Below is a continuation from the previous post, following an online Q&A from “Don’t Be Mad at Your Yes.”
Here’s Round Two of Q&A with Jennifer Mazzola on her new book Don’t Be Mad At Your Yes!
*How do ya deal with people who won’t just say no? I seem to get ignored, appeased, or dropped at the last minute on a regular basis. Yes I can hear no, and I respect boundaries. So it’s frustrating & hurtful. It’s hard to put myself out there, and it’s even harder to not be a little guarded when I do. Suggestions?
Just to make sure I understand what you’re encountering … you feel like people aren’t willing to be honest with their own yes or no with you? You invite people to things, or they invite you, and then, in what feels like a consistent pattern, you get “dropped” or bailed on.
The first question that comes to mind is how often is this happening? I have caught myself feeling like something always happens, but when I step back it’s only been once or twice. Then, when I step back further, I realize I’m taking some things from my past and pulling them into my present, crafting something that’s not truly there.
The second thought that comes to mind is I wonder why this is happening, and have you every simply asked? I know we can have a fear of sounding whiny and needy, but I can’t tell you how often I have thought one thing, harbored a hurt or sadness because of it, but was afraid to simply ask if that’s what was going on. I didn’t want to admit I felt left out or hurt. I’ve told people that we believe friendships will be easier as an adult. I don’t think they are, and sometimes my feelings can toss me right back to middle school and make me feel so small.
On the topic of people bailing, I do think sometimes we create a space where repeat patterns like that are “okay,” meaning people feel like they can bail. And the thing is, they can. They can say no just like we can. Our work, and it’s hard work, is to figure out how we can accept their no and release our own rite to our no.
There are two friends of mine that come to mind when I think of the scenarios you are mentioning. They are amazing women. Still, they do get treated like this often. I honestly don’t know why. I do know that for one of them, they ended up needing to shift to a new group/community. We walked through the whole process of “getting a new set of friends” without being bitter or carrying wounds, and that was tough. But eventually, she landed in a group where she felt accepted and known on an entirely new level, and she did so without resentment toward the other ladies she was trying to connect with.
I may have missed what you were asking, so please clarify for me, but those are my thoughts from the way I read your question.
On page 13, under Speak Clearly, the focus is on not giving unnecessary explanation. I really struggle with apologizing & explaining my no .Then getting frustrated when my explanation is argued or used to try sway me. Then I have to argue the validity of my no. Crazy! Just flat saying no seems harsh. Is there an easier way to be direct without blurting out NO!
I have written about this very topic several times. I posted a blog this week that I’ll link here. (This is part two of a short series.)
If I had a dollar for every time I said, “It’s okay, no big deal,” after someone apologizes or for every time I rushed to explain how I would go ahead and figure out a way to fix the “no big deal” thing they dropped the ball on. And most of the time it’s not a “big deal,” but that doesn’t mean it’s not a deal at all.
I think our culture over-complicates both apologies and acceptance of apologies. In an effort to make things less awkward or to shift responsibility, we add addendums to what should be very simple phrases.
In processing a conflict in my own life last week, I was sharing how I didn’t want to come across harsh, rude, or confrontational. A friend of mine said, “There is a difference in being direct and being confrontational.” That was so what I needed to hear.
When people meet with me, and we are sorting through a situation, they share with me what they want to say, and it’s usually pretty much perfect. It’s when we are facing the person we are dealing with, we seem to go into autopilot placating, fluffing things up, or complicating very simple issues. I believe we do this in fear. When you are sitting and talking with me, you just say what’s on your heart because you are genuinely trying to think through something. I’m always like, “Say that! It was great!” but then you get in front of the person and all those feelings and worries invade. Being direct is difficult.
You do not have to “argue the validity of your no,” and you can even say that.
Example: “I am unable to do that.” They push back. ”I’m not able to say yes at this point, and I hope you can respect that.” (There are about a million variations on this.)
