If you were to ask me what the main difference is in the life of families now compared to when I was raising my children you might expect me to say technology, more opportunities, more access to world events and so on. That being true, the one that strikes me most often is how busy everyone is and how activities dominate and dictate the direction of their lives. All that activity keeps everyone on a constant run and creates the demand to do even more.
I have, over the years, become quite adept at the use of the two letter word, “No.” Over time, I have to altered my method of delivery from confrontational to polite and understanding while remaining firm. Todays society offers an endless array of clubs, classes and groups related to all aspects of hobby, sports or professional interests. We feel obligated to belong to those such as professional or church and what parent doesn’t want to participate in their child’s sports activities. You add the other interests you may have or feel obligated to participate in and your expendable time has pretty much bit the dust.
I write. I am an author. Writing is not a hobby for me. Even if it were it would still be my choice of activity. I have other interests as well as time spent with family. I do not work at a day job and I find that the world looks upon me as having nothing to do. Here is where you have to marshall your defenses. Everyone is burdened down with many activities or feel so passionately about their particular interest that they want to recruit all the help and participants possible. Can’t blame people for that. But we are often our own worst enemies when it comes to being over extended. It can be tricky to tiptoe through the minefield of traps that can snare you into all those extraneous obligations without creating hard feelings. If it is a group setting you sometimes see it coming and escape before being put on the spot. Otherwise you can use a smile in acknowledgement of the request, followed with immediate breaking of eye contact or they will assume you have interest in participating. If asked directly you may feel guilty if you do not have a good excuse to offer. Don’t be intimidated, speak up, you simply have other obligations. It’s impossible for you to take on anything else. You may get resistance. A smile or a laugh can go a long way to help take the sting out of a second refusal. Sometimes you have to explain that you have other priorities that take precedence. Don’t explain those priorities. Then, of course, only as a last resort, there is always the one I used when my children had my back to the wall, “Because I said, No!”
The object of this blog is not to sound unfriendly or uncooperative with others. They’re trying to do their job too. The object is to limit obligations you prefer not to take on so as to devote yourself to those that mean the most to you. That means that occasionally you do say yes, and that’s a good thing.