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     Volume 4 Issue 38 | March 18, 2005 |

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Straight Talk

No More Mr. Nice Guy (or Girl)

Nadia Kabir Barb

Have you ever wondered whether you are a bit of a pushover? Maybe even slightly gullible? Do you ever wonder whether people take you for granted? Well, never fear there are many others like you out there. Reluctantly I may have to enter myself onto those lists of people who consider themselves a soft touch. Now there is a very simple test you can do to see if you fit into the above category. Say the word "No". Does it roll off your tongue with ease or do you find yourself starting off with a "nnn" that ultimately ends up as a "yes", "sure, no problem"? Those of you who find it hard to articulate the word "no" and find that it does not appear very often in your vocabulary, can now add yourselves among the ever growing list. If you still are not sure and want to find out more conclusively whether or not you are Mr. or Ms "I need to be more assertive", then read on…

I opened my cupboard the other day to look for some wood polish and was greeted by packets and packets of dusters! This is the result of my inability to say "no" to the homeless people and ex-coalminers who buzz on the front door selling household goods to make a bit of money. Then of course, every now and then I come back from a shopping trip to Oxford Street and sheepishly inform my husband that I had just signed ourselves up to donating to yet another charity as I couldn't say "no" to the representative I was accosted by and ignore the spiel they were giving me about that particular organisation. The worst is that nowadays we are constantly bombarded with phone calls by sales representatives either trying to sell us some completely unnecessary product, or trying to get us to take part in a survey of some sort. After subscribing to insurance policies I never really wanted and taking part in music surveys where I didn't recognise half the songs and therefore probably contaminated the results by answering the questions randomly, I have decided that enough is enough! It is high time to take charge and be more assertive!

Still not sure where you belong on the assertiveness scale? Let's try answering a few questions then. For example, if you are at work and your boss tells you that you need to stay in late and finish a piece of work do you a) say "sorry" but you have a dinner party you have to attend and leave, b) see if you can try and get your boss to agree to you doing the work first thing the next day or c) say "sure no problem" and call up and cancel the dinner party that you had been looking forward to attending and promise to make it up to your friends/family as soon as possible.

Or if you were at a restaurant and ordered a steak --- medium to well done, and the waiter brought you a slab of meat obviously undercooked, would you a) take out an industrial sized blow torch, nuke him and say "that's what I mean by "well done", b) tell the waiter to take it back and bring you a steak which really was well done or c) keep quiet and play with your food and pretend you weren't that hungry after all! If the answer is "c", to both these questions, guess where you belong? Yes, right next to me on the scale. Do you find yourself being roped into volunteering for things you really don't even have time for but feel like a charlatan for even thinking of declining? Do you ever get the feeling that you give people the benefit of the doubt even if there is a great big warning bell going off in the back of your mind and then find you have been taken advantage of? If the answer to these questions is "yes" then maybe it's time to follow my lead and start saying "no" every now and then.

There is absolutely nothing wrong in being helpful and if you are considered to be a nice person then that's even better. But it really isn't possible to please everyone especially if you spread yourself so thinly by agreeing to do everything everyone demands of you that sometimes you end up not pleasing anyone. So repeat after me, "no thank you" (hold it right there -- don't even think about adding "if that's alright with you"). I subscribe totally to the school of thought which says that there is no reason why one can't be polite even when asserting oneself. This doesn't mean we all have to suddenly go to the extreme and become aggressive or unpleasant but just look at the feasibility of what is being asked of us and decide whether it is something that we are able to do without secretly resenting it. Sadly, the world will take advantage of those who let them so go and stand in front of your mirror and start practising. Okay, if at first you can't come out with a full blown "No" then try saying "later"…


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