Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Difference Between Them & Us

          Here's the thing, I have an extremely difficult time with an extremely simple word. In fact, I have the same problem in two languages. And, the word is so straight forward (seemingly). It rolls off the tongue. Easy to pronounce in French and in English. But, for me at least, it's exceedingly difficult to break my brain connection to it and let it slip out of my mouth unencumbered by apologies and explanations.
Cartoon by Charles Barsotti.
          I don't know about you, and I suspect it's a girl/woman thing. (I don't think men are afflicted with the same malady, and good for them.) I have an impossible time with saying, "no" or "non". Oh, of course, I can whip out a "no thank you" that's easy. "No thank you, I think I'll pass on that third  -- OK fourth -- glass of Champagne." Or, "no thank you, so kind of you to offer; we don't need another storm window, how very thoughtful of you to call and ask during our dinner at 8:30 though."

          You get the idea.

          Why is this I ask myself. What's wrong with me, am I, at my age, still that insecure little girl who wants to please? Do I want everyone to love me? Why oh why, when someone asks an unreasonable favor of me or even a reasonable request, but because of circumstances I cannot comfortably say "yes" or "oui" -- I'll almost always say "of course, yes, oui" every time. Probably those of you who understand this "condition" have also experienced the side effects: resentment, snarky thoughts (if not behavior), stress.

          Non is another reason why I so admire Frenchwomen. They say it with such ease and grace. "Non, I cannot take your children to rugby practice. Non, I cannot host the senior citizens' Christmas party again this year. Non, you cannot bring all of your children and their friends to swim in our pool."

          By-the-way, they are also quite adept at saying non to their children. "Non, you may not have a third cookie," for example. I have yet to meet a child over five who tries to argue the point.

          And on it goes. They say each of their very firm "nons" with a smile. At no time do they feel obliged to launch into a lengthly explanation of how terribly sorry they are or how they wish they could comply or any other nonsense to soften the intent. At no time does one who hears the non believe it's negotiable.

          And, do you know why this is? I'll tell you: because Frenchwomen don't care if everyone likes them -- or not. They are not out there doing handstands and back-flips for love and appreciation. They save their precious moments for what counts. Sometimes it's simply to allow them to carve out alone time. They know instinctively that squandering precious time can cause wrinkles.

         How are you doing with your "yes" and "no" options?       


Karen Albert said...

Tish I am doing better all the time. At this point in life I must take care of my health, keep stress levels down, take time for my family instead of sitting on charity committees and in meetings. I have done all of that and can pay it forward in my own way!


Pam @ over50feeling40 said...

About 10 years ago, I had to put a sign on my refrigerator...JUST SAY that I would see it daily and remember to say no to people who asked me to do all of the big random jobs around out school that other people were wise enough to turn down. I am so much better now...but it took a long time to learn this lesson...I think it is a woman-thing!

Tara said...

I agree, I think it is a women thing. Over the years I have improved quite a bit in the "no" department but always with an "I'm sorry" or an explanation attached. I think though I'm going to give the "no" with just a smile a try, I'll bet within a year or two I'll get the hang of it.

Splenderosa said...

I, also, am a pleaser. Saying no when I already have too much on my schedule has always been difficult. However, at this point I've discovered that I need to make myself happy. I've done all the good deeds, have 1000's of acquaintances, many friends, and when I'm overwhelmed nothing gets done to my standards, and my standards are what make me happy. You know? This post is excellent.

Sandy at You May Be Wandering said...

Oh to be a Frenchwoman - not only can they dress well, stay thin while eating yummy French food, they also know how to say NO!!! (Never mind that they also get to live in FRANCE!) I really enjoyed and related to this post. Thanks, Trish!

The Gold Digger said...

I learned a really useful trick when I lived in the south - I learned how to make a "no" sound like a yes.

"Oh I wish I could! I wish I could pick up trash along the highway on Saturday! But I can't! I am so sorry! But y'all have fun!"

Note there are no explanations as to why not. It's just that you can't - and that's enough. Even if you can't because you don't want to.

It sounds better when said with a southern accent.

labergerebasque said...

I LOVE this article and it is soooo true ... Woman should sometimes be proud to say “no” IF for no other reason than it makes them more “French” :)

Anonymous said...

As my migraines have increased in frequency , I've become much bolder in saying "no". I've learned very painfully that I cannot over commit myself.

Amelia said...

How am I doing with my "yes" and "no" options? Better than it used to be, but not as well as it should be. This post is exactly what the doctor's order especially at this time of year, with so many obligations and demands on our time, and not enough to go around.


