Imagine for a moment, you’re outside your house unloading groceries from your car and heading for the front door when all of a sudden James Bond sprints down the street before stopping in front of your newly washed and waxed car. He shouts over to you, “Excuse me, is it ok if I borrow your car?”
You take one look at the cuts on his face and his ripped navy suit and although you want to disappoint him, you can’t. You reluctantly hand over the car key and cringe as Mr. Bond starts the engine and screeches off down the street. You think about how you’re going to explain this to your partner and you head inside wondering if you’ll ever see your car in one piece again.
Every so often, a friend, a family member or a colleague will ask you for a favour. Maybe it’s a few minutes of your time for advice or your input to solve a problem. But sometimes you are asked to do something you really don’t want to do. Maybe someone wants you to loan them your car or to attend a social function you don’t want to go to or perhaps someone wants you to give up your weekend to help them move house.
Whatever the reason for the request, it can be hard to say no, it can be difficult to assert yourself and, especially if you crave approval from people, it can seem like you have no choice but to say yes. The problem is you’ll quickly become a people pleaser, someone who can’t say no to anyone, someone others take for granted because you are always available.
If this sounds like you at times it might be good to start asserting yourself a little more. If someone is always asking favours of you and you really don’t want to help out, then start saying no at least some of the time. Start with small favours you’d rather not do. Also, start saying no to people who are acquaintances rather than close friends or family. Be available to the most important people in your life but be selective with everyone else and trust your feelings – if your feelings are telling you no, then say no.
What about exceptional circumstances? Let’s say someone says they really, really need your help and no one else is able to help. What do you do then? Bear in mind some people will exaggerate and say whatever will work to get you to say yes even though there is no great emergency. For people like that you need to take what they say with a grain of salt and revert to trusting your gut.
Another way to assert yourself is to say yes to part of the request while saying no to the main request. This is a gentle way to let someone down without being unresponsive to their request for help. e.g. I can’t give up my weekend to help you but I can spend Sunday evening with you.
Getting back to the James Bond scenario, you can now see there are a number of ways to handle the situation. Firstly, you could trust that gut instinct that tells you it’s a bad idea to let such a dare devil drive your car and so you say no because he’s not a close friend or family member you know and trust. The second option would be to say no to the primary request but to offer to drive him. So you see, there are ways of handling situations where you need to be assertive. It just means taking a moment to evaluate the situation instead of just saying yes automatically to every request.
Finally, when it comes to being assertive with close friends and family I find it helps to say yes when you are sincere and to say no when you can’t make it or don’t feel like it. Even then it’s good to be flexible and to see if you can help out in a different way or at another time. That way you don’t neglect the people that mean the most to you and you still attend to your own needs.
By the way, if you do bump into James Bond please ask him if I can borrow his Aston Martin. After all I’ve done for him it’s a small favour to ask!