Saying No

Saying “No” doesn’t come naturally to me. Whenever people come up to me and ask me to help them in some way my instinctive response is to go along with whatever they want. I actually feel anxious even thinking about refusing their requests – I worry that refusing will lead to argument or confrontation.

So I end up doing things for others – not that I mind most of the time – but it takes time and energy that I ought to be spending doing other things. It can be a problem for me at work when I get people coming up to me or phoning me to ask for technical assistance when I am in the middle of some other piece of work: I end up taking longer to complete my tasks because I’m spending time on unrelated issues. I even raised it as a problem at my recent annual performance review.

One of the biggest problems with interruptions at work is that it can take me out of a flow state which then means I spend fifteen minutes or so trying to get back into it. Just four interruptions over the course of a day can lose me about an hour of productive working time.

I guess that invariably saying “Yes” to people actually makes things worse for me because it encourages them to ask for favors more often. In contrast I very rarely ask anybody to do things for me – I feel uncomfortable imposing on them.

I need to learn how to say “No” without causing myself stress as I fret about the possible consequences. Experience tells me that a simple, blank refusal doesn’t work in most instances – particularly in a social situation. The person will just repeat the request, often with some attempt at emotional coercion – a deliberate attempt to engage my sympathy. And it works – I then feel that I would be letting them down by continuing to turn them down, which upsets me. It could be labelled emotional blackmail. I consider it a particularly devious, underhand means to get one’s own way, but it seems to be a depressingly common tactic.

Some people have suggested that I invent some prior commitment that would preclude my assistance at that time; however that would mean lying which makes me even more uncomfortable so it’s not a viable option. If only people would take a simple “No” as an answer and drop the matter there and then instead of arguing about it and trying to change my mind. I really need to find some stress-free way to refuse, because otherwise I will just continue to take the (for me) easy way out and assent to their wishes.


6 thoughts on “Saying No

  1. I used to have a terrific problem with this, too, Ben. I think that now that I'm in my 40's I have gotten to the point where I do not want to spend my time doing something I know is either going to be too taxing for my senses and too much stress for me to step out of my routine and try to help someone with something. I try to see the importance of the problem the person is coming to me with. If it's something that I know can wait or someone else can help them will, I will do my best to say so. I never used to be able to do that, though. It's as if whatever came up from someone (a request for help, information, my time, etc) I was incapable of discerning it's importance in regards to the other person and it's impact on me. I wonder if that is something that comes with age and experience because it took me so long to be able to do for myself. I'm not sure. It is overloading going through it.

  2. It's not easy, is it? I've got to consider the incentive of the wonderful warm, happy feeling I get from a sincere "thank you" as reward for the help I give. But I've got to balance that against the pressure and stress of perhaps being late for something, or even (perish the thought) letting somebody else down.

  3. I learned how to do this from Miss Manners, and it works. I say "I'm so sorry, but I can't." If they persist, repeat. "Sounds interesting, but can't do it." Sometimes you have to smile and let a little silence build. No excuses, no lies, no discussion. It is amazing how well this works, and never any hard feelings so far.

  4. why do you need to manage the syndrome ? it's really how the person with the syndromehas to manage themselves and find better relationships and better representations than thinking they could ever be neurotypical – ????people on the spectrum don't really get along with neurotypicals (or they get along better with people on the spectrum) when they realize that they are better appreciated with people on the spectrumthe realization of people on the spectrum is that only or mostly autistic peopleare representing autistic people and their issues while neurotypicals are always trying to modify the behaviour of a personality which is really an introversion …maybe the extravert is the issue not the syndrome !!so the solution is to admit that people on the spectrum (as many testimonies confer) that aspies prefer to be with autistics (shy sensitive caring intimate and introverted people)rather than constantly having to modify their behaviour to fit into the ironies of neurotypical society and relationships … in the absence of advocacy and awareness !!we are better off in our own relationships than being modified psychologically and emotionally to think that neurotypicals actually have it all figured outwhich you don't …i think it is the shame of neurotypcials to realize that false beliefs are evidently higher in neurotypcialsthis is just more data to prove the statisticand thanks

  5. the problem is … it is a bad relationshippeople on the spectrum are better off with people who are on the spectrumfalse beliefs are higher in neurotypicalsthanks for proving the point

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