Several years ago over the Christmas holiday my entire family had gathered together. My then two and half year old niece was very excited. First there were all kinds of people to show off for and get attention from. Second it was Christmas Eve. I don’t remember what my brother, her father, was trying to get her to do but she wasn’t having any of it. She stood with her hands on her hips and shouted, “No, no, no, no, no and no!”
Of course, to a two and half year old the word “No” is the best invention ever! And to my Brother and Sister-in-law, it was a word that they heard way too often from her. Due to some recent events in my own life, I got to thinking about the word “No.” As a creative person do I say it enough? As a nice person do I say it enough? When my intuition is saying it, do I listen to my intuition?
Last week at work, when answering the phone I got a marketing call. A woman answered my greeting and asked if I had health insurance. I responded that I did. She asked me how much my insurance cost. I told her that I would not answer that question. She then stated that her company could get my health insurance costs cut in half. She could not see me, but I was raising one eyebrow skeptically. (It always makes me skeptical when people make promises without knowing anything about me or my situation.) I stated firmly and politely that was very nice but I was very busy at the moment…. Before I could finish my sentence she launched into a monologue about if I would only answer 5 quick questions she could give me an instant quote. I responded no, thank you…. Again before I could finish she launched into a barrage of questions requesting my age, height, weight, educational background, and income. That was it. I had tried to be polite. I tried to give this person the benefit of the doubt. I said to her, this time not letting her finish a sentence, “That information is none of your business. Do not call this number ever again.” And I hung up. Telemarketers are trained to push and keep you on the phone. It’s their job to get your information and sell you whatever product. It is okay to say no politely. But sometimes one must use stronger language and if all else fails….hang up.
In the book The Artist Way by Julia Cameron, during week 5, she talks about “The Virtue Trap.” We worry that if we are not nice and that our friends and family won’t like or accept us. We worry what other people will think. We worry that we will not appear generous, supportive, or of service to the world. And we neglect ourselves. This trap ties in directly with our ability to say “No.” Instead of taking care of ourselves by saying no, we say “yes” and be nice.
“We expect our artist to be able to function without giving it what it needs to do so. An artist requires the upkeep of creative solitude. An artist requires the healing of time alone. Without this period of recharging, our artist becomes depleted.” The Artist Way by Julia Cameron
When you are a nice person, people don’t want or expect you to tell them no. It is important to take care of yourself and say “No.” If you have flown on an airplane at one time or another, you have seen the safety presentation where the flight attendant demonstrates how to put on the oxygen mask in case of an emergency. You always put your mask on first before helping others. The reasoning is that without oxygen you can’t help others. If you do not take care of yourself by saying no and setting boundaries, you are not giving yourself oxygen and are of no help to anyone else.
Have you ever noticed when your intuition says no? Do you listen? I had a situation a while ago that required my intuition. I had known a gentleman because of my job. We would always say hello. There might be some small talk about the weather but that was it. On one occasion we were waiting in line and he asked me if I was seeing anyone. At that time I was not and stated such. He then asked if I would like to get together with him for dinner or coffee. I said that would be nice. He called me at work, gave me his phone number and asked me to call him that evening and I did. It was an odd phone call but I gave him the benefit of the doubt. We set up a time and met for lunch one Saturday. The restaurant had these round tables. I sat down, thinking we would sit across from each other in order that we could talk. He sat down next to me. I would scoot away. He would scoot closer and again I would scoot away. It almost became an odd game of chasing me around the table. The conversation was not flowing very well. He made a couple statements about his ex-fiance that made me uncomfortable and then proceeded to grill me about my divorce. I felt that the experience was awkward, uncomfortable and generally dissatisfying. He told me to give him a call when I had free time. I said okay (being nice). I thought he felt that the relationship wasn’t going anywhere as well and was “letting me down easy.” But for him this was just the beginning.
This person would text me and if I didn’t respond within a certain amount of time accuse me of ignoring him. Even if the texts were in the middle of my work day. He would call me at work and if I told him I couldn’t talk right now he would demand that I promise to call him that evening. Even if I told him I was busy teaching or already had plans for the evening and wouldn’t be able to talk. I decided that I was going to have to tell him no and to leave me alone. After several more bizarre texts from him, I finally told him that it wasn’t working and wished him the best. He still wanted to engage in a relationship with me. I had to not respond to his texts in order for him to leave me alone.
From the odd phone call and icky lunch, and the way communication continued my intuition was screaming at me…..”GET AWAY FROM THIS PERSON!!!” I have since heard some things that validated my intuition in regards to that individual. I am very glad that I listened to my intuition and got out of that situation.
The thing was that he didn’t look or act like a “villain.” On paper I’m sure he looked very typical or even normal. But intuitively I knew something was off. When the intuitive voice speaks we need to listen to it even if in all other respects the situation appears normal. In a blog post called “Intuition” Seth Godin said, “Don’t dismiss intuition merely because it’s difficult to understand. You get better at it by practicing.”
There are people in our lives who push us to do things their way or by their own agenda. We all want our own way at different times. But part of living with other humans is compromise. But this blog post is not about compromise. It is about protecting ourselves. No is a powerful word. As a creative person, as a nice person and especially when your intuition is saying it, I give you permission to use it. Now put your hands on your hips and repeat after my niece and I, “No, no, no, no, no and no!”