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Accepting "NO" As An Answer
If you really count on making something, it can be hard to accept reality: NO, I don’t have the exact ingredients!
It can make me crazy. But those are the times I choose to modify both my behavior and the recipe.
Special education teachers (I was one) are known for their arsenal of behavior modification tools. They are like life coaches that way. One such tool I learned as a teacher was Boys Town Social Skills. If you aren’t familiar, it is scripted program that teaches students eight basic social skills to improve behavior and foster confidence.
One of the teachable skills is Accepting NO as an Answer.
Think about that.
How are you at accepting NO as an answer? (And I don’t mean when your toddler is screaming it over and over)
I find it fascinating that the first years of our lives are riddled with the word NO. We either accept the answer or face consequences for not following rules or our parent’s wishes. As teenagers, we have heard that word so much we become immune to it!
As we grow older, we are taught Don’t Take No For An Answer. Sales trainings are rife with that directive. It takes on shades of competitiveness, winning at all cost. Whether it’s about following your dream or a sales pitch, don't let the word NO deter you.
As busy, stressed out people of the 21st century, how many times have we heard a stress management guru suggest we say NO more often? I have even written a blog about it! The intention is to say NO to things we don’t want to do so we have more time to do what we want.
Sounds easy, right?
But have you noticed what sometimes happens when we finally get the chutzpah to say the word?
We are often not heard.
Rather, saying NO invites a wave of reasons from the asker as to why we should say ‘yes’.
I’ll give you an example.
In one particular case, she was convinced we were destined to teach at church youth night.
She was dying to sign us up.
“It will be great!” she said.
During University I had volunteered steadily (Special Olympics, Church groups, Sunday School, Respite care) and was in need of a break. I couldn’t match her enthusiasm for teaching a midweek religious class that required prep work and fire for the Holy Spirit.
I simply said, “No, thanks.”
She didn’t even hear me.
Without skipping a beat she rationalized, pleaded, cajoled, bargained, flattered, and said anything she thought would work.
That included Catholic guilt.
Worst Wednesday evenings ever – for an entire semester.
First, she had just had a baby so she missed every class save the first two. I literally ended up teaching the youth myself.
Second, I was given a class of seventh grade boys. They were also not the kind of boys filled with the Holy Spirit – although they were full of something. Now that I’m raising a seventh grader, I know these parents dropped off their kids to enjoy the blessings of a martini in peace.
Third, the Catholic youth curriculum at the time was as exciting to a seventh grade boy as dissecting holy water. I tried my best to liven it up. Unfortunately, there are a limited number of mainstream sports metaphors that one can use to impart the importance of eternal salvation. Tim Tebow hadn't hit the scene yet.
You get my point.
And I may or may not still be bitter.
I say, as adults, let’s get better at accepting NO as an answer.
Here’s how they teach it in Boys Town:
Look at the person.
Calmly ask for a reason if you really don’t understand.
If you disagree, bring it up later.
As adults, we can stop at the first two directions.
If you are an askee and your receiver says NO then look at them and say ‘okay’. No need to argue, cajole, convince or use a guilt trip. There are a thousand reasons why someone might not want what you are offering them, and it has nothing to do with their skill level. Just because someone seems like a good fit doesn’t mean they want to be.
Skill-wise and time-wise I appeared a good match to teach a youth group, but due to my new job and volunteer burn out, I didn’t want to.
I wanted someone to hear my NO.
Even if someone seems reluctant, believe them. Some people say NO because they like the dance of added accolades and statements like, “We can’t do it without you!” Since we are all adults, I now accept NO at face value. If I am the askee, I usually thank them and let them know if they change their mind they can let me know.
If you are not good at hearing NO, then ask yourself why? Why are you so attached to someone saying YES? Are you trying to win? Are you afraid there are no alternatives to one person saying NO?
It's not a contest.
It's about respect.
I find the same is true for recipes.
When I don’t have exactly what the recipe calls for I take a deep breath, say ‘okay’ and move on. If I don’t have orricietta pasta (which I usually don’t) I use another pasta shape already residing in my cupboard. If I don’t have fresh Rosemary, I use basil. If I don’t have rotisserie chicken, I used canned.
It still works out.
In fact, the possibilities become infinite when we are willing to accept NO for an answer.
Usually, the alternative is something even better.
Peace & Light,
The Busy Buddha
Talk Back to the Trio
What do you notice about your own ability to say 'no'?
Have you ever experienced push back when you have said 'no'?