Saturday, February 5, 2011

on commitment

I have been thinking a lot lately about what it means to say yes and what it means to say no.

and I wish people would just say no, instead of saying yes when really they mean no.

This week was a busy week for me. I had committed myself to a variety of different things, which all sort of piled up on top of themselves to happen this week. But somehow I managed to only say yes to the things that I could actually work into my schedule, not overlapping, and move from one commitment to the next, fulfilling my yeses.

I didn't turn my yeses into nos.

I hate it when people turn their yeses into nos, especially at the last minute.

And it has been happening a lot lately, that other people's yeses turn into last minute nos, and I'm tired of it.

I wish that people would take the time to think about what they are saying yes to before they say yes.

If I asked you to sign up for a free dinner on a night that you have no other obligations, and you say Thursday, and then I ask you again after you signed up, and you say, "Yes, Thursday still works for me", and then I send you an email just confirming that Thursday night is on your schedule, and you reply that you are so excited about dinner on Thursday night, and on Thursday afternoon you send me an email saying that you aren't free after all? Yeah, I'm going to be annoyed.

And if you are the fourth person out of a list of six to respond in the same manner, I might be a little more annoyed.

I'll be especially annoyed if inviting you to dinner is just one of the many, many commitments that I have wished didn't happen to pile up in the same week as other things, but since I already agreed to host you, I won't cancel. Because when I say yes, I mean yes. And when I say no, it is after thinking through what it would have meant to say yes.

and if you are one of the two people out of six who said yes, and yes, and yes, and then failed to even let me know that your yes had turned into a no? Even less respect for you.

This doesn't mean that it's never ok to have to back out of a commitment....I just feel like people back out too quickly, too easily, and without good reason. Quite simply, people have been somehow trained that yes does not need to mean yes, and that it's a nicer way of saying no.

The only nice way of saying no is to be upfront and honest about it.

It's actually fairly easy to say, once you are used to it. I am very good at saying no. Here are a few examples: "No, I'm sorry, I don't think I can commit to bringing cookies to church on that Sunday, because it looks like that might be my only free weekend that month and we'll probably end up going out of town. I'll be happy to let you know if our plans change and we'll be here after all, though." Or.... "I'm flattered that you want me to teach Sunday school, but I'm not sure I have the time to honor the commitment if I say yes right now. My Sunday morning attendance has been shaky lately, and I would hate to commit to you and not follow through." Or.... "I'd love to serve on that committee for you, Mrs. Principal, but I'm already doing this, this and this in the afternoons and I think I need to save some time for preparing my lessons and making sure that I'm doing my best in the classroom. Did you consider asking so-and-so?"

You see, saying no is a pretty easy thing to do. And saying no in a way that helps the other person to understand why you are saying no is also pretty easy.

I have pretty clear and simple rules about what I will commit myself to do, and what I won't. I'll commit myself to activities that help me grow friendships, such as a monthly gathering of women in my age group at church. I'll commit myself to anything I pay for -- particularly classes at the local university. If I paid for it, I better be making it a priority -- especially with the current financial situation in this household. If it goes along with my values, I'll consider committing myself to it. I especially consider the time commitment BEFORE I say yes. Because, as you can probably tell, I don't really like it when people turn their yeses into nos, and I REALLY don't like it when I have to do that, myself.

So people, please. Make your yes mean yes and your no mean no. And use both words wisely. They reflect more about your personality and values than you might think.

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