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  • Gary Borland

#32 Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

How do I respond to requests and why?

Have you found yourself saying Yes when you really want to say No? Have others said Yes to something you asked of them because they didn’t really feel comfortable saying No? Do you really believe you have choice when someone makes a request of you? Do you leave space for choice when making a request of someone else? And how often do the requester and responder end up with very different understandings of what was being asked and what commitment was made? We touched on elements of each of these in previous blogs and turn our attention now to the range of options when responding to requests, and some of the reasons we might find it difficult to say anything other than a half-hearted Yes.

For Yes to powerfully mean Yes, it’s likely that there needs to be a belief that saying No is an option. Assuming that we have got very clear about the specifics of the request (see previous blog), then it could be argued that there are only really 4 responses:

1. Yes: I commit to completing the specific request in the timeframe requested.

2. No: I do not commit.

3. A counter-offer: I cannot commit to the specifics and/or the timeframe, but I can commit to something different that’s then specified. This is still a No, but offers a different commitment.

4. A commit to commit: I’ll tell you by a specific time whether I can or can’t commit to the request.

Without getting overly technical about how we speak, in an exchange between people where someone is making a request of others, we need a clear request and a clear response. If either or both of those are not present, we can expect at some future point to find people being disappointed, frustrated, stressed, resentful, discouraged, confused, sad, embarrassed, hurt, or angry. Sound a bit extreme? Test it out for yourself and perhaps try asking people around you what they’ve experienced in circumstances they’ve been in.

So, why do we say Yes so often and so habitually? There are many times when we commit as an act of service to others which is an important part of living our lives in community. But the reasons we say Yes when we really mean No are likely to be complex and different for each of us. However, it seems to me that there are a few things that often arise for people I’ve spoken to about this. It might be that you’re pleased to be asked because it gives some sense of belonging to something or being connected to someone, and in these circumstances, you may choose to say Yes even when you’d really rather not.

But what if the reason you say Yes is because you’re worried about what someone will think of you if you say No? What if the view of myself is shaped so much by the opinions and views of others that I’ve perhaps lost a bit of myself? I might say Yes because the person seems to be leaving me little choice, or because they’ve painted such a dire picture of their circumstances that I believe I have no choice. Or what if my opinion of myself is so low, that I find myself prepared to do whatever someone else asks to please them? There aren’t easy answers to any of these, but awareness is the first step. If you think some of this may apply to you, why not connect with someone who can help you see how incredible you are and begin to celebrate and focus on who you are instead of who you’re not. Remember – YOU are AMAZING just as you are!


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