You also don’t need to “blurt.” It’s funny how “no” for so many of us feels like yelling. Like it’s blunt. Like it’s rude. The irony is, God is a big fan of no. And God keeps it simple. I love that Jesus adds that word “simply” in his yes and no guidance. Simply let your yes be yes and your no be no. I think we often have experienced a rude/blunt no, and that etched in our minds, is something we fight not to be. But often times, in an effort to not be like someone else, we end up also not being ourselves. That is not why God equipped us with a yes and no.
You are not rude. “No” is not “flat.” It could be a “not right now” or a “that’s just not for me” or “I don’t think that is wise.”
Also, it’s not “crazy” to struggle with saying no. You are far from alone, and people will push back. They will be confused. Mainly because we don’t live in a society that is comfortable with clear, simple, and honest communication. We are used to people having healthy boundaries and still loving us. That’s radical. We don’t know what to do with people that seem to have confidence, peace, humility and comfort with who they are, yet grace and an expansive space to allow others to experience love and grace for themselves. That is foreign to most people. It’s supposed to be.
The last statement really packs a punch! We don’t get to blame others for our poor boundaries! My son is pretty hyper & he wears me out, a lot I know if I wasn’t distracted with other people’s problems, ya know the ones they always have cause they don’t want to change. If I wasn’t trying to fix things for my friends and family, I could probably give my son the time his counselor says he needs. I feel guilty no matter what I do I’m letting someone down. Help?
Not knowing the dynamics of your home, or what your son requires, here are just a few thoughts.
If the “other people’s problems” are things you can allot a certain amount of time and attention to, and then let the rest go by saying something like “I can help ________ one afternoon a week” or “I can do __________ for _________ once a month” and doing the hard work of walking that out, then I think they can be helpful.
I would also spend time in prayer/with God about how you are “trying to fix things for my friends and family.” I would look at “the things” and the “friends and family.” Are these things they should actually be doing for themselves? Are they asking for the help? Is over helping them a distraction? If so, is it a break from your norm, or an avoidance?
I’m also thinking about your statement “no matter what, I’m letting someone down,” and my gut thought is yes, yes you will. You can’t be all things to all people. You are not made that way. There’s only one person for that job. So yes, you will let people down, just like people have let you down. We have to practice forgiveness for those moments for ourselves and for them. But if you are worried you might let someone down, you will. We all do. I have not found a passage that says, “Never let anyone down,” but I have found several moments in scripture where we are encouraged to do our best, care for others the best we can, and then trust God with the gaps.
Romans 12:18 is a cornerstone passage for me:
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
For me, this means I can only go “as far as it depends on me,” and that is “if it is possible.” So it won’t always be possible, and I have to work to not go “farther than depends on me” or “less than it depends on me.” The only way to “measure” the distance I can go with people is to stay connected and accountable to God. I can’t go as far as it depends on other people, that’s between them and God. I just have my walk to walk, my distance to go.
Lastly, I have recently been convicted of how I have managed my roles in life. There is only one role I am uniquely made for on this planet. I can work my tail off, and then quit, and they will fill my shoes. I can volunteer and lead, and take a break, and they will find another leader. Friendships come and go. But I am the only one to give birth to my two sons. No one else can claim that or replace that. That is a role truly unique to me. And I have not always given the same energy to that role as I have to other roles that are not nearly as unique.
Now that does not mean I need to enable my sons or create an environment ripe for codependency. It simply means I need to look at how I am managing my energy and efforts when it comes to this unique role. I’ll be honest. It’s easier for me to help someone in one of my small groups with a problem than it is to deal with teen boy attitude and discipline. I seem to get more praise and gratitude from work than I do my 15-year-old. But work will replace me. People learn from countless spiritual directors. My sons only have one mother.
That being said, if your son is in counseling, I really think sorting through how to balance your dynamic with him with his counselor would be wise. I don’t know how his brain chemistry works, what experiences have shaped him, where he struggles, or where he soars, but you do. And hopefully his counselor does. That is also a good source of guidance.