La Chica: If someone asks me to marry him, and I don’t want to, how do I say no nicely without being rude?
Me: How about “No thank you?”
La Chica: Why didn’t you say that?
Indeed, why didn’t I? I was going to answer that had I said no, she and her brother would not exist. So I’m glad I didn’t say “No thank you.” But she didn’t ask if I was glad or felt regret. She asked why I didn’t say No.
I didn’t say No for the same reasons so many of us take on volunteer work we really don’t have time for, or attend parties with people we’re not really fond of. There are societal pressures. We don’t always know how to say no. We’re afraid to say no. It makes us feel uncomfortable. So many of us say, “Oh it doesn’t matter to me–whatever you want is fine with me,” when in fact, that’s not always entirely accurate. We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so how do we honor our boundaries and needs and desires, with someone else’s?
“No thank you.” These words can be very difficult or uncomfortable to say. We fear rejecting someone and making them feel bad. If the other person feels bad, we’re afraid that means we’re a mean person. So we feel obligated to overextend ourselves. I’ve certainly volunteered more time than God gave in a day and stayed up many a late night making ridiculous cakes and cupcakes and goody bags. I’ve stayed in relationships well past their expiration dates because I just didn’t know how to end things. And honestly, it seemed easier to stay in them than to be really uncomfortable and say a difficult thing. Yes, I am that person.
No, I was that person. I’ve since learned to sit in uncomfortable feelings and breathe through the knowledge that maintaining my boundaries may hurt someone. But I take great care to be kind and gracious and respectful and honest in ensuring my needs are met. That is the best I can do. Is it still uncomfortable? Well, it’s not my favorite thing to do. But it gets easier each time I assert myself and my needs, and I feel immensely better without the cloak of guilt that always used to envelope me after I would say Yes to take on more work or activities or continue in a relationship, friendship or otherwise.
We have to learn to distinguish the difference between making someone feel bad because we were mean or selfish or disrespectful, versus respectfully maintaining boundaries. The latter may involve some feelings of hurt or disappointment on the other person’s part, but it’s not your responsibility to take that on. Unless you choose to. And then we need to practice, practice, practice, saying “No thank you.”
As an aside, I then asked La Chica if she wanted to ever get married, and she said No. I asked her why not, and she said because she didn’t want children. I replied matter-of-factly, “Oh, you don’t need to get married to have children.”
To which she asked, “Then how are babies made?”
To which I quickly shouted, “Want ice cream??”
To which she said, “Yes, thank you!”
Phew! Close one…