While eating lunch with my girlfriend, Kathy, she was sharing her frustration about saying yes to helping another friend in a couple of days. Kathy knew very well her life plate was already overfilled and this project was going to take her all day. And, she purposefully set aside that day to get caught up with her own life.
This is a pattern I’ve seen with Kathy throughout the years. Over giving of herself and being last on her list. We’ve talked about it before and she’s definitely made some inroads toward changing this but here she was, once again.
I continued to listen and when she stopped long enough to take a breath, I found myself saying something that I hadn’t before:
“Kath, from my experience, an honest no is more loving than a dishonest yes.”
The Stare Down
She just stared at me. I mean, stared. No facial expression. No words. Nothing. I wasn’t sure what was happening for her but I figured I’d just stare back to see who would blink first.
Next thing I know she’s on the phone to her friend telling her she can’t stick to her original yes because, “An honest no is more loving than a dishonest yes.”
My blank stare turned into a loving smile.
She went on to explain her ‘honest no’ in the most kind, graceful and confident way. No long explanations, no begging for forgiveness. Just this is the truth and I hope you understand. I know her friend took it well because before Kathy hung up, she said, “I love you, too, and thank you for understanding.” Now that friend is a keeper!
I was blown away how different she looked as she smiled at me feeling very proud of herself. All the stress had left her face, she was glowing and looked younger. Our lunch took on a completely different energy as my wonderful friend Kathy got to experience the joy of an ‘honest no’.
Now in case you’re thinking her friend’s response could have gone differently, yes, that possibility is always there. And that doesn’t mean Kathy’s ‘honest no’ was the wrong thing to do. When we agree to things that we know full well we don’t have time for, the bandwidth for, the ability to be fully present for, it can turn into resentment and we may not give the best of ourselves at the time. This becomes unfair to the person we’re supposed to care about and want to help.
We have no control how people will react to an ‘honest no’. We only have control over being as honest as possible with a request as it occurs. Sometimes that may mean saying you need to think about it. You need to check your schedule. There’s no law that says you have to jump to an answer simply because someone wants one in the moment.
I have often shared with clients who struggle with their no to say it this way:
“Thank you for trusting me enough to want my help. At this time I can’t because I’m overcommitted in my life and don’t think I can give you the best of myself right now. And you deserve someone who can give you their best.”
Or some version of that, that is comfortable for you.
You can replace overcommitted in my life with anything that is true for you. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is in the long run is…………….