Yesterday I talked about why I think volunteering is frugal. Today I’ll just say no.
Admittedly, saying ‘no’ is something I have a lot of problems with. Catch me at the wrong time and I’ll probably agree to whatever you’re asking, just to get you off the phone. Face-to-face is even harder as I have a hard time rejecting people in person (which explains much of my teenage dating history). Saying no in French is more difficult for me as the trite excuses I would most likely fall back on don’t flow as seamlessly off my tongue in a foreign language.
But the problems of being over scheduled can outweigh the benefits of volunteering in the first place: spreading oneself too thin and all that. What good are you doing your little sister if you have no time to spend with her; how can you help the food bank if you never have time to take your shift? Not to mention that your own personal and familial obligations are more likely to fall through the cracks if you are overextended.
Recently I have said yes to three things that I shouldn’t have, hereafter to be referred to as The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
The Good: I mentioned yesterday being heavily involved in several breastfeeding associations. One of them is a sort of big sisters, little sisters support group where new moms are paired with more experienced moms. I was called late one night by the organizer and agreed to be a big sister due to a) being asked on the phone and b) being asked in French. Immediately after getting off the phone I moaned to my husband about my inability to refuse a request. However, I have had several meetings with my new little sister (and her sweet, sweet baby) and I am not regretting this new commitment one bit.
The Bad: I was agreed to lead the program committee of the networking association for which I am a former secretary. I have managed to extract myself from some of the obligations to the group, but not all of them. I classify this decision under ‘bad’ because I am worried that I will not be able to do my work well due to being overextended.
The Ugly: I also agreed to help organize a local demonstration to be held as part of a national event in October. I thought I was just asking for information and agreeing to spread the word in the local English-speaking community; they read this as agreeing to help organize it. When they said to me, face-to-face ‘So, you’re willing to help us organize, how great!’, I could only gulp and shrug. This one is going to be ugly because the even is to be held shortly after I start school and the co-organizer is relatively inexperienced. To help get around these problems, I’m spreading the word and asking for help amongst all those I know who might be interested in the issue.
Not saying no isn’t always a bad thing, as evidenced by the ‘good’ example above. However, I’m resolving to be better at refusing when something doesn’t work for me. Here are some ways to do so:
- Practice makes perfect Learn and practice some key polite phrases such as “I’m really busy at the moment, but I’m more available in the Spring”
- Pass the buck Volunteer another person’s name: “It’s just not possible for me at the moment. Have you talked to Sue?”.
- Put it off You can always try the I’ll get back to you routine. “I don’t have my calendar in front of me right now. Let me get back to you tomorrow” and then you send them a polite email of refusal.
Are you an expert at saying no? How do you do it? Give me your best tips… please!