The Joy of Saying No, not to Mention the Pure Bliss of Saying Hell No

It a truth seldom acknowledged that a person can ask for ten dollars in a way that makes you want to give her 20, and a person can give you ten dollars that makes you want to fling it on the floor and stomp on it. In hard times like these – give what you can but be careful of trolls who are black holes of neediness.

Darling, living overseas, you need to help anyone who asks, even trolls who only get in touch when they need you. If someone needs to know where to find something, where a store is, how to handle a bureaucratic hurdle – you help. You grit your teeth and you help. Never hoard information – never. It is an unforgivable affront to every belief system on earth.

But work, Darling, that is quite different – do you want trolls in your office every day pestering you? I once worked with Hortense. She was hired because she had worked with our boss at a different company and she and boss got on like a house afire, until he would tell her what to do and she would not understand him so she come to my office for demonstrations and example charts.

After the fourth time, I said “Why don’t you ask him?” She giggled, “Well, you know he is so busy and I don’t want to bother him.” Translation: “I don’t want to make it clear that he doesn’t know how to explain anything to anyone, so I am going to waste your time.” The next time she asked I admitted that I was totally mystified by the new format we were supposed to use and when she found out how to do it, could she please tell me? Hortense narrowed her eyes and she did not giggle, but I had a calm, bland look and I did not over-explain or give in. She left. Problem solved.

Or Albert, who was very kind, thoughtful, encouraging and pleasant to anyone in power and anyone he needed help from. I was initially taken in, but over time I caught on – the lovely smile, the cheery hello, the nice compliment which always presaged a request for assistance. At first, I was happy to be supportive but eventually I decided to go with the ‘gosh, what a great question, I wish I had some data for you but I just don’t know’ and a big smile.

He said, “Are you sure? I thought that you know everything, you are so wise and…” and Darling, I produced the saddest face possible (practice this – it’s a good skill!) and began a very long, rambling explanation of how I had one particular piece of data from another person but the thing that HE wanted to know, well that was quite beyond my expertise for…. long, boring, interminable reasons. He fled.

He showed up a few weeks later wanting for a recommendation for a housekeeper at less than half the going rate. “Oh, how terrible that I don’t happen to know anyone!” I said with deep sorrow and a (well-moisturized) face of despair (don’t hold it too long, a few seconds only!).

Head down, powder dry, good perfume and a big NO in your pocket when you need to protect your time, energy and peace of mind.