That's Not My Age said...

I've got better at saying no as I've got older, but it's not very English! Thank you for your lovely comment today. Much appreciated.

Shelley said...

I think I'm doing much better with 'No' these days. I never felt I could say no at work. Now that I'm not getting paid to do stuff it's easier for me to say No.

BigLittleWolf said...

Ah yes. People pleasing American-style... to the detriment of our sanity, not to mention, the character of our children.

A good no or non on a regular (and appropriate) basis is the only way to the wholehearted yes or oui to ourselves and our principles.

Not to mention children who know not to go for the third cookie, or the endless whine...

Pamela said...

I'm still in the learning process! My husband helps me at times by insisting I use the no-word. Thank you for encouraging me in this area. I want to be a no-speaking French woman!

mette said...

I believe that the difficulty saying no concerns both sexes.
There is a cultural factor in it, as well as the psychological one.
Trying to change your behavior is difficult, yet possible.

SE said...

Getting a no out of my mouth has always been so difficult.. how I envy French women and their easy 'non'. It's really the only thing that makes sense if you want to live your life and not feel like your days are just a series of favors.

Kathy said...

I'm a disaster and had thought I was getting better, only to notice that I'm worse. A good reminder, well, after the holidays anyway.

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

I am much better than i used to be. It was only after getting burned out by being on too many committees and doing the lions share of the work that i learned how to say no. Now it's easy and I have much more balance in my life. I highly recommend it!

Gretchen said...

I've no issue whatsoever with saying no. I was taught at a very young age to guard my personal time well and only commit to things I wanted to do, and where I could both enjoy that commitment and make a difference. I have zero tolerance for people who over commit, or commit to things they don't really want to do. Grow a backbone is what I want to tell them. Or stop whining and do what you promised you'd do.

Anonymous said...

I am an American, of English and Dutch heritage. As far as I know, I am not at all French, but I've never had the slightest problem in saying "no".

My children & I were watching a tv show some years ago (I think it was Dr. Phil) and the subject was a woman who could never say "no" to her little daughter, to the extent that she bought the child a present Every Single Day. Dr. Phil pointed out how damaging it was to the child to have a parent unable to say "no". My kids turned to me and said, "You say no to us ALL the time, Mom!"

---Jill Ann

Carol said...

i'm still working on the art of saying no. The french have it down pat, a simple no without the long winded reasons why !

Sue - Over 60 and Over Here! said...

I was usually good at saying "no" to my three children (lack of money helped!). There was one occasion I remember well even though it was over 30 years ago! My oldest child Vicky had been in hospital with appendicitis, and she still looked quite frail. We were in a shop and she asked for some sweets, and I said "no", as she had been given lots of presents in hospital. An interfering couple insisted on giving her the money!!! After they left, I said to Vicky "Why don't you buy sweets for your brother and sister? You've been given all these presents and they haven't had anything." She instantly agreed, I'm pleased to say.

playingwithscarves said...

Fun post!
Well, as a French I am not sure I am totally good at saying NO when I should. Getting better though. I have learned my lesson since our family moved to Florida ten years ago. So many people who are not friends who suddenly love you dearly and need absolutely to visit you - just for a couple weeks.
Anne (Playing with Scarves)

Duchesse said...

Gretchen said it well; I'd add, to say your honest no •and equally crucially• your honest yes is to take responsibility for your life.

Tree said...

I read this wise counsel somewhere...

It's important to say "no" to the wrong things. It makes you stronger within yourself and gives you more time to say "yes" to the right things.

Jill said...

I was diagnosed with Fibomyalgia fairly young (at 27) and I *had* to learn to say no, or pay the consequences. It's been very useful, from that perspective. :)

Also as I've gotten older, I too, feel that I don't care if everyone likes me...I have to like me/feel good/be ready for what I need to be ready for in my life, and I can't do that if I say yes to everyone and everything. :)

Tish Jett said...

The reality of life is that no matter what we do, not everyone is going to like us. C'est la vie. So, we might as well protect ourselves and those we care about.

Both yes and no should be considered decisions and both delivered with a smile. . .!

Anonymous said...

I manage volunteers and I *need* them to say no! I tell them, please say no, please only do what you want to do... 'cos I need to ask but if they say no, that's fine, I can find another way around it or if we really can't get volunteers then we need to rethink our idea.

Take some encouragement from a charity volunteer manager - I don't want people doing things they don't enjoy or can't fit in 'cos it's not sustainable or as effective as finding people who actually enjoy and have time for the tasks!

Eleanorjane (good at saying no to others, terrible at saying no to her own expectations!)

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