Like many introverts, I hate conflict. I’m not afraid to say “no” one time, but then I don’t want to have to repeat or defend myself. You asked; there’s my answer. Sometimes people who start out as friendly aquaintances decide that since I seem so nice, I surely wouldn’t mind doing whatever they request. Oh I mind, and it apparently causes me more stress than I consciously realize – it makes me lose sleep.
One guy I know tried to ask an outrageous favor and make it look like an “opportunity.” He told me that his mother’s computer needed some work. “I thought about you! Because you like to spend a lot of time online…..She would pay you something…. Or she might make you one of those wonderful cakes she makes….” I did not tell him no immediately. Since this guy is a friend, the fact that he asked me to do something gave me a reflex impression that maybe I should do it. I’m not good at thinking and reacting immediately when someone is standing in front of me, so instead I started out about how we’d need to evaluate what’s going on with her PC, what she needs to have on it…… Then two things happened. The first is that I saw he turned back to what he was looking at. He had wanted to dump this on me and get it totally off his own plate. The second is that later that day he told me that his kids were leaving for summer camp and he and his wife were about to spend some kid-free time for a week. So…I, a single woman with a job, a house, and two kids of my own to take care of, should take all my spare time this week to fix and clean up the PC for his mother…then she probably will need to be shown how to do everything…more than once… And he and his wife are going to be spending their time doing exactly what they want. A lot of the brunt of that didn’t hit me until 2:30 am the next day, when I woke up and could not get back to sleep. Here I was, trying to sleep, and the full impact of the outrageous request had hit me. Sometimes I take a long time to process things, and the wee hours of the morning is a time when things often occur to me suddenly. I think I did get back to sleep an hour before the alarm went off, but I felt awful the next day. And then I found a guy who likes to fix people’s PCs and does so for a very reasonable rate. I sent my friend the guy’s information and told him “Hope this helps!” Yeah, I took the coward’s way out, but I just wanted to end this situation with a minimum of discussion. This guy doesn’t care what else I have to do in the evenings; he just wanted to offload something he didn’t want to spend his own time on.
A couple of weeks ago it was a woman I’d never met. She was calling parents of students at our high school, trying to get some parents to go and complain to the principal that the high school doesn’t have a Scholar’s Bowl team. The middle school does, so her upcoming freshman son would now have no Scholar’s Bowl team. I kindly started to say, “Thanks, but I really can’t take off to go to the school…” when she interrupted me, “Plan B! I have a petition you can sign!” Then I told her she may as well get used to doing without a few things, because when my own son started 9th grade I had received a letter telling me that I need to sign off on the fact that there will be no “gifted program” per se, because the high school has a large assortment of AP classes as well as some self-study opportunities for those who are on the math team track. She interrupted again, “That’s illegal! I want to see that letter!” I told her I may have it, or it may have been something to sign and turn in, in order to be able to register; I just didn’t remember. She burst out, “But it would be in his record!” Oh. So to satisfy her curiosity, I should go to the school, make a big deal, and request my son’s record. My son is going into 11th grade and will be taking five AP classes plus honor band, certainly all he needs to handle this fall. She finally told me she had others she needed to call but would call me back soon. Well, I went to bed that night as usual, but sometime around 3 am I woke up furious and sort of dreading having to talk about this again. I hate the phone anyway, and I just didn’t want to have to repeat everything I had said. After a miserable day at the office, running on 3 cylinders, I called her house as soon as I got home. I was angry and thought, so WHAT if they are trying to fix or eat dinner! I’m not going to worry about this one more minute! Her husband answered the phone and said she wasn’t there. I gave him my name and said my son isn’t interested in scholar’s bowl but thaaannks, and good luck! He said pleasantly that he’d tell her.
Looking back at these two things (as well as others in the past), I don’t know why I felt so cornered and so furious. But I felt as if my space had been invaded. I expend a lot of energy just going through the work day interacting with others, so I simply do not have the energy to defend myself in a pleasantly assertive way against a pushy person with no boundaries. I know I would never ask someone for a favor like that, and I (unreasonably) expect others to live by the same rules I do! When they don’t, I am angry and I really want to avoid them. I don’t even know what I should do “better” next time. Somehow, when I tell someone, “No thanks…,” they hear, “Hmmm..if you talk about it a little more maybe I’ll say yes!” 🙂 I do know that I need time to process things, so I may ask for a little time to think about it. However, I don’t think I want that time to be “overnight” anymore. I do a lot of great thinking and processing overnight, but apparently when the thinking is a decision about an outrageous request, then my answer (NOOOOO!!) is going to wake me up and not let me get back to sleep! I’d love to hear from any introverts who have a good solution to this in the comments!
Photo credit: Jsome1