I commit to, the more opportunity I have to impress. If I impress you, then you’ll like me. Right?

I suspect my Yes Gals are often grown up Teacher’s Pets. The “people pleaser” gene is dominant in our DNA and approval translates to acceptance. I’m not accusing us of all being insecure, but we are probably all a little bit insecure.

2. We’re arrogant. Somehow, alongside our insecurities, lives our arrogance. Yes Gals are a proud tribe. Put quite simply, we live by the mantra that “If you want something done right, just put it down right now and let me handle it, please.” We love to be seen as altruistic and there’s no question that we are generous, affectionate, and passionate. But curiously enough, we’re also certain that we are unique in our abilities to conduct a business meeting, host a reception, or plan a fundraising campaign.

There’s something unnerving about the idea of letting someone else have the reins. When the “Is anyone available for this” call is put out, we simultaneously imagine how successful it will be under our direction and what a mess it could become if someone else speaks up first.

3. We ignore the dataWe’ve planned an awful lot of parties in our day, haven’t we Yes Gals? We’re good planners because we’re creative. Creative folks have the perfect birthday banner tucked away and an idea for a cake that is going to just blow the lid off. We dream in showers and perfectly executed meeting agendas and awards banquets. We spend less time evaluating the facts.

We forget that everything takes longer than we think it will. We forget that we’ve never decorated a 6-tiered cake before. We pretend that we are obligated to follow through on a task that we didn’t have to commit to in the first place. We ignore our husbands (and wives) saying, “Wait a minute… Didn’t you just LEAVE a committee? Why are you chairing a new one?!” Mercy.


Here’s who benefits from our whacked out priorities: No one. Not our committee members who can tell we silently resent every volunteer meeting we sit through. Not our spouses who would love to get in some couch time with us. Not our personal goals that gather dust as another season passes. Not our spirits that deserve more tender treatment. We are only robbing from ourselves.

I don’t presume to know the best way to say more No and less Yes. But I think we need to be honest with ourselves, Yes Gals: We get high off the praise, we’re addicted to the attention, and we crave the acceptance. It might come in a pretty wrapper, but in my case, the day planner has some dirty little secrets to tell.

I, for one, deserve better. And you, reader and friend, do too. And so do your communities (your partners, families, friends). I pledge to commit only to that which sparks joy and to follow through for the right reasons. Our generosity should not be born of guilt and our gifts should not be given from obligation.

Yes Gals- welcome to the year of Thanks for Thinking of Me, but No.

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4 thoughts on “How to Say No (Or rather, Why We Say Yes)

  1. ouzella says:

    You know I don’t think I ever considered myself a Yes Gal till I read this post. it’s been something I’ve indirectly been trying to confront over the past few months, and your thoughts helped provide a much needed kick in the pants to really settle down and think this whole ‘yes’ thing over.

    • I’m always surprised by how connected things are and it was my not-so-secret hope that when I cleaned out my closets that some of my emotional hangups would sort themselves out as well.. Beautiful blog, by the way!

      • ouzella says:

        I completely agree, what started as a project to clear out my wardrobe has set me on a path of clearing out the clutter from all aspects of my life. It’s envigorating. Thank you so much! I’m looking forward to your posts.

  2. Katie says:

    I love that you get me better than I get myself some days. 😉 Thanks for always being so blunt and brutally honest. I love your writing, and it always strikes a nerve for me. So glad I have a friend like you to go through my weird twenties with! ❤

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