There are times when you feel stressed and despite feeling bone tired at the end of the day you realise that you have not managed to finish the tasks that you had planned for the day. To add to the stress is the feeling that you are not giving due time to your family or even yourself. This is because a lot of your time is spent in activities that you undertake only to oblige your friends, colleagues and relatives who take advantage of your gullibility and make you do things that are not your responsibility; and this you do at the cost of your personal activities, leisure or recreation. If such is the case then it’s time that you put your foot down and start saying ‘no’, loud and clear.
It may not be easy in the beginning, because all of us want to be popular and fear that by saying ‘no’ to people asking for favours, we might not remain in their good books. But in an effort to please others, we are not being fair to ourselves as we are putting our personal pleasures, hobbies and commitments at the bottom of our priority list, and sending across the
message that we do not give priority to ourselves and our activities.
Rumana remembers the initial months of her married life. “I was young and eager to please my in-laws. My sister-in-law would come almost every other day and handing over her children with their school bags to me, she would ask me to help them complete their home work, while she went out shopping or just relaxed with her mom. After a few months, I started resenting her visits as they put me under stress. I had to give up my afternoon nap, my evening walk and often my favourite TV programmes. My husband started complaining that I was getting moody and irritable.”
She reminiscences with a smile, “I finally mustered the courage to tell my sister-in-law that I couldn’t carry on with this routine any more and it was her duty to supervise her kids’ homework. For a few days she was upset with me but finally realised my point of view. We share a good relationship and help out each other when need arises, but she does not take me for granted any more.”
Beverly D’Souza, a working woman, says, “Helping people in their hour of need is a natural human instinct, but when others start taking undue advantage of our kindness, thoughtfulness and generosity it is clearly time to pull back and say ‘no’. It is our moral and ethical responsibility to say no to acts which may contribute towards a callous attitude and lack of accountability in the life of any person.”
Anisa Zia, a home-maker, says, “The more you allow people to shun responsibility by agreeing to take their burden off them, the more relaxed they become, leaving you over-worked. If the practice continues, resentment sets in. I think it is better to politely (and firmly) excuse yourself, rather than mince your words. If a relationship is meant to go sour even after you have toiled unnecessarily, it is better for it to end as soon as possible. Because if a person is unable to realise that we all have our own commitments and are pressed for time, he/she is not a sincere friend at all”.
Nusrat Awan, another working woman, recollects the earlier days of her career, “I always found it difficult to say ‘no’ to anyone who asked for a favour, and friends and colleagues cashed in on this weakness. I often brought home my office work as I had spent my working hours helping out a colleague. I compromised on my sleep and time with my daughters because of my inability to say ‘No’!”
She adds with a wry smile, “When I decided to do my Executive MBA, students younger than me would come up asking for help and I never had the heart to say no. After decades of a demanding job and the sudden death of a very loving husband, going back to student life was like a breath of fresh air, and I did not want to lose my new found friends. I remember paying a heavy price for helping a fellow student with his individual presentation. He looked so desperate that I just couldn’t turn him down; as a result my presentation suffered. Even today, although I know that if I want personal time I must learn to say ‘no’, I find it difficult to bring myself to do so.
According to American humorist Josh Billings, “Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying ‘yes’ too quickly and not saying ‘no’ soon enough”. To improve the quality of our lives, we all must set boundaries on how far we can go to oblige family, friends and colleagues. Otherwise we must be ready to be exploited by them at the cost of our personal activities.