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  • Writer's pictureErika Nichols-Frazer

How to Say "No"

I'm not very good at saying "no." Need a favor? Sure! Invite me to do something? I'll make it work. Want me to work for free or next to nothing? I'm trying to set boundaries for myself and learn to draw the line. Trying, but sometimes, it's hard. I want to be everything to everyone and I just can't keep up. My husband, Dylan, is great at saying no. He feels no guilt at not doing something he doesn't want, or have time, to do. He never seems to feel bad turning someone down and encourages me to do the same. But I can't quiet that guilty voice that seems to believe my worth is connected to going out of my way to please others, to be useful.

My boundaries were tested this week by a potential employer who was demanding too much of me, not respecting my time, and expected me to work for less than I think reasonable with a vague and inconsistent workload. It was a couple conversations in before these conditions were revealed. Had I known the pay rate and expectations - plus the fact that this was a start-up and couldn't guarantee me regular work - I wouldn't have applied. But now I was in it, several conversations deep, including ones I'd rearranged my schedule for and were then a useless waste of my time and could easily have happened over email. Also, the guy I was talking to was putting up all these red flags and didn't seem like a good fit with me personality-wise. He asked me uncomfortable questions and even mocked one of my projects, saying "No offense, but how can someone your age write a memoir? What is it, like, four chapters?" (Saying "no offense" doesn't make it any less offensive.). "Cut 'em loose!" Dylan said, but I immediately felt bad that I'd gotten this far in and wanted to back out. Fortunately, Dylan kept me laughing by making up excuses, which ranged from he'd gotten in a horrible accident and I needed to care for him full-time to I was going to work as our dog's executive assistant. In the end, he reminded me that I didn't owe this person who wasn't respecting my time and skills a thing. I cancelled the next scheduled conversation (during the middle of my work day, which would have been disruptive) and backed away. It felt good afterward, to have gotten out of this less-than-ideal situation, to have set boundaries for myself and say "no."

I'm trying to get better at it, but I'm a work-in-progress.

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