One of my closest friends is an expert on saying no. He’s famous for in our small circle of friends, if we don’t want to do something we refer to it as “Pulling a Pete”.
Pete is a warm, friendly and smart guy who I am proud to call my friend. He is however unusual in the way he goes about things. When asked to do something, he is able to take the emotion out of a situation and think pragmatically about his response.
The first time I became aware of his ‘superpower’ was when we were about to move house. I asked if he would help us with the move. Pete’s response came in the form of a question, “Do you have money to pay for someone to move you? When I responded that we did, he said well then you should pay someone to do it like I did. I was at first taken aback at his response, yet the more I considered it the more I realized that it was perfectly reasonable. Pete had recently paid professionals a lot of money to move his household items and then we asked him to use his weekend to do it for us so we could save money. I have helped people to move who have not had the money or who just needed a bit of help. If we are talking a whole house move, is it reasonable to ask someone else to do it for you? What else is it ok to say no to?
Would you ask your friends to clean your house, drive you to work or do your laundry, probably not. I am not saying we shouldn’t do nice things for our friends. Though once someone says no, shouldn’t we respect that decision and not demand an explanation or a reason?
I met up with Pete last week while I was back in England and learned of his most recent ‘No’. He and his wife were dining in a very crowded pub when a couple came and asked if he would mind if they shared their table. Pete said yes he would mind. As most British people would die rather than be embarrassed in such a way, this was a bold move. The potential diners asked why not and Pete explained that he simply wanted to share a private lunch with his wife. The man decided they would sit there anyway and a period of awkwardness followed. I can assure you I would not have dared do that. Here in the US it would be an unusual request but in England it is not uncommon for people to share a table with strangers if the restaurant is busy,
Growing up, I remember my Mum being terrified to receive a ‘chain letter’, these horribly insidious things preyed on superstition. The letter threatened if you didn’t copy out and mail the letter to 20 more people, nasty things would befall your family. People were so afraid of these letter that they would go to the expense and time to follow the instructions in order not to break the chain.
These days the chain letter has been replaced with the pressure to share posts on social media. I still mostly say no. I won’t share a clickbait post to prove, I love my sister, have the best kid or support your charity, unless I want to that is. I am not afraid to say no and yet still there are times when I wonder. What would Pete do?
If you say yes because you are afraid to say no, and end up being resentful, won’t that ultimately have a more detrimental effect on the relationship than saying no in the first place?
Don’t stop asking. The more we ask and understand that it is ok to be told no, the more, we get used to the feeling. A no is not a rejection of you, just the request.
Say no and don’t feel you have to give a reason. Last night I asked my husband if he wanted to go see Dolly Parton in concert, he said “Hell No” there was no excuse or reason offered.
Some of my favorite people say no to me all the time. How would I know they don’t want to go to the opera, environmental seminar or any of the new therapeutic experiences I want to experience if I didn’t ask. Oh and I definitely want to to go the new flotation tank if anyone is interested?
Back to Pete. There are many things he has said yes to. Driving to a hospital in a different town to collect me l after I had major surgery. Yes to transporting all of the leftover food after my 40th birthday party in the early hours of the morning. Yes to showing up to every event I plan when I go back to visit the UK.
If we say no to the things we really don’t want to to do, we have space for the things we do. Our relationships are more honest and respectful and we don’t have to feel awkward or uncomfortable.
I would love to hear your thoughts. What do you struggle to say no to?