William had a friend over to play and I overheard their conversation. His friend asked, "Can I take some of your trash pack guys home for awhile and then bring them back to you?" William said, "Hmm, you want to take some of them home? Just wait a minute and let me think about it."
His response struck me as brilliant. He repeated back what his friend wanted, possibly because he was trying to process the request in his mind, and then asked clearly for a moment to consider it. I have decided to adopt his answer for use in my own life when I am under pressure to say yes to volunteer, join another committee or sign up for something I might not have the time or the resources for.
Often I say yes the moment I'm asked to do something and then later, when I have to set aside time and effort to do it, I feel regret. It seems much healthier to take a deep breath and consider whether I should say yes or no at the moment I'm asked. If I know I won't want to attend the meeting later or do what I am signing up to do, then I should say no at the beginning of the process.
A friend once told me, "It's a lot easier to change your no to a yes than the other way around." When I was heavily invested in people-pleasing and being universally liked by everyone, I did not feel I had many choices. When I was asked to help, I said yes so that the person asking would know that I was a team player and could be relied upon. Whether I wanted to or even could didn't factor in.
But now I have better life skills at my disposal. I can say yes when it's something I feel passionate about and believe in, and I can say no when I can't fit it in or it doesn't align well with my writing and family schedule. And I am learning not to accept punishment when my choice doesn't make the other person happy.
I am not responsible for another person's happiness. Only my own. I must prioritize "first things first" in my life and make choices to create a reasonable work/life balance. If the person who wanted me on a committee or at a meeting or to help them out in some way is displeased with me, they have the right to be upset but that does not need to change my decision. I have to learn to live with that tension in my relationships.
I ended up jumping in with William and his friend to suggest that the trashies stay here and the boys play with them at our house, but William's inspired response has been ringing in my mind. I plan to practice using it on a regular basis, repeating back the other person's request and then asking for a minute to think about it before I decide.