I wonder why it is so hard for us to say "no" when we mean "no"? How many times have we really meant to refuse a request from an acquaintance only to meekly agree to something we didn't want to do? Sure I'll do the school run all this week! Sure I'll take little Billy all day tomorrow while you go shopping - he'll demolish everything in the house he can lay his hands on and I'll just about manage not to belt him one, but yes, of course, no problem. Sure I'll stay late and finish off the project, I'll just cancel that trip to the cinema I was looking forward to.
There is another side to this, though. We all know people who, with supreme self-confidence, say "no" to requests or suggestions. Our feelings are a little hurt by this, I think. Our enthusiastic : "Hey, I've just read this great novel, would you like a loan of it? - you'd love it" being met with a "no thanks, not my cup of tea" is a dampener. Or worse still our "I just bought these trousers, what do you think?" being met with an up-and-down look that says it all even if the lips are sealed. If it's a good friend, we'll most likely accept it. On the other hand, if it's an acquaintance we feel a bit dashed even if we know we should value that person's honesty (who wants honesty when you can have diplomacy?).
I've tried saying "no" without hurting anyone's feelings but have never really succeeded. Obviously there are times when I can't fulfill requests, which lets me off the diplomatic hook. And on occasion I have been driven by sheer desperation to say "no" but this always makes me feel uncomfortable. Trouble is, once you start saying "yes" to some people, they take it for granted and dream up more and more things for you to do for them. The other day, though, I came up with a winner. I was asked if I'd buy two unwanted tickets to the opera and my reply "actually I'd love to but I'm coming down with the vomiting 'flu" turned out to be the perfect answer. Illness as a way of escape? Perhaps. From now on I think I'll make use of Oscar Wilde's character in The Importance of Being Earnest when he says "I have invented an invaluable
permanent invalid called Bunbury, in order that I may be able to go down
into the country whenever I choose."
It's worth a try.