We feel enormous pressure to fit into a culture that worships extroversion. More specifically, we feel pressure to be outgoing busybodies with a packed social calendar. The desire to keep up with the extrovert ideal drives introverts to say yes to all sorts of things we hate.
We secretly believe that if we say no, our life could start to unravel. We imagine saying no will lead our coworkers to think we’re mean, lazy, or (gasp!) genuinely too busy to do their job for them.
Our acquaintances will realize and create a secret club that gathers weekly for the sole purpose of talking behind our back.
Our chance at real success – the kind that involves money, admiration, and endless attention on Twitter – could be lost forever.
These are just a few of the irrational fears that keep us from saying no to shit we hate. The truth is that saying no to needless obligations frees up time and energy for more worthwhile things. You know, like activities we actually enjoy, and benefit from.
The things we secretly want to say no to vary from one introvert to the next. Our list often includes social obligations, such as happy hour with coworkers, or . Perhaps, we’re dying to say no to community obligations, like strata meetings, or fundraising efforts. Parents might feel the urge to say no to heading up the next school bake sale, or book drive.
Many of us desperately want to say no to work opportunities that seem like , but don’t align with our core values: “Sure, I’ll head up the company fundraising campaign, even though I hate event planning, and I’m pretty sure the charity we’re promoting is a sham.
No matter how strongly we want to say no to something, sometimes we just can’t help it. We say a reluctant and immediately regretted yes. Then we suffer the consequences.
Some of us are such yes people that we actively seek out obligations we know will overwhelm us. Take my friend Emma, for example. A while ago, Emma went through a chaotic period in her life. A close family member had a serious illness, which meant she had to rearrange her life to care for her. On top of this, she had a demanding full-time job, plus a house and dog to tend to.
One day, while Emma and I were catching up over lunch, a friend of hers, who owns a fitness studio, popped over to our booth to say hello.
“How are things?” Emma asked her friend.
“My office girl just quit, so it’s been crazy. I’m pretty much living at the studio, but you do what you gotta do.”
“You know, if you ever need help at the studio, just call me,” said Emma. “Really, I’d be happy to come in and volunteer for a few hours a week. My schedule is flexible, just let me know and I’ll be there.”
As sincere and generous as Emma’s offer was, I couldn’t help but wonder, “What the heck are you thinking?!” From my point of view, Emma’s life looked like a tornado had run through it. The last thing she needed were more obligations.
Sometimes, saying no is simply the omission of yes. It’s keeping your pretty little mouth shut when you’re tempted to volunteer your valuable time and energy for something you don’t actually want to do.
Of course, It’s not always easy to know if the activity in question is worthy of a yes. Like Emma, we might genuinely want to help a friend in need. Most of us want to do the right thing. We want to be good people, we really do. But where do we draw the line between generosity and martyrdom? How do we know if we should say yes or no?
For example, if your main goal in life is to be the best writer you can be, you’ll want to say yes to as many writing opportunities as possible. Meanwhile, you might have to turn down activities that impede your creativity, such as big networking events.
If the thought of doing an activity makes you feel heavy, and even queazy, it’s probably a no. On the other hand, if it makes you feel light and excited, say yes, baby! (I should note that some worthwhile activities are scary. If you’re unsure if that queazy feeling stems from healthy fear, or unnecessary obligation, revert to question #1 and explore in more detail.)
You would think that activities that benefit the most people should always be a yes. Not exactly. You have to gain something too, my friend. The benefit for you could be building confidence, reaching a goal, or gaining a skill that is important to you. Let’s not forget that you can do something just for the pure enjoyment of it. It’s also essential to remember …
You don’t have to please everyone. Truly connecting with one person trumps mildly entertaining the masses.
There are some things in life that we absolutely cannot say no to. Parental obligations are a perfect example of this. Some work commitments are right up there on the list, too. Here’s a tip:
If you are constantly saying yes to shit you hate in one particular area of your life, consider making a major change. If you hate every aspect of your job, it might be time for a career change. If you hate everything about raising your family in the big city, maybe it’s time to consider relocating.
Of course, such decisions can’t be taken lightly. But they shouldn’t be ignored either. Saying yes to stuff we hate takes its toll on introverts. It drains our precious introvert energy, and makes life infinitely more sucky.
Life’s too short to say yes to shit you hate.