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The Book of Na'Lon

or rather, Inane Ramblings of an Expatriot

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The Possibility of 'No'
Various people in my life - some of the flist and some off it - have been arguing about a variety of things. I haven't paid over much attention, because I don't have the energy to get involved.

But one thing that has crystallised for me today is that these 'arguments' or 'issues' or whatever have one type of flash-points in common: that of how to respond to a request from someone else, be it a professional or a friend.

My feeling is that a request needs to be treated as simply that. It is not an order, and the requester needs to be aware of the possibility that the answer to the request is 'No'.

No doubt that such a 'No' can upset or cause further problems, but it ought to be possible to say it. This can be done sensitively - no need to be defensive or rude about it. E.g. "I am afraid that I am not comfortable with [doing x]." Such an answer says, to my mind, "Please don't push me. Give me breathing space."

It might surprise me, or annoy me to get a 'No', and I think I would be entitled to such feelings, but I also ought to respect the answer - especially if a friend gave me that 'No' or a client. If I pushed beyond the 'No', I would be creating a barrier between me and my friend/client/student.

So - what am I saying? I guess what I am getting at is that some things might seem like a small deal to me, but to someone else they may be a big deal. But since I can't secondguess another's response, I need to be allowed to ask. And accept if the answer is not what I like to hear.

{Exits stage left, calls: "Marquis, could you please get me a drink?" Answer: "No." Thinks: "Shouldn't have posted all that..." Goes to fetch drink.}

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I think that's a very good point. It's very rare for both parties to have the maturity to accept that though -- more often, the requestee is outraged by the request and the requester is hurt by the refusal! Pity.

In my life, I am rarely brave enough to just say to someone "I am bothered by the way you X", fearing to cause offence, but on the rare occasions someone's said it to me, I've usually found it helpful and been grateful that they were upfront rather than just festering away being bugged by whatever it was I was doing! So I guess I'm better at being the requestee than the requester on these occasions. (Maybe this explains why in the Great Veil Debate I find it hard to sympathise with the outrage.)

(Apologies for the word requestee, it is a bit horrible I know...)

- Neuromancer

What you say about maturity is only too true, sadly, but I guess in a small way we can all practise being requesters and requestees (maybe not a nice word, but it does serve the purpose!)

Like you I find it easier to be a requestee than a requester for much the same reason. And like you I find it hard to be outraged about the Great Veil Debate. I do not see a problem with asking. I have been asked on a number of occasions to remove items of clothing by professionals - mostly of a medical ilk - and it's never occurred to me that there was anything wrong with that. If taking off my X helps the professional do their job, why should I do so?

I think the point you make that I find most striking (and also true for me) that I'd rather know, even if I might be a little upset at finding out, than wondering if the other person is festering. I try to remind myself of that when I am finding it hard to make a request or indeed to turn such a request down!

I'm currently working out how to say 'no' to my editor on a couple of points - or even wheher I should - but I'm starting to feel so strongly I think I have to.

Difficult. If you feel strongly about it I think at least you ought to ask why your editor wants those changes made. Maybe an explanation from them might help you decide whether you should say 'no'.

Ah, I know why she thinks what she thinks. Conventional wisdom would probably agree. But I've thought long and hard, and come to the conclusion that if I change the way I've written this, I'll lose more than I'll gain. The difficulty is, should I stick to my guns? Or am I being misguided and arrogant?

Can't advise, and you know what I'm like...and it's not my area. Can you get someone else in the same industry to advise you?

Weigh up the consequences of "selling out" versus standing firm. What are your goals...which choice gets you nearer to them. (If there is a conflict in goals, then you have a problem).

Thanks for that, dj - it has helped :)

Just one I found to use as an alternative.

I agree. At first, it can be tricky, and people who aren't used to you saying "No" or making requests of you tend to react against it to start with...but in the long run, you get greater respect. It can be tricky to learn to accept "No" graciously too.

I starting trying this with my MiL and various others a while back, result good. Although I don't claim to be an expert (ha ha, far from it, I'm imperfection personified)... sometimes I forget again :(

I cited you above and also explained why I didn't think JS's comments came only into that category though. I forget which one now (probably one of the_marquis's).

Now my brain hurts. And I think I've gone off-topic. Pfft, I'll leave it.

I too find "No" very difficult, both to say and to hear - connected with my more general difficulties with assertive behaviour.

I am getting better, though - 40 years of practise, and 25 years of occasional training courses, are slowly having their effect.

After 60 years it gets even better. Keep practising! (I have to admit that having a bus pass and/or walking stick helps quite a lot, though!)

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