This post is part of Blogging Against Disablism Day 2017 (#BADD2017) [External Link]. If you liked this or want to see more posts on this subject, please follow the link!
Previous year’s posts can be found here:
- 2013: Living With Invisible Disability
- 2014: Teaching Someone Else To Live With An Invisible Disability
- 2015: Is It Time To Retrain… As A Fish?
Why is Saying “No” So Problematic?
I do not mean this kind of can’t say “no”:
Or, more precisely, that video above is a subset of the kind of questions it can be hard to say “no” to, for reasons that may become apparent. But, anyway, I am not qualified to explain the reasons why people find it hard to say “no”, I can only tell you why I can find it difficult.
Firstly, as you may have noticed, I’m a woman. I am very lucky that I am cis-gendered (i.e. my gender identity gels well enough with my gender assigned at birth) that this hasn’t caused me much bother – although that’s probably a post for a non-BADDay. However, being a woman comes with a bit of baggage. Amongst this baggage is being expected to do all the emotional labour, by which I mean that women are expected to take other people’s feeling into account and this can make it difficult to say “no” because it can upset people. This fear of upsetting people is often reinforced with the fear of emotional, psychological or physical punishment should we upset them, depending on who we’re dealing with and how they do or don’t martial their own emotions.
However, the main thrust of today’s post is that it can also be hard to say “no” because not being able to do something can be considered a weakness – as well as not saying “no” being an emotional duty if you happen to be a woman.
Spoons and Showing Weakness
For those of you who are not familiar with the concept of spoons with respect to disability and illness (visible or otherwise), you can have a look at Miserandino’s Spoon Theory here: [External Link]
It may also help to have a quick flick through my BADD 2013 post, Living With Invisible Disability.
But, to summarise and move us along, there are those in the world who do not have the same energy budget as what appears to be the norm. I am lucky and am only a few spoons a day light of my current batch of colleagues – who, while not all a bunch of “spoonies”, seem to be thoroughly nice human beings and very understanding of those of us who have smaller budgets. What this means in my current job as an office-bound sys admin is that I find myself getting stretched thin at the end of my 8 hour working day, which includes an hour lunch break to come home and either let the dogs out in the yard while I sort out adulting stuff or take them for a quick walk. I only work 4 days a week at the moment and the weeks where I shuffle my day off around really show, at least to me. On day 3 in a row, I’m ready to strangle my dogs as soon as I walk through the door of an the evening.
ASIDE: I haven’t. So far. And I will be the first to hand me over to the RSPCA and/or the police should I ever actually do so.
The dogs, of course, do not understand this. Nor do other adults when I have to turn up for an appointment in the evening or the day after such a run of work and I’m tearful and just want to go back to hiding behind my computer. This is a weakness and not generally acceptable behaviour.
It usually comes down to “time-management” – or managing my time more effectively. Which generally means prioritising (i.e. working out which things a come first) and setting up various lists and blocking off time for particular tasks. I am, of course, the first to agree when discussing these things with line-managers and work colleagues. I’m easily distracted. Long-term goals get lost in the flurry of short-term demands – particularly so now I’m a sys admin dealing with computers not working now and not involved with the monthly routine of environmental monitoring. I know everyone has problems (see the BADD 2015 post, Is It Time To Retrain… As A Fish?) with juggling the demands on them. We are, effectively, all paddling to stay afloat never mind progress.
However, you may notice that people at work rarely tell you that you can flatly turn things down. “No” is generally just “not now”. There is an expectation, whether implied by the people on the other end of that conversation or simply inferred and reinforced by myself on this side of the conversation, that I must be committed to keeping up and doing more than just staying afloat.
What I’ve found, though, is that only those of us who’ve actually had an instance of sinking (sinkage?) have learnt that things don’t get any better if you just keep trying to be like the others. Sometimes you just have to sit down and procrastinate, no matter how self-destructive it can be in the long run because you end up several tasks behind. Sometimes you just have to tell people that they’re in the queue and you’ll get to them when you’ve crossed everything else off the list. Sometimes you just have to admit it’s not a task you’re ever going to be able to do.
Which Leads To Saying “No”
I’m always slightly surprised when I’ve managed to say “no” to someone – I really don’t like feeling like I’m not capable – or, as often happens, having to back up a “no” with some variation of “I really do mean ‘no’, you know”. A “no”, after all, isn’t always honoured (possibly a post for another time). But, I do manage it, usually with a qualifier like “I’ll never have time” or “I’m not prepared to commit the time” or, occasionally, “have you thought of approaching someone else who will be better at this”.
It’s not that people don’t understand that everyone has a budget of time and energy. After all, everyone tends to react in awe to someone who is involved in a lot of work – e.g. my amazing publisher Adele Wearing who’s working a day job, running a small press (Fox Spirit Books [External Link]), having actual honest-to-gods hobbies, raising pets, etc.
But not everyone realises how much these budgets can differ – that more time in your day doesn’t necessarily mean more energy to get things done if you’re dealing with depression, for example – and that just shuffling your day around doesn’t magically expand either.