You have been travelling all week for work and you were looking forward to putting your feet up at the weekend, painting your nails and perhaps getting your partner and kids to wait on you for change. But, as soon as you get home, your friend calls to say she has volunteered you to be part of the welcoming party at the open day at your kids’ school. This means you have to actually get up early on Saturday morning and put on make-up and smile! Who are these people who volunteer you for stuff before they have even consulted you? You are seething, you feel taken for granted, you feel your weekend has been stolen from you. So what do you say to said friend? ‘Sure I will be there.’
Incidentally, we find it hard to say ‘No’ because we don’t want to upset other people. It looks like most people would rather upset themselves than someone else. This is what turns saying ‘No’ into a self-esteem issue.
If you value your feelings and put them at the same level of importance as everyone else, then saying ‘No’ to a friend so that you can take care of yourself should not be a big deal. In the example above, the price you pay for not putting your feet up after a rather arduous week is that you become grumpy. You don’t get to rest at the weekend and you start taking your tiredness out on your family. Isn’t that a bit of a high price to pay for not upsetting a friend? May I also add that this friend doesn’t even value your time and if anyone is worth upsetting she should be the one? What did the poor kids do to deserve the grumpy you? Why does your partner deserve to get in the neck because you can’t say ‘No’ to your friend? Do you see how your well-being is being impacted because you don’t value yourself enough to say ‘No’?
This takes me nicely to boundaries. Your friend who volunteered you without consulting you was violating your boundaries and in case you weren’t sure she was, remember you were seething. Feelings don’t lie. People sometimes feel that if what is being asked of them is a worthwhile thing, like volunteering for the school, then it is okay to ignore their feelings. It is never okay to ignore your feelings. Friend or no friend, school or no school, you simply cannot allow people to get away with taking you for granted in the name of doing good. Your friend knows they CAN get away with volunteering you for stuff so they do and guess what, you let them. The power of saying ‘No’ allows you to clearly communicate your boundaries as to what is not okay with you. That is the only way people know where they stand. That is how you start to get the time to set your own priorities and put your feet up when you need to. That is how you avoid burnout.
So long as you don’t have the self-esteem to push back against other people’s agenda and you allow them to violate your boundaries, then you will end up not finding the time to do the things that are important to you. I work with women in overwhelm and I say, show me a woman in overwhelm and I will show you a woman with porous boundaries. For your wellbeing, you need to know what is of value to you and prioritise it before you even begin to look at other people’s agenda. Not being tired and overwhelmed should be top of your list so that you can be there for those that need you like your kids. Allowing some busy body to volunteer you without consultation should be an absolute No-No. In fact you should point her in someone else’s direction, someone who has more time and hasn’t been travelling all week.
That could also be called delegation. You don’t have the time to do it but someone else can and they are keen as mustard to do it but because you are afraid to upset your friend, perhaps because you are flattered that she thought of you, you decide to kill yourself and do it instead. I do hope you see the insanity in this behaviour. If you want to live well, you need to be able to delegate and take things off your plate that don’t belong there. Say ‘No’ when someone else tries to put them there.
Learn to say ‘No’ and you will be surprised how you start to enjoy your life and how people start treating you with respect, yes respect because by saying ‘No’ you are signalling that you know your self-worth. That makes them sit up and take notice. It also makes you feel good about yourself.
So will you be on the welcoming committee this weekend or will be painting your toe-nails?
Gifty Enright, Author, Speaker, Women in the Workplace Expert
Gifty Enright, is the author of ‘Octopus on a Treadmill; Women, Success, Health, Happiness’. She is also a international Speaker who specialises in Women and Wellbeing in the Workplace. She has spoken at Multinational organisations and also given a Tedx Women’s Talk. If you want to hear more from me you might be interested in my FREE masterclass.