I really enjoy my Pilates class on Tuesdays. There are usually only about five of us, and we have some really great conversations. Today the issue arose about what to say when you are asked to do something you really do not want to do. We all agreed that we were not very good at saying “no” and that we often ended up agreeing to do things we really did not want to. We also all felt we had to provide a reason if we did use the dreaded ‘n’ word.
I suppose this isn’t surprising. Although “no” is one of the words we often hear as children, it’s usually a word we are discouraged from using. I can remember getting into a lot of trouble saying ‘no’ when I was a kid. We are taught from an early age that except in cases of emergency, the word ‘no’ is not one you should use very often.
Now all the ladies in the class are really wonderful, but one of us is quite amazing. She’s one of those people who is so full of life and energy it is pretty impossible not to be inspired by her. She a great grandmother, but thinks nothing of jetting off to Malaysia, Poland or China at short notice and seems to take just about everything in her stride. She also looks so young that we are all convinced that she is fibbing when she says she is 76.
This lady maintains that no one should have to make excuses for saying ‘no’ if that is what they felt is appropriate in the circumstances, nor should they have to explain themselves. It’s excellent advice. Seriously, why should you have to explain yourself if you choose to refuse to do something? Then she told us about an old Quaker expression that is still used quite a lot today. It’s “I’m sorry, but I am prevented”.
We were all really taken with this. Let’s face it, unless someone knows you very well indeed, they are unlikely to ask you exactly how you are prevented. Also, the use of an unexpected word - in this case ‘prevented’ - can often throw people off balance. This can buy you time to either change the subject, or get the heck out of there. It’s a definitive, yet not unkind way to say ‘no’, ‘absolutely not’ and ‘forget it’ all rolled into one.
I am definitely going to give it a try next time I am tempted to over-commit - something I do much more often than I’d like to admit!