How many times has a friend asked you for a favor and before you can stop yourself, your mouth is muttering: “sure!” Then, in the middle of said favor, you’re silently cursing yourself (and your friend) as your back is breaking because you’re carrying a mattress up ten flights of stairs. Clearly, I speak from experience.
Saying “No” is something we all struggle with. I think we’re just programmed to be agreeable and appear helpful (or god forbid we give someone a reason to say something bad about us.) I have certainly struggled with saying no – it just simply wasn’t a part of my vocabulary. I would rather cut my own arm off, than deny someone something. Not a great way to live.
Last year I had to say the biggest “no” of my adult life when I ended an engagement. Everyone thought I was crazy – I had a friend ask: “What about your dress? Wait – what about the ring” (for the record, it was gorgeous), but I knew if I didn’t say “No” at that moment, it would be a lot harder to say it down the line.
After that, everything changed for me. Suddenly when my boss asked me to hangout after work, I had more confidence to say: “I’m really sorry, but I need to get home and walk my dog,” (the poor pup is stuck at home for 10 hours a day… come on!) I mean, I had just said No to something I had given a hearty yes to the year before – saying No to an errand just seemed trivial.
Something pretty great happens when you aren’t so eager to please – a lot of opportunity starts to come your way. About three months ago I had to go through what us Hollywood assistants deem the “terror zone” when I was out looking for work. For the non-freelancers, there’s a thought that gets stuck in your head – almost as if Leo himself had “inceptioned” it, that you’ll never work again. I was frantically running from interview to interview and turned down from job after job. And then something crazy happened, I actually got not one, but two great offers. Now, as someone in my position (remember, I was literally sobbing into my pillow that my career was over), you would think I’d have been ecstatic. But, I wasn’t. I was lukewarm at best. So, going against everything I was taught and felt up until that point – I turned them down. I said the dreaded “No.”
Again, friends swore I was crazy: “What happened to freaking out about never working again?” they scolded me. And then something even crazier happened – the next day I had a job interview with someone who I deeply admire and respect and he hired me… on the spot! I wouldn’t have even had the interview if I had said yes to those other jobs. Just like, I’d probably be in a not-so-happy marriage, if I had continued to say yes to my relationship.
Now, don’t get me wrong I don’t go around saying “No” to everything now. That would just make me rude. But, I do think a lot harder before jumping straight into the “Yes.” Maybe we all should.
You can read more from Joelle Garfinkel on her blog.