Yes and No


My post earlier in the week about life as an introvert seemed to strike a chord with some readers of DorkyMum – it’s always nice when that happens – so I thought I’d expand a little bit on one of the specific challenges I’ve faced.

Knowing when to say yes, and when to say no.

The most important thing I’ve learned as I’ve got older is how to say NO. I am a people-pleaser, and always have been. I hate confrontation, and can’t stand the thought of making folk unhappy. So I’ve spent many years accepting invitations to events I don’t want to go to and volunteering for committees I don’t want to be on. Age has taught me that, actually, it’s okay to say NO, and that it’s possible to do that firmly but politely.

The most important thing I’ve learned as I’ve got older is how to say YES. I am instinctively cautious, and would far rather stay at home reading a book than socialise with strangers or visit somewhere unfamiliar. Age has taught me that, actually, it’s okay to say YES, and that if you do that it can lead to happy adventures.

Isn’t it funny that both those things can be true?

What age has really taught me is that it’s important to be thoughtful before you respond to any question or make any decision. It’s important to work out why you’re leaning towards one way or another. It’s important to make sure your answer – whatever it is – is a good one.

The only difference that being an introvert makes is that those thought processes need to take place in private, rather than in public. Of course I will always seek advice from my inner circle – those friends and family members who know it all. I will absorb that advice and take it into consideration. But to make a good decision I need time, and space, and quiet. I need a long morning walk on the beach, or an hour of acupuncture, or ten quiet minutes with a cup of tea.

And then it becomes obvious.

A good yes is about courage, about pushing yourself upwards and outwards, about moving forwards.

A bad yes is about obligation and guilt.

A good no is about confidence, about self-respect and setting healthy boundaries.

A bad no is about fear, or stress, or worry.

I am still learning the difference between the two, and I think that’s a lesson that will take me forever. I will always make mistakes – sometimes I will say no and then worry that I’ve missed out on something great. Sometimes I’ll say yes, and then not enjoy an experience as much as I’d hoped to.

No one can get every YES right and every NO right, but the difference between me now and me ten years ago is that now I give myself the best possible chance of making the right decision. I never answer in haste. I never answer out of obligation. I am not afraid.

At the same time as trying to work all this out for myself, I’m trying to teach DorkySon the difference between the two. Gosh, it is hard. He, like me, is best left to do things at his own pace. I respect that.

This time nine months ago, you couldn’t have got him into face paint or a dress up costume for love or money. Now that he’s part of a kindergarten group who seem to have a birthday party every weekend, he’s happy to do both. By respecting his NO every time it came, it eventually turned into an enthusiastic YES.

Sometimes I like to surprise him. I can tell by the way he asks a question if he has already anticipated a NO from me. I’m sitting on the computer working, or I’m unloading dishes, or I’m on the phone.

Can you play cars with me?

“Can I have my Hobnob (or as he calls them nob-bobs) before my lunch instead of after?

Can we go to the park this afternoon?

Well yes, yes we can, sweet boy.”

The delight on his face fills me up.

When it comes to answering questions – of DorkyDad, of DorkySon, and of myself – I am trying to save NO for the times that really matter. Knives and electricity. Disrespect and intolerance.

To everything else I say yes.

yes I said yes I will Yes.

27 responses

  1. I loved your post about being an introvert. I am one myself, the worst one I have ever known in real life, actually. While I always have a lot of trouble with saying NO, I think it does you good to say it whenever you feel like it would be the right answer.

  2. Ha, this is so so so so brilliant. I think it also depends on stages of life. I remember a time when I was lonely, having just come out of a long relationship, and what I wanted was to stay at home being comfortable. But what I needed was to get out there and make new connections. So I made a conscious decision to say yes more often. Which is how I met some lifelong friends and eventually my husband, as well as finding a love of skiing. My poor mum too often says no these days, and her circle of comfort is now so small she’s frightened to ever say yes. Which is a huge shame, as when she does she is a different person!

    And you’re spot on with Dorky Son. The Bug is very similar, and pushing him into something will just make everything worse, but when he gets it he really gets it!

    Delightful post!

  3. Something I have also struggled with for a long time, and you are right, it does get easier with age to say no! You talk about being introverted, but I notice that you sound like you also lean very much towards being a highly sensitive person – have you read much about it?

  4. Is Young playing with knives and electricity again? Silliness aside, this is a wonderful post, and it is something I need to work on. I have too many yeses from guilt, and not enough nos to preserve me. Thanks for sharing!

  5. This really struck a chord with me, being an introvert if I’m invited to a social get together (which thankfully isn’t very often) my first reaction is “Oh No, how can I get out of this”!
    Usually I do end up going (because I can’t find a good enough excuse!) & I find that I do usually have a good time. I just wish I could say “Yes” without hesitation & not be so anxious about whether I’ll find topics of conversation to join in with or even start up a conversation!
    In other instances if I’m asked to do something for someone that I don’t want to do, I usually say yes because I too am a people pleaser & find it really hard to say no because I feel like I’m letting the person down & then I feel guilty. I sometimes wish I could just say no & I’ve observed over the years that there are a lot of people who seem to have no problem saying no, I’m just not one of them!

  6. This is what I needed! It is the hardest decision to understand. So simple but so full of emotion as to what is right and what is wrong for yourself no matter what anyone else thinks.

  7. Another really thought provoking post… For me, it’s also important to prioritise my yes’s and no’s out of pure time management rather than anything else, I would get really cross at myself for saying yes to another school commitment, or something I really didn’t want to go to, and having the confidence to say no is really uplifting! 😀

  8. Very thought provoking. I am going to consider my answers more and try to get positive yeses in more often. Thank you for the inspiration and motivation.

  9. What a lovely post Ruth, ts very good to think on these things sometimes and to remember it is important to thoughtfully consider both yes or no answers and not just rush in. Mich x

  10. I am awful at saying no, it’s one of those life skills that I need to get my head around sooner rather than later. The Aussie air is agreeing with you, you are like some sort of karmic yoda and it’s fab x

  11. Although I’m not necessarily an introvert, I suffer with social anxiety which can be quite difficult to manage at times, and like you I struggle with yes and no. I say “yes” under the weight of social norms a and expectation of others, but 90% of times I end up backing out of things anyway. This then creates a horrible cycle of friends asking me do do things, expecting me to flake out, me saying yes because of the reasons above AND their added doubt of me doing anything, and then I flake out as expected. I’ve been trying super hard lately to be more honest and realistic and to just say NO when I feel I need to. It’s not easy but it’s making my life easier in the long run.

  12. oh dear…i still have to learn how to say NO. maybe as i will be approaching 40s i will learn how to do so…for now my girls are pleased i can say YES quite often,
    great post Ruth!

  13. Brilliant post! I really need to learn to say No more often and when I do say no, I need to not dwell on it or feel guilty. Easier said than done but I definitely need to try x

  14. Wow. I read your first post on being an introvert and I had the wrong impression of that type of personality. I’ve always been called an introvert, and it was always said as an insult. But I truly am an introvert and I am proud. Thank so much on your posts!

  15. Excellent follow-up to your introvert post! I enjoy learning from your life experience; and I feel grateful that I don’t have to always “reinvent the wheel”, but can learn from others when it comes to my own issues as an introvert.

  16. Pingback: Yes and No

  17. wow! this is really great and true. I’m an introvert and you really pinned it all down. You also are a really talented writer, and I learned something important about raising my own children from this post. I got so much out of this enjoyable read thanks!

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