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The Art of Saying No

The Art of Saying No


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Published by Claire Hennessy
How, by saying No, I helped not only myself but my friend too.
How, by saying No, I helped not only myself but my friend too.

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Published by: Claire Hennessy on Jun 03, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The Art of Saying No!

By Claire Hennessy

Being a total people-pleaser all my life, the word ‘No’ has hardly ever entered my vocabulary. I always thought it was better to say ‘Yes’ to all the people in my life. I hadn’t understood until recently that I was actually being a bit of a martyr, rushing around doing what I thought were helpful tasks for other people and then being rather resentful when the recipients didn’t always gush with appreciation. I have come to realize I was actually being incredibly arrogant. Who was I to know what they wanted in the first place?

I am now making a conscious effort to stop worrying so much about other people and what they think of me, but old habits die hard. I did have a massive breakthrough the other day, however, when a friend from the UK came to stay. She was on a course in Los Angeles and said she would come and visit afterwards, although we had not arranged an exact day. I was on tenterhooks all week waiting for her call, but it was not until Friday at 5pm that she rang saying she was at LAX airport and about to buy a ticket to San Francisco, arriving at 9pm, and could I come and collect her please! (Just so you don’t think she was very rude, she had tried to contact me before Friday but had used the wrong area code and left copious messages on a complete stranger’s voicemail!) Omigod, I thought. The house was in a complete mess, I hadn’t asked my daughter yet if she minded giving up her bedroom and there was no food in the house. What should I do? The ‘old’ Claire would have immediately agreed to whatever arrangements suited my friend, regardless of how they affected me. The ‘new’ Claire took a deep breath and said, “Actually, no, sorry, but it’s really not convenient tonight.” In utter horror I clasped my hands over my mouth to stop myself saying anything else. After a pregnant pause, my slightly shocked sounding friend said she would look into alternative arrangements and call me back. About half an hour later she rang to say that she had decided to take the night bus from LA to SF, which took care of where she was going to spend the night. We agreed that was an excellent idea and I told her that she should get off at the San Francisco Ferry Terminal. Extending my new-found courage, I suggested that she might enjoy taking the ferry to Sausalito, where I could pick her up at 11am and would save me driving into the centre of San Francisco on a Saturday morning. Finishing the call with a big smile on my face and a huge feeling of relief, I realized I now had the entire evening to clean the house, talk to my daughter, wash her bed linen and tidy her room. The next morning I also had time to buy some food and prepare a lovely lunch before leisurely driving down to Sausalito.

Even though she had been fine on the phone, I was a little concerned as to how upset my friend would be, but the first thing she did on getting off the ferry was to give me a big hug and thank me for allowing her to have such an amazing adventure! She had managed to sleep for the entire bus ride and on arriving early in SF, had gone for a hot breakfast while the Farmers’ Market at the Ferry Terminal had been setting up. The sun had come out as she wandered around tasting free samples of fresh fruit and then the ferry ride had given her the opportunity to see San Francisco and Marin County from a completely different perspective. She said she felt very proud and adventurous to have managed to organize the last minute travel arrangements all by herself. I smiled happily as I realized she would never have been able to have all these wonderful experiences if I had not said ‘No’ and put myself first for once.

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