Did you ever read the book ‘The Yes Man’ by Danny Wallace?
Basically, Danny Wallace said ‘yes’ to every opportunity that came his way for a month as an antidote to his lonely, single state, because a stranger on a bus told him to. It worked out well for him and he came away from his experiment with new friends and a new relationship.
Well, good for Danny. Good for him for embracing positivity and all that comes with it.
Once upon a time, I tried doing the same to see if it would improve my quality of life, lift my sprits and see where being more positive and saying yes to everything with took me, so I once spent a month purposefully saying yes to every opportunity that came my way.
Seeing as it was a point in my life where I did noting but look after a toddler, I made one ground rule: The child didn’t count. If he did, I would have spent a month leading him into a life of obesity, rotten teeth, no sleep and thinking it was fine to go to Sainsbury’s wearing nothing but a batman cape and a Bob the Builder tool belt.
I also lived in the countryside, in a village I hated where the locals treated ‘outsiders’ (i.e. me) with contempt. At this time I also worked as an online copywriter and had a husband who worked abroad for three weeks of the month. In reality, it was a hard task seeing that the only people I came into contact with on a monthly basis were the baby and the dog and therefore not many conversations, let alone opportunities came my way.
It felt as though I had hit a brick wall, but I decided to plough on. By the end of the second week, I had said ‘yes’ to eight new Facebook friends (as it turned out that one was actually quite sinister and bordering on stalker material), ‘yes’ to two new car tyres in Kwick Fit, although actually, I don’t really think I needed them (they saw me coming), and ‘yes’ to the Betterware and Avon catalogues (I didn’t realise that you had to give them back and used them for fire kindling. Turns out the local Avon lady could get pretty nasty).
The one good thing to happen was reconnecting with a school friend on Facebook that I hadn’t seen since we were whippersnappers. That was a fantastic move, as not only have we forged a really strong friendship, but also she only went and moved to Australia and put us up for free for a week while we were traveling.
So all in all, saying yes is good and can lead to positive experiences with the exception of run ins with angry Avon ladies).
But how about saying No?
Surely sometimes saying no is just as good as saying yes? Saying no can sometimes save your sanity when you are over worked, over tired and over stressed.
Of course, saying no isn’t as easy as saying yes; as it’s a negative response, we feel we have to justify it with a reason, and because we don’t want to hurt people by saying no, we tend to come up with elaborate excuses, when actually, the word NO should just do.
So last month, I said No. A lot. Which comes quite naturally when you are the mother of a toddler, I find it rolls off the tongue with such ease after being asked for the millionth time in a day if they can have an ice cream.
Saying no and not giving a reason why I can’t or don’t want to do something has made these past four weeks a breeze.
I had no real ground rules in place. I’m not daft, I didn’t say no to everything. As a freelance writer that would be career – and mortgage – suicide, and I certainly wasn’t going to say no to every drink I was offered at the pub or to an extra slice of my Nan’s apple crumble. I just simply said no to things I didn’t fancy doing; the things I would have usually said yes to just to live a quiet life, or the things I felt pushed into because I should do them.
On my first day of the ‘No Plan’, my stroppy neighbor who only ever smiles at me if she wants something asked me to look after her cats for two weeks. She does this three times a year when she swans off to her pad in Ibiza and I don’t even get a thank you or a cheap bottle of wine from the corner shop for my trouble. Her cats, all four of them, are indoor cats so there is a lot of cat shit to clean up from the various litter boxes and random corners they decide to crap in twice a day. It’s not the nicest task in the world.
So, this time when she tuned up on my doorstep and abruptly asked if I would look after them, I smiled and said ‘No’. No explanation, just a ‘No’.
She stood there for a while, and the silence loomed over us. That’s the part where you would make some crappy excuse, but I didn’t. I kept silent and kept on smiling. She turned on her heels and walked away. Hopefully, she is so pissed off with me that she will never ask again. I think that counts as a great start.
Other things I said no to over the past month were: driving a friend of a friend to an airport on hundred miles away because it meant she would get the flight for £20 cheaper; lending an acquaintance £50 when she still owes me from the last time; buying a load of over priced make up I didn’t need from a friend who has just started a dubious online business; doing lots of work for free for a friend of a friend and going on a Hen Do to see a bunch of oiled up male strippers with over inflated egos.
Those are all things I would have ordinarily said yes to out of politeness and an eagerness to please. I would have wasted both time and money just by trying to make other people happy by saying yes.
By saying no, I made myself happier and it felt good.
Did I feel guilty about saying no so much? Sometimes, but putting myself first for a change made me feel more in control over what I was doing with my life, which can only be a good thing.