Learning to say no! 🇬🇧

Not "sorry" but "no" is actually the hardest word.
Not „sorry“ but „no“ is actually the hardest word.

I have read countless articles over the years about how saying „no“ is such a hard thing for (mainly) women to do and the pickles we get ourselves into by not using this word enough.

On the other hand, anyone living in England for long enough will tell you that the word „sorry“ slips out of your mouth many times a day, even if really you are not sorry or in a position where you should even be sorry- someone steps on your toe – both say sorry, someone cannot work out which way they want to walk and you do the awkward distance dance thing – both say sorry, you get the point.

The word „no“ does get said a lot in my house, but it is either the children saying it to me or I’m saying it to them. The problem starts when I have to use the word „no“ in an adult situation and normally around friends and in-laws. I get myself into some silly situations because over my under-usage of a very common word.

Examples for you just from this week – Last bank holiday I spent nearly two hours teaching a friend of a friend business English (she is German) for a new job. For free. During nap time from my nine month old. A nice gesture for sure and the lady was lovely, but the story goes on because the friend who recommended me to her also gets tuition for her kids from me for free, during nap time, every week. I remembered that Coca Cola ad where people sang the song „I’d like to teach the world to sing…“ and thought, „no, actually I wouldn’t!“ but I had a sneaking suspicion that I was going to have to pull my dusty „NO“ out of the bag or else I would end up tutoring the world and his dog from my living room.

Example Two – We have a trampoline in our garden, our neighbors don’t. When the children play together, they go on the trampoline. Fine. But then the neighbors started allowing her children onto the trampoline when we weren’t there, leaving them there alone (they can see them from their garden) and even allowing their visiting friends to freely go on it too.

Example Three – A middle-aged man got to the supermarket till just after I did with my nine month old and full shopping trolley. He only had a few things. He saw me, my baby and my trolley and as soon as the cashier was free to start, he pushed past me saying „I’ve only got a few things, you’re going to need a moment“, handed his things to the cashier, paid and left.

So, what would you do? I have a few wonderfully feisty friends who would have eaten example three alive, but here is what I did – maybe you can relate.

Example one and two started pretty much at the same time – the phone call from my friend to ask if I would tutor, and the neighbor letting her visitors‘ children on my trampoline. I felt angry, weak, confused, taken advantage of and also worried about how to address this without ruining a friendship. First thing I did? What most of us women do – told about six other women and asked them for advice! Apart from their horror, they were all united in that they would „say something“ and „do something“ but what? Of course I wanted to „say something“ and „do something“ too and I had practiced many scenarios in my head. Mostly pretty snippy or shouty but none that really ended well.

Next thing I did – went to google. Yes friends, youtube and google are my answer to many things in life. And google helped! I flicked through a few articles and found this great one here. I liked that it was saying no to a friend and that is what this was. I also liked that she doesn’t go on about how a good friend will never ask too much etc. Because honestly I believe that everyone has different barriers and some of you might also not have a problem with either of my two examples although they really pushed mine. I knew I needed to say no, because of how what was happening was making me feel.

Armed with the gems of advice from the article I decided to tackle the situations. Example one – the lesson went well and I felt better knowing that although I couldn’t change my offer once given, I had practiced in my head saying „no“. When she asked for more lessons in the future, I pointed out gently that I actually didn’t have a lot of time and liked to spend as much of it as possible with my children. I said it straight away, kept it brief and repeated it even when she looked like she was going to cry. She said she understood and then actually gave me a gift voucher „for my time“ which was really kind. I pointed her in the direction of a language school and a friend of mine who tutors for a living. She was grateful for this and we left on good terms after a productive lesson. Next step? I need to talk to my friend who recommended me and explain that although I am happy seeing her children, this really books me up for the week.

Next stop – trampoline discussion. I felt better about approaching this one since my first talk had gone well, but this was more delicate because the neighbor is also a friend. I decided to write my ideas down. This also helped because when I was feeling so emotional it seemed like such a big deal, but on paper it was really simple (oh to not be led  by emotions!). I realized that I could make it into three simple points and bring them over clearly this way:

  1. The trampoline belongs to us and can only be used when we are there.
  2. There are too many children for us all to use one trampoline in the neighborhood (9 children in all)
  3. I didn’t want visitors on the trampoline.

I chose a quiet time of day, reminded myself that I liked these people and was doing this for the good of our relationship, and rang their bell. They were surprised to see me come over on my own and we sat down a little tensely to talk. I think my face was bright red, it really felt like it! I took a deep breath and explained my concerns. They let me speak. At the end of points one and two they joined in by saying „you’re right, we were thinking the same so we were thinking of joining with another family and getting a trampoline together too“. I nearly died from relief!

The victory was only slight though, because point three got lost in the general discussion about trampolines and it still hasn’t been resolved since. I have decided to wait and see the impact of the newly-ordered trampoline on this matter. I know it is not a perfect solution, but then Rome wasn’t built in a day either.

Example Three? To be honest we were all too gobsmacked by his cheek to say anything at that moment (the cashier was not amused either) but then I have put this one down to experience and karma. What would I do next time? Nothing, my behavior was flawless, he was the ignorant, pushy man, but he was also a complete stranger so I would not let him get the better of my day, and like I say, karma ladies, karma.

So world be warned, I will be practicing saying „no“ now at regular intervals, not just because I can but also because I need to.

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