Hump Day: Saying no to good things is not always easy

Hump Day 2 croppedHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016
Moncton Times & Transcript

I assume most of us want to help others when we can. Is someone asks, we’ll often say yes automatically.

After becoming overwhelmed with volunteer work recently, I’ve decided that ‘no’ needs to become part of my vocabulary more often. This will make some people who know me laugh heartily, I’m sure, since ‘no’ is already one of my favourite words – at least toward them – but not so much toward others.

Perhaps September is one of those months that’s overwhelming for everyone with seemingly everything starting up again. Regardless, in the past couple of weeks I hit a wall. I had board meetings and other events every night – or so it seemed. By the time I had one night to myself, I was either behind on other stuff and had to work or was too tired to just enjoy a relaxing night at home – and there’s nothing wrong with that from time to time!

Normally, volunteer work and other off-hours obligations are spread out a bit, but September craziness took over this year! At some point, though, enough is enough! No, it’s not normal to be busy all the time. It’s OK to relax. It’s OK to have two evenings in a row without a meeting or having to work. Imagine! These days, if that happens, I feel like a slacker.

I’ve received a few very nice invitations lately to help a worthwhile cause or attend a special event. Unfortunately, I came to the conclusion that I’m quite simply overextended and a reset is in order. Other regular obligations are coming up for renewal but I’ll step back and let others take my place. At some point, you have to sharpen your focus and stop being all over the map.

It’s very difficult for volunteer groups to find people to help. I don’t see young people volunteering like they used to. I’ve always believed in giving back to the community and – like many of you – have volunteered hundreds and thousands of hours throughout my life. What I learned through volunteer work has been invaluable. Many of the people I’ve met – and continue to meet – have become good friends and colleagues.

I can’t see myself ever stopping being a volunteer. Indeed, without volunteers, this entire city, province, country – and the world – would stop functioning. If you’re in your 20s and 30s and looking to meet new people and get some invaluable experience, volunteering can be a fantastic experience. There are so many excellent organizations out there who need dedicated people to serve on their boards or do some of the heavy lifting ‘in the trenches,’ so to speak.

Lately, though, I’ve felt compelled to start saying no to new requests and the personal urge to take on new obligations. I’m no martyr. I’m just a busy person – but it’s not healthy to find yourself working constantly and feeling guilty about taking time off. Hey, shouldn’t I be updating that group’s Facebook page or writing those board meeting minutes or attending yet another meeting?

It’s OK to say “no” sometimes.

We should never feel guilty about saying no. Our time is ours. Our money is ours. I swear that I could easily spend $500 on tickets over the next month going to various fundraisers if I wanted to. We sometimes need to remember that it’s not our job to save the world.

The other day on Facebook, I’m sure I upset a few people by ranting about someone who was targeting people in a grocery store parking lot by asking for money. First of all, it’s unnerving to be approached in a parking lot by a complete stranger within five seconds of getting out of your car; and secondly, I do a tonne of volunteer work and give my fair share of donations as it is. I’m not going to fork over more money to you just because you asked for it, in a parking lot of all places. No. Just no. Never. I certainly didn’t have any trouble saying no that day.

I’ve found myself asking people for donations for volunteer causes I’m involved with – either straight donations or buying raffle tickets and similar things. I’ve also asked people to join clubs I’m in. You can just tell when someone has trouble saying no. “I’ll consider it.” “I’ll let you know in a few days.” Those are roundabout ways of saying no. Just say no and save everyone some time, OK? Yes, be polite and courteous, but why beat around the bush?

Every time I say yes out of guilt or ego, I regret it. I need to practise my guilt-free no. It would save a lot of time and misery.

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