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The Freedom Word

My friend had tears running down her face.

“I can’t seem to get this camping trip organized with my in-laws. And we have guests arriving tomorrow. I don’t seem to be able to get my household organized….”

She was floundering because she was dependent on others setting her schedule. If her in-laws would not give her a timeline of availability, she could make no firm plans. If her guests gave no indication of what sites they wanted to see, or what they might like to do, she could not plan anything.

Or so she thought.

When we were first married, there was a member of my extended family who would wrangle my schedule around to fit hers. If I protested I couldn’t do something, she would ask why not and then I would ramble on with my reasons and excuses. No matter what reason I gave, she had an answer to fix it so that I could do what she wanted. I floundered. I felt like lying I’m sure I have an appendectomy that day! But she probably would have called the surgeon to reschedule me.

While I was on the phone my husband would stand in front of me holding a piece of paper that said, “Just say NO!” It was hard. But I learned something from my relative.

When she couldn’t do something (or didn’t feel like it) she would simply say, “Nope. That won’t work for me.” No explanations. Just silence…..a long silence…. She didn’t feel the need to fill that air space with excuses. She refused to give any excuse or tell me what the reason was. It was just a firm, no. No excuses, no questions, no wiggle room. (It always made me feel like it was a super-important commitment she couldn’t break when she said it that way.)

Her no gave her freedom to do what mattered to her. Her no meant she got to set her schedule and not have others ruin her plans.

My friend Heather (an über-organized soul) responds to queries this way: “Oh that sounds fun! Well, here is when I’m available.”

Notice how she affirmed that she wanted to do it, but then told me when it fit in with her plans? (When pressed she admitted Monday wouldn’t work because that was when she had scheduled doing paperwork and filing at home!) I laughed because I knew that was why her life ran like clockwork. She wasn’t buffeted by the demands of others.

How many of us schedule self-appointments like that? Because Heather sets her schedule and then lets other know when she can fit them in, she gets her to-do’s done. She accomplishes more than most people I know. Her no (with a smile) gives her freedom to pursue what’s important to her.

Your no doesn’t have to be a doctor’s appointment or a funeral. It can simply be an appointment with yourself to workout, clean your closet or do paperwork. It’s still a valid appointment.

Learn to live with silence while others scramble to find a solution after you’ve said no. Smile when you say it. When pressed, answer: “I have an appointment.”

I’m not an expert, I tend to ramble with excuses. But after I shared my no stories with my friend she smiled with hope. “Well! That’s true, I could just say …no that won’t work—but here’s what works for me!”

No is not negative. No means yes to what’s important to you. No gives you freedom.

This Independence Day, join the free and the brave. Just say no.


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