The subtitle is misleading, actually.
I’ve been a lifelong people pleaser and probably always will be.
Don’t get me wrong: I know who I am and am not remotely reserved when it comes to expressing my opinion, but I love for people to be happy and to live their dreams and will do almost anything to make that possible.
My people-pleasing, though, has become selective. Back in the old days–before I quit the 9-to-5–I was more than happy to give my right arm if you asked, regardless of the reason.
Shortly after I was promoted to the assistant director of a mental health agency at the tender age of 23, I found myself going home angrier than ever at the end of every day.
How was it, exactly, that I’d gone from a therapist with a full caseload to an intake coordinator with a full caseload, to an intake coordinator with a full caseload and marketing responsibilities, to a middle manager with no clear job description AND all the foregoing responsibilities? (Oh, by the way, the increase in responsibilities did not result in an equivalent increase in cold hard cash). Didn’t becoming a manager mean you could begin to slough off the slop work to some line level employee?
My boss didn’t bat an eye as she told me the reason: “You always say yes.”
Note this as a “Eureka!” moment in the book of Julie’s days.
Or a “Duh” moment. Call it what you like.
As I sat in the typically unproductive weekly meeting with my boss known as “supervision,” I learned one of the most valuable lessons of my life: “Eight words,” she said. “Let me get back to you about that.”
Velda went on to explain that almost no one needs–or even expects–an immediate answer to a question that involves a serious reworking of responsibilities and plans. “In fact,” she said in one of those hard-to-listen-to moments, “people kind of lose respect for you when you always say yes. Especially when you do so right away.”
I was still turning that one over in my mind as she stared at me for 20 seconds with a long, searching, and–can I say, self-satisfied?– look that said “I’ve been using you this whole time!”
Since that day, I’ve become much more thoughtful about saying “Yes,” “No,” and “Let me think about it and get back to you.” I try to say “Yes” only when I know immediately and completely that what I’m being offered or asked truly resonates within me. I try to reserve “No” for those moments when I know, instinctively, that an offer or request doesn’t at all fit with who I am. And the magic words… they’ve come in handy. A lot.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Share your experience in the Comments below.
Photo: Brayan Collazo Alonso