Standing firm, because you want to


March 27, 1994|By Niki Scott | Niki Scott,Universal Press Syndicate

A friend called the other day to suggest that a group of us get together for a little R and R.

"Let's take off this Friday night and share a hotel room and bring wine and munchies and stay up half the night talking -- a pajama party!" she said.

"What a nice idea!" said I, "but I don't really want to do it this weekend."

"You don't want to? What do you mean you don't want to? We haven't seen each other in ages, and if we share the room, it won't cost much, and besides, we always have such a good time together. . . ."

"Yes, but I really don't want to this weekend."

"You don't want to," she repeated, her voice growing flatter by the second.

It would have been perfectly acceptable if I'd had to work late on Friday night -- or said that I did; or if I'd been too busy in general -- or said that I was; or if I'd had a previous commitment -- or said that I did; or if my bad back had been acting up -- or I'd claimed that it was.

What wasn't OK was to simply say those four magic words that I, vTC along with every woman I know, find it almost impossible to say: "I don't want to" -- not "I can't," but "I don't want to."

By the time this dear friend and I hung up, it was clear that I'd hurt her feelings and let her down, and my first reaction, of course, was to feel frantically guilty, then immediately question and second-guess this perfectly valid decision I'd made.

"She's had such a rough year. The least I can do is help her get away for a night," and "When the gang gets together, it behooves each of us to do our part and I'm not doing mine," and "Think of all the times these women have been there for me!"

But a small (new) voice of reason whispered, "But if you'd made excuses instead of simply telling the truth, this well-meaning friend would have spent precious time and energy trying to rescue you -- whether or not you wanted to be rescued":

"I have to work this weekend."

"Bring your work with you!"

"I can't afford to go."

"We'll pay your way!"

"My back has been tired lately."

"We'll give you the best bed!"

Then this (new) voice of reason asked, "Do you actually believe that you alone are responsible for whether or not these four bright, funny, loving, capable women have a good time this weekend? Do you really think you can 'make' them have a good time, or 'make' them have a bad one, simply by your presence or absence?

"Frankly, my dear," the by-now-louder voice added, "you're not that powerful!"

Suddenly the old, automatic guilty feelings disappeared and in their place were feelings of lightness and freedom and (OK, I'll admit it) glee because I'd (A) actually made a decision about what I -- yes, I! -- did or did not want to do, and (B) communicated it in an honest, straightforward manner without making excuses or trotting out 26 half-truths to explain and defend myself.

As soon as I'd said those four magic words, my initial resistance lessened, furthermore, because I knew that if I did change my mind and decide to go off with these friends, it would not be because I felt I should, or because I was afraid of hurting someone's feelings, or because I didn't want anyone to be mad at me, but because I -- yes, I! -- truly wanted to.

The next time someone asks you to do something, take a minute and check to see what you -- yes, you! -- really want to do, then practice saying those four magic words, if they apply -- and no more.

Heady stuff. Truly.

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