Learning How to Say "No" and Mean It

Learning How to Say "No" and Mean It

I am writing this post from a train on Amtrak's Northeast Regional line. The train's next stop is Bridgeport. But that is not my stop. I am heading all the way to New London, Connecticut. For those of you lucky enough not to have the train schedule memorized, my destination means I'll have been onboard for about 5 hours by the time I depart.

I really hate riding the train. Yes, I know, "hate" is a strong word and, perhaps, too strong in this context. But I really dislike taking the train. I get lo-grade motion sickness--just enough to drain my energy but not enough that I could justify not taking the train for certain trips.

I don't like co-passengers who ever-so-slowly eat tuna-salad sandwiches that they brought with them. I don't like Amtrak's promises of "Wi-Fi Hot Spot," which is repeated on stickers plastered all over the interior of the train but which must have been intended as a joke because I have yet to get an Internet connection that lasted for more than 30 seconds. I don't like mean women in the Quiet Car, who "shhhhhh" and wag their fingers at any passenger who dares to so much as cough.

And I really don't like that I have get back on this train tomorrow and do it all over again, just heading in the opposite direction.

So why, then, am I on the train? Because I can't say "no." Well, that's not entirely true. I can't say "no" to people I like. Which is why, when my boss "suggested" that I should accept a speaking engagement in Connecticut in late October because it would be "great exposure for the firm," and I "suggested" that I probably shouldn't due the already dizzying number of commitments I had in late October, and he continued to "suggest," and I continued to "suggest," eventually, I was the first to abandon my suggestion and accept the gig.

As I boarded the train this morning, miserable utterances just waiting to be uttered, I had to remember that I was the only one to blame. Had I stuck to my initial answer, which I knew was the right one, I wouldn't be spending 11 hours in 2 days on this train with lo-grade motion sickness.

But I didn't stick with it. I caved. I said "yes," when I knew that "no" was the right answer. And I am the only fool to blame. Learning when to say "no" and how to actually stick with it are important skills. And, for me anyway, they're learned skills that take lots of practice, apparently. I'm still hoping that I'll figure it out one of these days.

In the meantime, though, I know that, once I de-board, free of the smell of tunafish, I will have a great time in Connecticut. And I'm sure that the event will be a hit, that I'll meet at least a few new people, probably see at least one person I already know. And the post-presentation seminar high that I will surely have will make at least part of the train ride home tomorrow less nauseating.

Here's to hoping!

Read more Labor and Employment Law insights from Margaret (Molly) DiBianca in the Delaware Employment Law Blog.  

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