(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

On one hand, I’m still the kid who used to eat one—and only one—Lay’s potato chip every time the Lay’s ads taunted me that I couldn’t do that. Trust me, I liked potato chips but didn’t like being told what I should or should not do. Back to that other hand, I’m the kind of person who likes to get along with people. If it’s in my best interest to say “no” to you, I just want to get it done and move on. Trust me, if I’ve turned you down, I mean it, even if you think I don’t.

Sometimes I think I was given a child like my son Jackson so I would get to practice saying “no” again and again. This kid was good at advanced rhetoric from a young age—I used to say he was born a teenager, but I rather think he was born a lawyer. He instinctively knew to ask a question three different ways or how to try to destroy the opposition’s (in other words, my) logic. However, just because I don’t like conflict, doesn’t mean I was going to change my decision on the fly, especially since my decision-making style is fairly measured and consistent.

Before Jackson had reached 18 months, I realized that I had just signed up for a lifetime of practicing the “no” word. To which I thought, “Well, then so be it. Not as if I don’t need the practice”—especially since it’s so much harder for me to say “no” to real people than it is to some distant corporation on a television screen.

As a people-pleaser, despite the practice, I can still get pretty anxious about having to state my opinions, though it’s so much easier with unknown strangers who call me or arrive at my door unannounced. I’ve learned that it does me no good to argue with telemarketers. I now say, “Thank you, but I’m not interested” and hang up the phone without listening further. And when people come to my door, it is my policy to reject them as politely as possible before quickly shutting the door. I’m not going to use a rude tone, but I do not buy from cold calls. If I want something, I do research and seek out the companies with which I want to interact.

All this saying “no” business is one of the reasons traveling to Mexico can raise my frustration level. Upon arriving at a Mexican airport, visitors must first run the gauntlet of helpful people offering to show them presentations. And then there’s the upselling at the car rental counters and in lobbies of hotels, as well as the offers of not-so-free help in grocery markets, on beaches, and in restaurants—offers of free jet-skiing, car rental, or whatever else abound in exchange for “just” hearing a time-share presentation. If those promised prizes seem worthy enough to spend several hours practicing those “noes” again, hapless tourists better be really good at that nay-saying, especially since sometimes the salesperson even accuses them of taking advantage of the system.

The use of guilt techniques at the presentation is just the final technique in the arsenal for trying to convince naysayers that they really meant to say “yes” to the very expensive proposal. As if sending out all those low level people who promise something in exchange for just listening isn’t the business model they have adopted. No, people you work very hard to receive the “free” gifts at those presentations.

That being said, if an encounter with a business or even with a friend or an acquaintance in my neighborhood starts to feel like a time-share presentation or a multi-level marketing promotion where my “yes” is more important than whether or not what is offered is what I need and/or want, then that encounter has already lost me. What right do you have to try to make me feel guilty for knowing my own mind? The fact you keep pushing for a different answer than I’ve given means you are not respecting my boundaries.

While I may have said “no” to extra potato chips because I was stubborn, over the years—especially thanks to my once toddler and now grown son—I have had many more opportunities to practice saying “no” for the right reasons. When I have made it clear that “no” is still my final answer, if you keep pushing me, I will likely go all Lay’s potato chips on you—and you’ll be lucky to get me to say “yes” to even one chip, no matter which hand you want to put it in.

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