Say “No” for a happy ending

February 19, 2009 at 8:26 am Leave a comment

It was a simple enough situation. A work colleague called to ask if I could take over her night shift on the spur of the moment, because her father isn’t well and she wanted to spend the time with him. I hesitated, as I have two night shifts this week anyway and had plans that evening. She said it was okay and that she would ask another colleague. If that colleague couldn’t, then it wasn’t meant to be. I told her to call me back if that colleague couldn’t and I could change my plans.

Unaware of the developments, I called her back to ask if things had worked out, still willing to change my plans if necessary. She told me the other colleague had agreed to take over the night shift. What a relief! I had to go in for a few hours that evening, so I was able to convince myself that it was truly okay.

As it turned out, our other colleague was delighted! She’d had day duty and we were in the midst of a terrible snowstorm — nearly 1 meter of snow in 24 hours. The roads were a disaster. This other colleague happens to live rather high up along a windy road on a mountain. Her sister had called her earlier to warn her that she would have to park lower down and hike home. So it was perfect for her that she could stay put in the warm building and deal with going home the next day. By then things would hopefully have calmed down somewhat.

So, it was good that I followed the inner voice and said, “No.” Of course, if push came to shove, I would have done the overnight, but only if there was no other solution. I’ve done three night shifts in one week and I can tell you, I’m out of commission for a while! On the other hand, I know someone whose father suddenly became ill and died a week later, so I would have insisted that I take over the duty if the other colleague couldn’t. She needed that precious time with her father. That certainly outweighs the drag of being tired for a week.

Oh, and as for my plans that evening. I’d been out driving in the morning and was thankful to get home safe and sound. I took the train to work that afternoon. Later on I cancelled the plans anyway and enjoyed a quiet evening at home. The roads were too treacherous to risk going out just for fun — and the train connection would not have worked.

I’m happy for this experience, as I’ve tended to say “Yes” way too often and then been grumpy, exhausted, resentful and sometimes found out that it really wouldn’t have been necessary. Thus I take this as an encouraging wink. Sure, it is important to be willing to help others out in times of need, but I also need to evaluate my own situation — and trust that if I say “No” they will find an equally good or even better solution! In addition, my colleagues know they can ask me and I will be honest. When another one was sick last month, I told her on the spot to go ahead and go home and I would take the rest of her shift. Absolutely no problem.

I am finally learning that the world will turn without me — quite well in fact! I don’t have to do everything, help everyone, save everyone — not if it means I run myself ragged in the process. I’m learning to say, “It would be too much, or rather inconvenient, or I have other plans, but if you can’t find a solution, then get back to me.” That also gives me time to rethink it and accept the fact that I just might end up changing my plans. And I follow up if she doesn’t call me. My colleague knows she can rely on me to be honest, but also to be there for her in an emergency. That’s a good thing to know.

Entry filed under: Learning to say NO. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

What are my goals? Beyond Survival

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